Hospitals at War

Medical care in Tayside 1939-45

A Tayside Medical History Museum exhibition
Main Concourse, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee
November 2005 - April 2006

Supported by the Big Lottery Fund's Home Front Recall programme

The Big Lottery Fund distributes half of all National Lottery good cause funding across the UK. The Fund enables others to make real improvements to the lives of disadvantaged people and the wellbeing of communities, through fair and open funding of people, projects and programmes.


Student dressed as Nazi collecting money for Dundee Royal Infirmary

Student charities appeal, 1940 - raising money for Dundee Royal Infirmary
(Courtesy of University of Dundee Archive Services)

This online version of the exhibition has been designed to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two. It looks at the impact of the war on medical services in Tayside, and at how the lives of local doctors and nurses were changed by their wartime experiences.

When war broke out in September 1939, everyone feared that an aerial attack would come almost immediately. Preparations were begun for the mass evacuation of children from cities, and to set up Air Raid Precaution units across the country, supplemented by a system of surgical teams.

The anticipated numbers of wounded servicemen and women and bomb-injured civilians were thought to be far more than existing hospitals could handle. Plans were therefore made to requisition large country houses and other buildings to establish convalescent units (such as Cortachy Castle) and emergency hospitals (like Gleneagles Hotel). New sites were also constructed, as at Bridge of Earn. This work was controlled by a new Emergency Medical Service.

Professor Richard Charles Alexander, a surgeon at Dundee Royal Infirmary, was appointed Surgical Director of the Emergency Medical Service for the Eastern Region of Scotland. His task was to ensure that the best possible use was made of hospital accommodation, and to control the new surgical teams so that skilled assistance might be speedily available. Prof Alexander had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War and in 1944 received a CBE for his work in the Second.

Richard Alexander

Prof R C Alexander (Courtesy of University of Dundee Archive Services)

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