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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Arbroath War Hospitals

Derek Black


During the Great War hospitals and infirmaries around the UK provided dedicated bed space for ill and wounded soldiers.

The Red Cross opened auxiliary hospitals, in halls and large houses, to support the already existing facilities.

Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals, while staffed by some V.A.D. Members, were not run by them or called V.A.D. Hospitals. They were Red Cross run facilities.

The Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals were broken into four regions in Scotland.

These were centered around Scotlands four cities:


Western – Glasgow,

Eastern – Edinburgh

Dundee - Central Eastern

Aberdeen – North Eastern


Arbroath was in the Central Eastern region.


The roll of Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals, was to act as a second line to pre-existing hospitals, to treat minor injuries and ailments and host convalescing soldiers.


In January, 1913, the directors of Arbroath Infirmary, decided to raise the funds to completely rebuilt the towns infirmary.
The original facility having opened in 1845, it was now too small for the towns needs, even though it had been expanded over the years.


The following month, the directors bought a nearby mansion house, Greenbank, for use as the infirmary, albeit temporarily.

The building and its grounds covered about an acre. However, it could hold only about half of what the old infirmary had space for.


By April all the patients had been moved to the temporary premises, which was expected to be used for two years.


When the war began, Arbroath was operating its infirmary in a temporary location with a 50% reduction in capacity. The local Red Cross Society did not immediately open an auxiliary hospital, as they did in many other towns and cities.


On 15th August, 1914, the Infirmary at Greenbank agreed to make 30 beds available for the Red Cross Society. A hall being looked for to provide a further 30 bed capacity.


In January 1915, Arbroath and other Forfarshire hospitals were a little dissatisfied that their well prepared resources had not yet been utilised.


It was thought that this was as a result of the military hospital regions in Scotland having been broken into three areas, centered around Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Dundee picking up any overflow these area hospitals could not provide for.


The first military patients to arrive in Arbroath were on Saturday the 16 of January, 1915. The ten men had been sent from Aberdeen Base Hospital, by rail, to convalesce from illness.

(unidentified men and nurses in the grounds of temporary infirmary at Greenbank)

On Friday the the 21st, the soldiers were treated to a concert organised by the towns provost, Rutherford Thomson.

A local man Mr J. B. Frazer lent his motor car for the use of the soldiers, to take them day trips around Angus during that week. By the 19th of the month, 8 out of the 10 had been discharged.

On Saturday the 22nd of January, 1915 the first wounded soldiers to Greenbank arrived by train. Most had bullet wounds.

They were:

Cpl. J. Harhls, 2nd Border Regt

L/Cpl Wallie, 8th Royal Scots

Bandsman Tinker, 2nd Lincolns

Pte J. Rogers Sherwood Foresters

Pte. R. Sherley, Sherwood Foresters

Pte. F. Hunt, 4th Middlesex

Pte. J Warrior, Northrumberl Fusiliers

Pte. J. Evans, 1st Royal Warwicks

Pte. J. Clark, 1st Royal Warwicks

Pte. R. Millard, Royal Fusiliers


It was expected that after a week of convalescing in Arbroath they would return to their own homes for two or three weeks to recuperate further.


No. 9 Alexandra Place was offered, in September, 1915, as a site for the Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital, by an anonymous benefactor.


This was between the infirmary site and temporary premises. It overlooked a park and had views over the North Sea. It was a large semi detached property owned by a lady who had relocated to Glasgow and initially offered it up to the committee of Arbroath Infirmary for extra nursing quarters in January, 1915.


On Wednesday, 19th of January, 1916, No. 9 Alexandra Place was inspected by David Erskine, County Director of the Red Cross Society, it was opened shortly after on the 24th.

It had capacity for 15 beds, although a few more could be made available if needed.


Less than a week later on the 24th, the first patients were admitted.

These were 10 members of the 2/9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who were stationed in the town and had taken ill.


As a result of the war, causing delays to materials and manpower, the new infirmary building was delayed and eventually opened on the 22nd of April, 1916. at a cost of over £14,000.


The newly built infirmary received its first wounded soldiers on the 2nd of November, 1916. The 13 arrived by train from Dundee, none were of a serious nature.


During the weekend of the 7th and 8th of March, 1918, the Auxiliary Hospital relocated to a large mansion called Seaforth House. It was only a short distance away. Located on the seaside.


Seaforth house being a larger building. it had a greater capacity for patients, able to house up to 50.


The former temporary infirmary at Greenbank was sold on Saturday 13th of July, 1918, by the Arbroath infirmary Directors, for £1,200, any excess being spent on hospital equipment.


The Auxiliary Hospital closed on Friday the 21st of February, 1919. 958 patients had been treated over the course of its existence.

Apr 1913 - Arbroath infirmary moves temporarily to Greenbank, while it's rebuilt on its original site
Jan 1915 - Greenbank receives its first military patients
Jan 1916 - Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital at No.9 Alexandra Place opens
Apr 1916 - The newly rebuilt infirmary is opened
Nov 1916 - First wounded soldiers arrive at new infirmary
Mar 1918 - Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital moves to Seaforth House
Jan 1918 - Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital closes.


Greenbank house stands today as a retirement home.
No 9 Alexandra Place is still standing and a private home again.
Seaforth house was later a hotel and was destroyed by fire under suspicious circumstances in 2006.


Edited by Derek Black


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