By late 1914 it became apparent that the country’s existing hospital and post trauma care units were not going to be able to deal with the flood of casualties returning from the front. As a measure to alleviate the growing pressure on existing medical facilities, large country houses and institutions were converted into military hospitals.
The following hospitals operated in Dacorum during the war:
Ashridge House, Berkhamsted
The Beeches, Berkhamsted
Boxmoor House Hospital, Hemel Hempstead
West Herts Hospital, Hemel Hempstead
Victoria Hall, Tring
Boxmoor House Hospital: ‘A fine old residence … kindly lent for … noble work by Mrs Bouwens’, Boxmoor House Hospital opened its doors to its first patients on 26th of October 1915. Described as a ‘small … but model institution’ it housed twenty beds which were divided amongst three wards. It was run by a staff of seven to eight VAD nurses under the charge of Sister Blackmore. All of the patients came from the Central Hospital at Aylesbury (Eastern Command) to which the Boxmoor Hospital was a convalescent auxiliary.
The Beeches: In March of 1915 a VAD hospital opened at Barncroft. The hospital subsequently changed location and moved to The Beeches where it was to remain until it closed in July of 1919. In that time the hospital was successively overseen by Miss M. Blount, Mrs Porter and Mrs Haygarth Brown. It was noted that the women who worked at the hospital did so at great risk to their own personal health as they regularly dealt with infectious cases.
West Herts Hospital: West Herts Hospital was originally established in a row of converted cottages at Piccotts End in 1827. Early in the war the hospital offered the British Red Cross the use of twenty beds for soldiers. In 1917 an appeal raised £2,000 for a new ward, the Windsor Ward which contained thirty-five additional beds. Over 800 soldiers were treated at the hospital and after the war it was allocated for disabled servicemen.
Ashridge House Hospital: Lord and Lady Brownlow’s residence at Ashridge was used as a hospital from 1914 to 1915 under the supervision of commandant Minna Blount, who would later oversee the running of The Beeches at Berkhamsted.
Victoria Hall, Tring: In 1914 Victoria Hall was equipped as a VAD hospital with six beds. It was initially established to treat new recruits from the 21st Division, part of Kitchener’s Third New Army who were stationed in Tring. The isolation hospitals of the district and the High Street schools were also used as medical facilities, while Tring Market House was used as a depot for hospital stores. Victoria Hall appears to have been used as a hospital until at least 1916.