Brixham Cottage Hospital in the Great War
The provision of free treatment on the public wards of the Cottage hospital was constantly under threat of closure due to its voluntary funded status. Ironically its future became assured by becoming a Red Cross hospital during WWI.
The first war casualties received by the hospital came from the sinking of HMS Formidable in January 1915. Brixham Skipper William Pillar had miraculously rescued 72 sailors from their torpedoed battleship in gale force winds and brought them to his hometown. Nine of the rescued sailors were admitted to the hospital, the rest housed in the town.
Soon soldiers and sailors arrived from all theatres of war and the town rallied to support the hospital and its wounded and convalescing soldiers and sailors. The hospital’s wealthier patrons supplied the hospital with financial aid and entertainments, and the town’s fishermen and farmers provided their fresh local produce.
Numerous concerts were arranged for fundraising purposes and the entertainment of the patients. Excursions were also arranged for the convalescing soldiers to aid their recovery, and the sight of the soldiers wearing their hospital blues became commonplace in the town, generating spontaneous cheers whenever they were observed.
The hospital also enabled injured Brixhamites to return home, to be either treated or to die with their families around to support them.