The Michie Hospital 184 Queens Gate London
Jerry White's book Zeppelin Nights, published in 2014 by Bodley Head, describes the impact on London and its people of the First World War, 1914 - 1918. In 1915 London became began receiving large numbers of wounded from the western front and beyond. However in July 1916 this became a flood as huge casualties were experienced during the Battle of the Somme and it was at this time that The Michie Hospital came into existence.
The Michie Hospital only existed for three years and few traces remain, except for photos and papers in the archives of the British Red Cross Museum.
The photo below shows hospital beds and a large Christmas tree. It was taken in December 1917 when Great Britain was still at war with Germany and Mrs Mary Michie had loaned her large house at 184 Queens Gate, London, for use as a Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital for wounded soldiers. It was affiliated to the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital and initially run by a Mrs Isaacs.
Note the electric lights which were then a fairly new invention. Electricity may have been supplied by the local Kensington and Knightsbridge Electric Lighting Company.
The hospital was locally known as the Michie Hospital after its owner.
On the Christmas tree can be seen the flags of the allied nations including that of Japan, which was then an ally. The hospital, which was opened by Queen Alexandra in 1916, had 168 beds, and it is said that of about 2,800 patients admitted only 5 died.
Some more photos of the Michie Hospital
These images are taken from small poor quality prints, but we hope they will still give some impression of those days, a century or so ago.
The first photo (see below) is of a ward of the hospital. Note the potted plants and hospital dress.
The photo below shows a group of men standing at the entrance to the hospital. The woman in the white blouse might be Mrs Michie. One man is holding a child.
The photo below shows a vehicle at the entrance to the hospital; you can just make out the patients in the front and back of the car. Possibly a rare sight in those days when few cars were on the road.
In the picture below are some of the Red Cross nurses who looked after the patients.
The photo below shows men being cared for by the nurses. Note the very basic facilities compared to today. The man seated on the right looks as though he has his leg in a special bath.
The church on the roof
The spiritual needs of the patients were not ignored, and a small wooden hut was erected on the roof of the Michie Hospital to serve as a chapel or oratory where people could pray; it is thought to have had about a dozen seats.The photo below shows Mrs Michie and a priest outside the little chapel.
Another website about the Lost Hospitals of London suggests that the chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of London on 7th March 1917. The Bishop of London at that time was Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram who was born Worcestershire, 1858, and died while staying in retirement with his niece Constance Mary Adeline Grice-Hutchinson (1886 - 1962) at The Boynes, Upton upon Severn on 20th May 1946. Arthur's maternal grandfather was Henry Pepys, Bishop of Worcester. Arthur had worshipped at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Hook, while staying with his niece at the Boynes and presented the brass altar cross to the Chapel.
After the war
After the war Mrs Michie was presented with a framed photograph by the staff (she is not in the picture herself).
The image below shows a copy of the photograph and an enlargement of the small plaque which was fixed to the bottom of the frame.
The story has been passed down that Australian soldiers were particularly welcome at the house which was a short distance from South Kensington tube station.
Scottish surgeon Lawrie Hugh McGavin CBE FRCS worked at the hospital. Like Mrs Michie, he had links with Australia as both his wife and mother-in-law were born in Australia. He also had strong links with the army as he had once been in the Dragoon Guards and his brother-in-law was a senior army officer. You can read more about his family by clicking here.
Mrs Michie (see photo below) received the CBE in 1920 and died in 1945 aged 88 years.
Sadly two of her Australian nephews were amongst the 62,000 Australian soldiers killed in the Great War.
The house was not hit in Zeppelin attacks on London, but later in the Second World War, the house (shown opposite) was badly damaged by enemy bombing on the night of 19th February 1944 when a bomb hit 184 and 185 Queens Gate and the gas main caught fire. Eight people died.
The site of the building is now occupied by part of Imperial College.
Mrs Michie was the daughter of a Nottinghamshire coal miner who emigrated to Australia with her family in the 1870s, returning to London in the 1890s.
She had married, thirdly, in 1908, the Scottish painter James Coutts Michie (1859 - 1919), an artist of the Aberdeen school.
Descendants of her family still live in Australia.
More about the history of this and other hospitals can be found in the archives of the British Red Cross Museum in London.
Last updated 28th February 2015