The Dreadnought Seamen's hospital
|Sickness and disease|
Seamen arriving at the doors of the ‘Dreadnought’ suffered from these illnesses and more:
Accidents on board ships and in local dockyards happened frequently and the hospital had to do its fair share of wound dressing and bone setting.
Infectious diseases such as typhoid and cholera often affected seamen, together with more general fevers and various tropical infections. And, of course, the notorious lifestyle of seamen once ashore led to many cases of sexually transmitted diseases.
Convalescence and welfare
When seamen were discharged from the hospital they were frequently provided with a new suit of clothes, although the society did sometimes complain about the expense of this activity.
Many seamen were discharged simply as ‘cured’, others were ordered to convalesce either onshore, on their ship, or were given a free passage back to their home port.
After the First World War the society opened its first convalescent home at Cudham in Kent. A major sanatorium for seamen who had tuberculosis (TB) was built in Hampshire in 1921.
Cholera and scurvy
The hospital and its medical staff played their part in tackling two particular 19th-century diseases. On the Thames they confronted cholera, while more generally they did a lot to eradicate scurvy.
The community's hospital
Such crises could range from minor cuts and bruises to fatal injuries. For example, the hospital records show that tragically in May 1878 a 3-year-old boy died shortly after arriving at the hospital with serious burns.
On a larger scale, during the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel in the 1890s, the ‘Dreadnought’ found itself acting as an unofficial first aid post for all those labourers injured during the building works. The building company Pearson acknowledged that support later by helping to raise £400 towards the hospital’s funds.
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