Anglo-Russian Hospital: Six Thousand Saved

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PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd. 1915–1918, a joint exhibition by Tsarskoe Selo and the Russian Museum of Military Medicine, is open at the Martial Chamber till 27 January 2019.

The exhibition is based on old photographs, nearly 50 copies of which were donated to Tsarskoe Selo by Dr Pauline Monro MBE MD FRCP, a British neurologist with long-standing connections to the medical community in Russia (see below, middle), and Mr Simon Boyd, the grandson of Lady Sybil Grey (see below, right) who set up and temporarily ran the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd (as St Petersburg was renamed in 1914 to make its name Sankt Peterburg sound less German).

The original photographs were gathered by Dr Monro and Mr Boyd from descendants and relatives of those who worked at the Anglo-Russian Hospital during World War One.

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PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The Russian Museum of Military Medicine lent to the exhibition such artifacts as soldier hospital clothes, Russian and British surgical kits and patient care accessories.

The establishment of the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd began from a special committee created in London in August 1915 under the patronage of HM Queen Alexandra. Lady Muriel Paget, a British philanthropist and humanitarian relief worker was appointed Honorary Organizing Secretary. According to the committee’s estimate, an equipped and staffed hospital with 200 beds would require 30,000 pounds sterling a year.  Proposed by the British Foreign Office, the hospital was funded by public subscription and supported by donations from King George V and Mary of Teck, the British Red Cross Society, the Canadian government, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem and other organizations. The British government provided transportation.

An advance party left for Petrograd in October 1915. It was was led by Lady Muriel Paget and her colleague Lady Sybil Grey, the second daughter of Albert Grey, 4th Earl Gray and Governor General of Canada. The two women were the key figures involved in organizing and running the hospital. 

 

The Dmitri Palace, now known as the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, was formally offered as the ‘base’ hospital in Petrograd. A huge, Neo-Baroque building by the Fontanka River with a distinctive orange facade and opulent interiors lit by brilliant chandeliers, the Palace had hosted lavish parties for Russian high society in the 19th century, and had been home to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich before he was killed by a terrorist bomb. It was the property of Emperor Nicholas II’s cousin Dmitri Pavlovich, one of the few Romanovs to later escape execution after the revolution.

The Palace was then converted into a hospital during November and December 1915. The official opening of the hospital took place on 1 February 1916. The opening ceremony was attended by Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, Tsarina Alexandra with her elder daughters Tatiana and Olga, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna and the British ambassador to Russia George Buchanan.

The staff was volunteer and included several prominent London surgeons. Two large wards were arranged in the Music Room and two adjacent sitting rooms. Those were adjoined by the patients’ dining room, bathrooms, toilets and a large wound dressing room. The operating, narcosis and sterilization rooms, an X-ray room and a bacteriological laboratory were located on the same floor. There was also a staff room with two surgeons and two orderlies on duty, a dental office, a kitchen, a laundry room and a carpentry workshop.

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PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The hospital’s official blazon consisted of a British imperial lion and a Russian imperial double-headed eagle holding a red cross (see upper left in picture above).

During the 11 months between November 1915 and October 1916 more than six thousand patients received treatment in the Anglo-Russian hospitals (and field camps) in Russia, including at the base hospital in St Petersburg.  It closed in January 1918 as conditions became too difficult following the revolution.

A memorial plaque was hung in the entrance hall of the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace in 1996.

© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 23 November 2018