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Postcard, Group of soldiers outside the Royal Pavilion, A H Fry, c1915 

Postcard showing a group of Punjabi Muslim soldiers outside of the

 Royal Pavilion, A H Fry, c1915

Royal Pavilion as an Indian Military Hospital (images) 

During World War One the Royal Pavilion estate was used as a military hospital for wounded soldiers. Between December 1914 and January 1916 it was solely used for Indian Corps soldiers who had been wounded on the Western Front. The Pavilion, Dome and Corn Exchange housed a total of 724 beds. By 1916, over 4,000 Indians and Gurkhas had been treated there.

The Royal Pavilion was one of three Indian hospitals in Brighton: the York Place schools were converted into a hospital for the more heavily wounded troops, while the Elm Grove workhouse was renamed the Kitchener Hospital and treated lighter casualties. Although the Kitchener was the largest, holding 2,000 beds, the Royal Pavilion became the most famous. Unlike the other Brighton hospitals, the Pavilion became more than a hospital: it became a media spectacle.

The building and its patients were extensively photographed. Many were sold locally in the form of postcards: over 120,000 of these were sold in Brighton. Some of these photographs were published in a commemorative book, written in English, Urdu and Gurmukhi. 20,000 copies of this work were distributed in India. Several paintings and a short film were also produced.

These images gave the Royal Pavilion an international presence it had not enjoyed since the Regency period. They show how the Pavilion did not just function as a military hospital, but also became a tool for showing the benevolence of the British Empire to its colonial troops. They also give an insight into the lives of the recovering Indian and Gurkha men.  

Browse photographs from the collection on Flickr.

The Royal Pavilion and Museums’ photographs of this event have been digitised thanks to generous funding from the Wellcome Trust.


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