WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed

Great War Hospital Blues

This soldier of the Royal Sussex Regiment was photographed in Eastbourne sometime in 1916. He is wearing a style of uniform that became very symbolic of the Great War: Hospital Blues.

A form of hospital uniform had been introduced even before the Boer War but in the early years of the Great War the need to ensure that convalescing soldiers had a uniform they could wear in public became quite important; if they stepped out in civilian clothes there was always the risk they might attract the attention of zealous patriots who went round handing out white feathers to men not in uniform whom they suspected were not doing their ‘bit’ for King and Country.

The Hospital Blues uniform was therefore available for convalescing troops in Britain; some were issued for France, but the emphasis on issue was on the Home Front because of the problems of interaction with the public. It consisted of a white shirt, a bright red woven tie and a blue jacket; all of which can be seen in this image. As is visible here the soldier also wore his Service Dress cap with regimental insignia; where no cap was available, soldiers often wore their regimental badge on their lapel. The uniform was worn with pride as it showed that not only was the man in the armed services, he had served overseas and been wounded.

The fact that this photograph was taken in Eastbourne may also indicate the unknown soldier here may have been a patient in Summerdown Camp; constructed on the high ground above the town, it was one of the largest convalescent hospitals in Sussex during the Great War, and photographs of it will feature in a future posting.

7 responses

  1. santa

    great blog

    07/03/2012 at 11:11

  2. santa

    The most famous patients of Craiglockhart were the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, whose poems appeared in the hospital’s own magazine called The Hydra. Wilfred Owen was the editor of the magazine during his stay. Thanks.
    Paradise Valley Real Estate

    07/03/2012 at 11:47

  3. I have a question for you, Paul–if a soldier was discharged from hospital, and also from the army itself, and allowed to go home, what would he have worn? Would he return to civvies, his regular uniform, or would he have continued to wear Hospital Blues? Were Hospital Blues only worn by soldiers whilst in hospital? Here is another great photo for your perusal–a group of convalescent soldiers at Spital Tongues, Newcastle: http://www.donmouth.co.uk/local_history/VAD/images/hospital_blues.jpg

    16/10/2012 at 00:17

    • sommecourt

      Sorry, I missed this.

      If discharged from the army and sent home he would have been in civvies. If sent home from a military hospital before discharge, Hospital Blues.

      18/10/2012 at 23:17

  4. Great photo. Hospital blues were first issued at the insistence of Queen Victoria after the Crimean War. Even then they were bright blue with a white collarless shirt and a red neck scarf. A woollen stocking cap was also issued in the same blue. Hospital blue remained in use until the end of National Service in 1963, when they were gradually phased out.

    13/04/2013 at 23:18

  5. Steven Schmidt

    I have a photo of my grandfather in hospital blues, how can i find out where he converlested.??

    16/02/2017 at 11:20

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