In August 1914, the Union of South Africa joined Britain and its allies in fighting against the German Empire. More than 146,000 South Africans fought during the First World War and a special hospital was built in Richmond Park for wounded South African soldiers.
The South African Military Hospital opened on 28 June 1916 on a site close to the Cambrian Gate in Richmond Park. Marked in red on the map (right), the hospital was opened after a prominent group of South Africans living in London formed a committee to raise funds for the establishment of a hospital, and for supplying general comforts to the soldiers.
The whole of the building was built in a bungalow style. All of the corridors, wards and special departments were named after places in South Africa, to make those within feel more at home. For example, men from Cape Town were expected to feel comfortable in the short corridor named ‘Adderley Street’, after what is now the main street in the business district of Cape Town.
On entering, visitors were greeted by a spacious hallway, off which everything else connected. One of the most aptly named corridors was ‘Government Avenue’ where the Commandant, Matron, Adjutant and Paymaster were all situated. There were two dining halls – the ‘Mount Nelson Hotel’ and the ‘Carlton’ – both of which could seat around 100 people. There were four wards on each side of the main corridor and the day room at the end, where newspapers and games were provided. Continue reading »