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Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, UK

 

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US Army Hospital

Pages in the History of St. Wulstan's section:
History Archive Project
US Army Hospital
TB Hospital
Psychiatric Hospital
Reserve Opens
 
 

The 96th General Hospital (Neuro-Psychiatric) US Army (1943 - 1945)

In 1942 five US hospitals were set up in the Malvern area. One of these became home for a short period for the US 96th.

The 96th Unit was newly formed in the USA during 1943 and trained in preparation for providing medical and surgical care.

On 15 November 1943 the unit was informed that it would be departing on 15 December from Camp Maxey in Texas. On 28 December, they boarded the SS Dominion Monarch in New York and they sailed for England the next day. They landed in Liverpool on 9 January 1944 and made their way to Malvern Wells, to what was then known as the Brickbarns Farms Site (St Wulstans).

It was then that the unit discovered that they were not to be a surgical hospital but a neuro-psychiatric hospital. The unit was not happy and fifteen doctors left to be replaced by psychiatrists. The Unit Chaplain describes how morale hit an all time low, “Some liked psychiatric work; many did not.”

It appears that the unit operated their hospital for 18 months, with low numbers of patients at first and towards the end of their stay, but with high numbers in between when everyone had to work hard.

The Chaplain complained that, “For eighteen months now the English rains have drizzled down upon us. For the first 10 days we did not see the sun.”

He also describes how, “While others shot at the enemy Jap and Jerry, we shot patients in the arm. While others gathered clusters on their breasts, we were clustered with patients unnerved by the stress and strain of war.”

Other reports are more positive and when the US left the five hospitals thanks were given to the people of Malvern and comments were made on the beauty of the area. Local people were invited to hospital parties and in return the Malvern Civic Reception Committee organised parties at the Winter Gardens. A number of Anglo-American weddings took place.

Patients were brought in by train to the Malvern Wells Halt station near Shuttlefast Farm.

These patients would probably be those diagnosed with battle fatigue or shell shock, which is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Locals who remember the army hospital say that there were locked wards and US Army Guards on duty at the gate, and that the patients were often in a “bad way”, i.e. very disturbed.

The unit appears to have returned to the US by July 1945. A book was produced for those who had served in the unit during the time in Malvern Wells and it is mostly a collection of photographs of those who had served there, a Unit Historical Summary by the Hospital Chaplain and then a collection of photographs of the hospital, its surrounds and local places of interest.

One photograph shows three medical staff preparing for “insulin treatment”, which was described as a daily procedure at the hospital. This was a procedure where patients were given insulin to put them in a coma which it was hoped would help improve their symptoms. However this was a dangerous procedure which is no longer used.

Another photograph shows an EEG machine described as “the brain wave machine.” EEGs are still very important today to measure the activity of the brain and can be used to help the diagnosis of conditions such as epilepsy.

Bronwen Williams, Volunteer Archivist
St Wulstans Local Nature Reserve History Archive
June 2007

References

Lees, Catherine, 2001, US Army Hospitals in Malvern during World War II. Paper with Malvern Museum