Red Drawing Room as a WW1 Indian hospital ward, 1915

This postcard shows the Red Drawing Room of the Royal Pavilion in use as a WW1 hospital ward. The photograph was taken in early 1915, shortly after the Pavilion had been converted into a hospital for use by Indian soldiers.

What can we see?

Indian patients

From December 1914 to January 1916 the Royal Pavilion was exclusively used for the care of Indian soldiers who had become sick or wounded while fighting fro the British in France and Flanders.

The men are sitting upright in their beds and looking straight ahead of them. One reason for this is that the photographer needed the men to keep still in order to get a clear photograph. If you look at the door on the right of the image you can see the blurred figure of an Indian orderly who was moving while the photograph was taken.

The man in the mirror

Another reason why the patients are sitting so still in their beds are the two uniformed British officers who have been caught in the mirror. These men were standing behind the photographer, probably to ensure that the patients obeyed instructions while they were being photographed.

The taller man is Colonel J N Macleod, the commanding officer of the Pavilion Hospital. The presence of such a senior officer at the photo shoot is a reminder of how important the image of the hospital was for the British.

Indian languages

As few of the solders would have been able to read English, signs in Indian languages were placed throughout the building. Different languages are spoken across India’s regions, so the signs were in Urdu, Hindi and Gurmukhi.

Linoleum

As part of the process of converting a former palace into a hospital, the carpets were removed and replaced with lino. We can see here that the flooring already looks quite scuffed.

Dragon wallpaper

In spite of the practical changes, many of the Pavilion’s decorative features remained in place. Here we can see the dragon wallpaper that can still be seen in the Red Drawing Room today.

Author: Kevin Bacon, Digital Manager

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