UVF Hospital

Nursing and medical staff of the West Down (Gilford) Branch of the UVF Hospital, Craigavon

Part of the story of the Ulster Volunteers and their legacy has been the UVF Hospital. In 1914 the headquarters council of the Volunteer Force offered their entire medical facilities to the War Office, and in 1915 a main UVF hospital was opened by Lord Carson in a building called the Exhibition Hall, adjoining Queen's University, South Belfast, which was given free of cost by Belfast Corporationa, with smaller branch hospitals being established elsewhere in the province in the course of the War. While Hostilities continued, many wounded and disabled servicemen were treated by these hospitals. After the Armistice, the hospitals continued to function, mainly providing care for ex-service patients sent there for treatment by the Ministry of War Pensions. Another Hospital opened in Galwally in 1926, closed some four years later, but reopened in 1940 and continued to function until 1969, caring for the needs not only of many First World War veterans but victims of the Second World War and other conflicts in which Ulstermen had found themselves engaged as members of the armed services. The UVF hospitals have, in total, cared for over 28,000 participating soldiers from the First World War - a tremendous record of service in the alleviation of suffering and disability.

Under the watchful eye of UVF nurses, Volunteers play 'quoits' at the UVF Hospital,
set up in Queen's University (South Belfast)

The hospitals were originally financed by an appeal to the public but it was largely owing to the untiring efforts of the late Sir Robert M Liddell and the late Sir Dawson Bates, Bart, that the response was so great and to their guidance in later years that the existence of the present establishment is now due.
By the late 1980s the UVF Hospital was in need of modernisation. The Trustees decided to close the hospital and open a registered nursing home in the Somme Wing, which was to be extended and upgraded. As a result the Somme Hospital opened in September 1992 and the UVF Hospital closed its doors. In March 1995 the name was changed to the "Somme Nursing Home".
The nursing home was made up of thirty-five beds consisting of 6 open wards, 2 double and one single room. The atmosphere whilst bright and cheerful was more suited to a small hospital that a home. Numbers were dropping and it was clear that families wanted single rooms for their relatives.
In response to this, in 1998, the Trustees sold the Nightingale wards of the old UVF Hospital and the attached walled garden. The money went towards a major building and renovation programme providing 32 single rooms and 2 double rooms with en-suite accommodation.
The renovated building was registered in August 1999 as a general category nursing home with the Registration and Inspection Unit of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board.

Ulster Volunteer Nursing staff and Volunteers in Jubilant mood. Portadown Demonstration, 25th September 1912

Circular Road,  Belfast,   BT4  2NA   Tel: (028) 9076 3044   Fax: (028) 9076 1226   
NI Charity Ref: XN46065

The Somme Nursing Home is now a two-storey building consisting of 32 generous single rooms and 2 double rooms all with en-suite facilities. All bedrooms are situated on the ground floor and are split into four cluster units.
Each unit is viewed as a Home with its own décor and living/dining area. The living areas all have a colour television and video. The corridor that connects the units is called the Street and there is a communal area, the Square, where residents can meet and communal activities take place.

They now provide long term and convalescent nursing care for sick, wounded and disabled:
• Serving and ex-service persons, the Reserves and their   spouses
• Royal Ulster Constabulary serving and ex-service members   and their spouses
• HM Prison Service serving and ex-service members and their   spouses
• Mercantile Marine and their spouses
• Fire Authority and their spouses


Below is a picture of the front and rear cover of the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital Christmas Book 1915. The booklet was given to patients who were in the hospital over Christmas and New Year 1915-1916. This copy was given to the Association by Mr. Haydn McWatters who discovered it along with other documents in a drawer after his father
Pte James McWatters : 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Tyrone Volunteers)
passed on a number of years after returning home at the end of the War.
Full details of Pte James McWatters will soon be appearing in the Ulster Heroes section and all the pages from the Christmas booklet will also be viewable here soon in a high resolution format.

Courtesy of Mr. Haydn McWatters © copyright

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