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Oxford and the First World War: Third Southern General Hospital

The Third Southern General Hospital was a territorial-force hospital based in Oxford at existing hospitals and other large facilities. It was officially opened at the Examination Schools on 16 August 1914 with a dedication ceremony attended by the Bishop of Oxford It eventually had at least ten different branches in Oxford, with wards occupying both university and city buildings.

For people trying to trace the hospital where their relations died, the options can be narrowed down slightly by the fact that the sections of these hospitals were in two different districts. [O] = Oxford registration district and [H] = Headington registration district.

For officers only
  • Somerville College, Woodstock Road [H]: 262 beds (pamphlet available in Oxfordshire History Centre at OXFO/362.1)
For all ranks
  • Examinations Schools, High Street [O]: 346 beds, including 94 beds for orthopaedic cases and 25 for what are described as ‘nerve cases’. While it was being prepared, Magdalen College School accommodated the wounded until the boys returned in late September 1914
  • Cowley Road Section: 382 beds in workhouse infirmary [H], including 110 beds for malaria cases
  • Oxford Masonic Buildings, behind Nos 49–52 High Street [O]: 48 beds
  • New College Shelter: 109 beds for tuberculosis, septic surgical cases, and cerebro-spinal fever carrier cases [O]
  • Radcliffe Infirmary, Woodstock Road [H]: 64 beds
  • Town Hall Section, St Aldate's [O]: 205 beds for malaria cases
  • Durham Building, University College, 88–89 High Street [O]: 76 beds
  • Radcliffe Building, University College, High Street [O]: 109 beds for recuperating servicemen
  • Oxford Eye Hospital, Walton Street [H]: 12 beds for eye cases only

The 3rd Southern General Hospital also had responsibility for another 1,000 beds in local auxiliary and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospitals (including the University of Oxford VAD Hospital, which opened in the District Nurses' Hostel).

The Wingfield Convalescent Home in Headington [H], which was still outside the city, was converted into a 20-bed miliary hospital. By 1916 wooden huts were added to provide another 75 beds, and the Oxford Orthopaedic Hospital was set up in huts in the grounds. (This hospital was to survive, and eventually became the present Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre).

High Wall in Pullen's Lane, Headington [H] was also used for officer casualties during the First World War.

Plaque at Somerville College
Plaque on the wall of Somerville College, Woodstock Road

New College, Oxford

Below: Territorial nurses and officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Garden Quad of New College. They are likely to be staff from the 3rd Southern General Hospital.

This photograph is owned by WW1PHOTOS.ORG and is reproduced with their kind permission.

New College


Somerville College, Woodstock Road

Somerville College
“Somerville Section, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford”

Somerville gateway
Main Gateway. Somerville Section, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford

More information about Somerville College when it was a hospital

Another postcard showing hospital tents at Somerville College
can be seen on the University of Oxford First World War Centenary page

and a photograph of the library with convalescing officers
on the Somerville Historian blog by Dr Natalia Nowakowska


Examination Schools, High Street

Examination Schools
“Examination Schools, Oxford, now 3rd Southern General Hospital”, flying the Union and Red Cross flags

Wards in the Examination Schools
“Surgical 5, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford” in one of the large Schools

Inside of Examination Schools
“Entrance Hall, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford”

Examination Schools
Painting of the Oxford Military Hospital (Examination Schools) by William Matthison


Workhouse infirmary, Cowley Road

Cowley Road Military Hospital
“3rd Southern Hospital, Cowley Rd, Oxford" by Henry Taunt, who lived nearby at Rivera. The board outside reads:


Masonic Buildings, High Street

Masonic lodge
“Masonic Buildings, Oxford” at the north-east end of the High Street in Oxford in 1919. Watercolour by
Walter Ernest Spradbery showing an ambulance and nurse outside this branch of the hospital
Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0


Inside the Masonic Buildings


Town Hall

See photographs of the Orchestra Room used as a ward and the Assembly Room for patients' recreation can be seen here on the Bodleian Library's Oxford World War 1 Centenary site.


Photographs of convalescent soldiers in hospitals yet to be identified

Privately owned photograph of wounded men in hospital (believed to be in Oxford, possibly the Wingfield in Headington).
They are wearing the Hospital Blues Uniform, designed for those patients who could get out of bed

Privately owned photograph of soldiers at a hospital (believed to be in Oxford but unidentified) during the First World War

The Ash Hurst War Hospital

This hospital, with a 580-bed specialist neurological section, took over the Littlemore Asylum [H] (then just outside the city of Oxford) from May 1918 to August 1920. 

VAD hospitals in Oxfordshire during the First World War
  • VAD Hospital, Bicester Hall, Bicester
  • Sywncombe House, Henley-on-Thames, VAD Hospital
  • Town Hall, Henley-on-Thames, VAD Hospital
  • Harpsden Court, Henley-on-Thames
  • VAD Hospital, Battle House, Goring-on-Thames
  • Burcote House Hospital, (Orthopaedic), Abingdon
  • Bruern Abbey, Chipping Norton, VAD Hospital
  • Clanfield VAD, Hospital, Clanfield, R.S.O.
  • VAD Hospital, Old Grammar School, Thame
  • Hill Lodge, Chipping Norton
  • University VAD Hospital, Felstead House, Oxford
  • VAD Hospital, Grimsbury, Banbury

Some references in the Oxford Journal Illustrated to military hospitals throughout Oxfordshire

  • 21 October 1914: Photographs of the funeral of Private Egleton of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment who died at the Oxford Military Hospital (the first of a number of funerals reported from this hospital)
  • 4 November 1914: Photograph of Blenheim Palace as a Military Hospital
  • 17 March 1915: Photographs of staff an wounded soldiers at Burcote Military Hospital
  • 23 June 1915: Photograph of a group of wounded soldiers and staff at Teasdale House Military Hospital, Abingdon
  • 20 September 1916: Photograph of the King arriving at the 3rd Southern General Hospital and shaking hands with Lieutenant-Colonel Rankin
  • 14 February 1917: Photograph of what was the lecture room at the School of Forestry in Park Street, used by 40 or 50 volunteers making bandages and dressings for hospitals in the City (under the direction of Lady Osler and Mrs Balfour)
  • 20 March 1918: Photograph of wounded soldiers and some of their needlework at the Annexe Ward of the Cowley Road Section of the General Hospital

The Long, Long Trail: The military hospitals at home

© Stephanie Jenkins

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