This week’s Wandsworth Borough News reports on the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the Queen Mary Auxiliary Hospital for Limbless Soldiers at Roehampton (to use its full title as given by the paper). The royal couple made a tour of the wards, talking to the patients and examining the artificial limbs – including a group of convalescent men walking round them to demonstrate how well they were getting on.
They also visited the work-rooms, where a basket maker gave the Queen an apple-basket, and they saw men working at type-writing, book-keeping and carpentry. The King was curious as to how the limbs were actually constructed and, following one man doing a military salute with an artificial hand and arm, some of the limbs were stripped and disconnected so that he could see how they worked. The Hanger Limb Department was where the men made the artificial limbs, and the King and Queen were shown round it and had questions answered. From the article, it seems that most of those at work making the various prostheses had lost limbs themselves – one man at Loos, another at Givenchy – and that the work was part of their rehabilitation.
Queen Mary’s Hospital opened in June 1915, having been offered rent-free accommodation in Roehampton House, which had been previously requisitioned as a billet for soldiers. 25 soldiers were patients there, rapidly rising to 224 by October 1915 and 550 by June 1916. By June 1918 there were 900 beds at the hospital and a waiting list of 4321 men. The limb workshops mentioned above were set up in September 1915 as training workshops, as well as fulfilling the demand.
Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm