When Britain went to war in August 1914, the countries of the Commonwealth joined her. More than 100,000 South Africans fought during the First World War, and in Richmond, wounded South African soldiers were cared for in a hospital in Richmond Park.
A group of South Africans living in London formed a committee to start a fund for the establishment of a hospital and comforts for South African troops send to England in 1914. Richmond Park was selected as a suitable site and the hospital was built in 1916. Starting with 300 beds, the hospital grew to have 620 beds by May 1917. More than 9,500 patients were treated and 2,000 operations took place at the hospital. As well as proving a space for respite and medical care, the hospital provided a wide programme of entertainment for troops; live music in the hospital’s concert hall, and trips to the theatre or along the River.
Staff, volunteers and patients of the hospital contributed to The Springbok Blue Magazine. Named after South Africa’s national animal, the publication proved a source of entertainment and morale and is now held by the Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library and Archive.
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