First World War hospital admissions data goes online

Families will be able to find out about their wounded relatives' treatment during the First World War through a hospital admissions archive which has gone online.

Historical records featuring the admissions registers of soldiers cared for by veterans' charity Erskine from 1916 to 1936 have now been fully digitised.

Erskine joined forces with the University of Glasgow to catalogue and preserve the records of Erskine Hospital in Renfrewshire and has incorporated them into an online and fully searchable resource on the charity's website.

Erskine Hospital - then called the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers - was set up in 1916 to treat soldiers who had suffered the loss of a limb during the war.

James Henderson (front row, far left) was treated at Erskine Hospital during the First World War (Family handout/PA)
James Henderson (front row, far left) was treated at Erskine Hospital during the First World War (Family handout/PA)

Erskine chief executive Steve Conway said: "The details of every soldier and sailor admitted to The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers during the First World War were recorded in leather-bound books which included the nature of their injury, where they were serving when injured and their unit, so we have a fascinating insight into the history of the patients admitted to the hospital.

"We can also see that many had return visits for treatment or the fitting of artificial limbs as their wounds healed.

"We are delighted that, thanks to the painstaking work by the university, relatives can now research our records about members of their families injured in the First World War from the comfort of their own home."

The creation of the hospital was driven by Sir William Macewen, one of Scotland's most pre-eminent surgeons.

The Erskine/university partnership to digitalise the hospital admissions is the result of research into Sir William Macewen's connections with Erskine by Professor Tony Pollard, the university's Professor of Conflict History and Archaeology.

He said: "The Erskine records are quite remarkable and we are delighted that we could help to bring them to a wider audience.

"These are tales of endurance, rehabilitation and retraining to return to civilian life.

"The admissions records also provide an insight into the development of prosthetics and care of war casualties post conflict."

The data was digitised with the help of the university archives service and a team of volunteer indexers.

Moira Gallie, from Canonbie, Dumfries and Galloway, accessed the records of James Henderson, her maternal grandfather who lost his right leg in 1918, through staff at the archives service before it was digitalised.

Through the records, she learned her grandfather had retrained at the hospital as a shoemaker after he lost his leg.

Mrs Gallie said: "It meant so much to my family and I to find out more about my grandfather's time at Erskine Hospital. It was fascinating to put another piece of the puzzle back into his life story."

The online database can be accessed via https://www.erskine.org.uk/patient-records-1916-1936/

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