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 Ayrshire’s War

Soon after the outbreak of war, part of Ayr County Hospital was set aside for the care of war wounded – Belgian soldiers were among the first patients to arrive.

As the flow of injured men became a flood, temporary medical facilities proliferated across Ayrshire, as they did throughout the country. There were military reception hospitals at Turnberry Hotel and at Camlarg House near Dalmellington. Both had been taken over by the army in connection with the establishment of air combat training schools nearby.

Eleven auxiliary hospitals were set up, administered by the Ayrshire Division of the Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross Society. Each had a matron in charge, and the staff was composed largely of Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses, with assistance from local doctors. They were: Ardrossan (9 South Crescent); Carrick House and Seafield House (both Ayr); Laggan House (Ballantrae); Dunlop House; Irvine (military camp) and Irvine Bogside; Kilmarnock’s Dick Institute; Montgreenan (in an estate cottage near Kilwinning); Barra House in Largs; and Craigronach, a house in Troon with its annex in the nearby hall of Portland Parish Church.

In addition to facilities treating war wounded, Ayr’s infectious diseases hospital at Crofthead was taken over for a time for soldiers stationed locally who were affected by an outbreak of measles. They included men of the Newfoundland Regiment, many of whom were from remote areas of the Dominion and had little immunity to such diseases.

In May 1918, the Ayrshire Division of the Red Cross published an illustrated record of their work. During 1917, 2,761 patients had been treated in the auxiliary hospitals, making a total of 6,394 since they were established.

The various surgical and sphagnum moss work parties around the county totalled 1,319 volunteers. Absorbent sphagnum moss was collected from marshy areas, washed, dried and used as the packing in wound dressings. Members of youth organisations went on moss-gathering expeditions. During 1917, 163,758 dressings were made up, making a total of 234,469 since work commenced.


Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses parade on Ayr’s Low Green. © South Ayrshire Libraries & Museums.

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