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Oxford and the First World War: Third Southern General Hospital

The Third Southern General Hospital in Oxford was a territorial-force hospital that could accommodate 336 officers and 1210 other ranks in different sections, based in university, college, and city buildings. It was officially opened on 16 August 1914 at the University's Examination Schools with a dedication ceremony attended by the Bishop of Oxford.

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 the two different registration districts, indicated below by [O] for the Oxford registration district and [H] for Headington registration district.
Some of the men who died of their wounds in this hospital are buried in Oxford (Botley) Military Cemetery

The links in the list below take you to a section further down the page on each specific hospital

For officers only
For all ranks (in descending order of number of beds provided)
  • Oxford Workhouse, Cowley Road [H]: 382 beds in the workhouse infirmary, including 110 beds for malaria cases
  • Examinations Schools, High Street [O]: 346 beds, including 94 beds for orthopaedic cases and 25 for “nerve cases”. While the building was being prepared, Magdalen College School accommodated the wounded until their pupils returned in late September 1914
  • Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate's [O]: 205 beds for malaria cases
  • University College, Oxford [O]: 185 beds, with 76 beds in the Durham Building and 109 beds for recuperating servicemen in the Radcliffe Building
  • New College, Oxford [O]: Shelter with 109 beds for tuberculosis, septic surgical cases, and cerebro-spinal fever carrier cases
  • Oxford Masonic Buildings, Oxford [O]: 48 beds
The Radcliffe Infirmary [H]

In addition the Radcliffe Infirmary on the Woodstock Road provided 64 beds and the Oxford Eye Hospital (in the Infirmary's former fever hospital at the back, facing Walton Street) supplied 12 beds for eye cases only. The 3rd Southern General Hospital also had responsibility for another 1,000 beds in local auxiliary and VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) hospitals, including the University of Oxford VAD Hospital, which opened in the Sarah Acland Memorial District Nurses' Home at 23 Banbury Road, next to the Acland Nursing home (formerly Felstead House and now the Oxford Robotics Institute).

Somerville College, Woodstock Road

In 1915 the War Office took over Somerville College, and the women there were relocated to Oriel College's St Mary Hall quadrangle. It provided 262 beds, and from 1916 these were for officers only.

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

Inside the military hospital at SomervillePatients and nurses inside the Somerville section of the 3rd Southern General Hospital

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

More information about Somerville College when it was a hospital

Photograph of the library with convalescing officers
on the Somerville Historian blog by Dr Natalia Nowakowska

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

A pamphlet of photographs entitled “Somerville Section, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford” was published by the Qualis Photo Company in about 1918 and is available at the Oxfordshire History Centre (PA Pamphlets (strongroom) OXFO/362.1) and in the Bodleian Library

Oxford Workhouse, Cowley Road, Oxford

There were 382 beds in the workhouse infirmary, including 110 beds for malaria cases.

The postcard below produced by Henry Taunt (who lived nearby at Rivera) is entitled “3rd Southern Hospital, Cowley Rd, Oxford". The board just inside the gate reads: “3RD SOUTHERN GENERAL HOSPITAL, COWLEY SECTION. NO ADMITTANCE EXCEPT ON BUSINESS. BY ORDER"

Examination Schools, High Street, Oxford

The Examination Schools had room for 346 beds, including 94 beds for orthopaedic cases and 25 ‘nerve cases’. General information on the Examination Schools building here.

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, with soldiers and nurses

Oxford Town Hall

Town Hall

Oxford's Town Hall had 205 beds for malaria cases.

The photograph on the right shows the Assembly Room. This was used for patients' recreation, but appears to have also contained a few beds.

The Orchestra Room was used as a ward.

There is general information on the Town Hall building here


University College, High Street, Oxford

This had 76 beds in the college's Durham Building (88–89 High Street) and 109 beds for recuperating servicemen in the Radcliffe Building

The two postcards below are owned by Richard Keil and were sent by his great-grandfather to his great-grandmother.

Dining hall at University College
Above: The seventeenth-century Gothic dining hall at University College,
renamed the Wing Hall during the First World War

Below: Logic Lane, looking up towards the High, with patients wearing the Hospital Blues Uniform,
designed for those who could get out of bed. This lane separates the Durham Building of University College
on the right from the main college on the left. General information on Logic Lane here
Logic Lane, University College

See also photographs of University College held by the University of Oxford,
which include four of the First World War hospital

New College, Oxford

New College had a shelter with 109 beds for tuberculosis, septic surgical cases, and cerebro-spinal fever carrier cases.

The photograph below shows territorial nurses and officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps (presumably staff at the 3rd Southern General Hospital) in the Garden Quad of New College. This photograph is owned by WW1PHOTOS.ORG and is reproduced with their kind permission.

New College

Oxford Masonic Buildings, High Street, Oxford

The Oxford Masonic buildings which had 48 beds were behind Nos 49–52 High Street and reached via the central archway shown below in a watercolour by Walter Ernest Spradbery dated 1919, which includes a nurse with an umbrella and a soldier near an ambulance.

Masonic Hall when a hospitalWorld War I: Third Southern General Hospital, Oxford, extension in the Masonic Buildings.
Watercolour by Walter Spradbery, 1919. Wellcome Collection. In copyright. Source: Wellcome Collection

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 an unidentified hospital (believed to be in Oxford)

Three hospitals in villages (now suburbs) just outside the city of Oxford (all Headington Registration District)


  • The Wingfield Convalescent Home was converted into a 20-bed military 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). General information on the building here
  • High Wall in Pullen's Lane, Headington was also used for officer casualties during the First World War. General information the house here


The Ashhurst War Hospital Hospital, with a 580-bed specialist neurological section, took over the Littlemore Asylum from May 1918 to August 1920.  Soldiers suffering from shell-shock were sent here and were committed to the hospital by a legal process that required them to stay there until they were deemed fit to leave, and hence many died and were buried there. (No one who died after 31 December 1921 was granted a war grave.)

VAD hospitals elsewhere 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

The Wellcome Library in London holds the photograph album of Grace Mitchell, which includes photographs that she took when she worked as a nurse at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford.

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: Military hospitals in the British Isles 1914–1918

University of Oxford collection of photographs of the military hospitals

© Stephanie Jenkins

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