This blog post is the first in a series about the Erskine Archive Project. My name is Orla and I’ll be working in Archives Services for the next year cataloguing the Erskine Hospital collection. The project is a joint venture between the University of Glasgow and Erskine funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Research and Resources Grant Scheme. This partnership is the result of Dr Tony Pollard’s research into pioneering surgeon Sir William Macewen’s connections with Erskine.
Erskine was established in 1916 as the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers, a military convalescence hospital for servicemen who had lost limbs in the First World War.
The hospital received its first patient on 10th October 1916 and, within a year, 1162 patients were treated at Erskine. Limb manufacturing workshops were established with help of Yarrow shipbuilders to meet the demand for artificial limbs and to provide vocational training to amputees.
The number of patients admitted naturally decreased following the end of the war and Erskine continued to treat and train veterans for life after service. Since the ending of the Second World War there has been just one year when British forces have not been engaged in war or peace keeping initiatives around the world. Conflicts such as the Falklands, the Gulf, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan have meant a continued requirement for Erskine’s services into the 21st century.
The collection is currently being box listed and consists of minutes and annual reports; patient and resident records; photographs; fundraising campaign and other promotional literature; press-cuttings; workshop records; and financial records. While there are some gaps, it is an impressively full record of the activities of the hospital through both World Wars and the National Service era, right through to the present day. The records provide a fascinating insight into the attitudes and practices towards war injuries, and the rehabilitation of severely disabled military personnel, not only in the wake of the First World War, but also in later conflicts.