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First Southern General Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham is now well-known as the home of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine providing specialist care for wounded members of the armed forces. The treatment of war causalities in Birmingham has a long history dating back to the First World War when wounded servicemen from all over the world were treated here.

One of the largest war hospitals in the city, and the first to open, was the First Southern General Hospital which was housed in the buildings of the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston. Following the declaration of war on 4 August 1914, the Royal Army Medical Corps Territorial Unit received orders to mobilise and the following day beds and mattresses began to arrive at the University buildings. The first convoy of 120 sick and wounded men arrived on 1 September, and by the end of 1914 the First Southern General had 800 beds and had received 3,892 patients.

This exhibition includes photographs of the hospital taken by Bernard Moore and Arthur J Leeson during the First World War, and extracts from the patients’ magazine The Southern Cross, all of which come from the Library’s Archives, Heritage and Photography Service. They show the daily life and treatment of both the staff and patients and provide a vivid portrait of life in the make-shift wards of the university campus.

Photographs of the city’s hospital provision during the war can be seen in the exhibition Voices of War: Birmingham People 1914-19.

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