During World War 1 the government quickly realised that a dedicated military hospital was needed in Adelaide to treat wounded servicemen. By 1915 military hospitals had been established at Keswick Barracks and North Adelaide.
However the hospital at Keswick Barracks took up desperately needed space for the military. In 1942 during World War 2 a splendid military hospital costing 300,000 pounds was established on Daws Rd at St Marys.
The Advertiser breathlessly announced that the hospital was equipped with equipment of the most advanced types known to medicine and surgery, and patients were accommodated in cream painted beds, 32 to each ward with easy access to switches controlling wireless, overhead bed lights, and electric bell. Staff could look forward to no washing of dirty dishes and pans by hand. Foot pedals operate the lids of steam washing machines and no hand drying will be necessary. Instruments will also be steam processed. Doors throughout are of natural silver oak. and hooks have been fitted to allow easy access by nurses whose hands are otherwise engaged.
This was indeed luxury in 1942. But nothing was too good for our injured fighting men, and The Repatriation Hospital continued to provide high quality services to injured war veterans from Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan for decades after the Second World War war ended. Very strong bonds were forged between war veterans, their families, nursing and medical staff. In many ways The Repat became a community.
On the 50th anniversary of the founding of The Repat, the Repatriation General Hospital Museum was opened. The museum showcases not only the treatment and care provided over the decades at the Repatriation Hospital, but also the stories of our war veterans themselves.
Looking at some of the displays can be quite moving, as for many servicemen the trip to the Repatriation General Hospital was one way, terminating at the Daw House Hospice. However bravery and humour, love and determination are all evident in the exhibits at the Repat Museum.
Chiropody Instruments, Medical Equipment & Military Memorabilia
Exhibits at the Repatriation Hospital Museum are varied. There are many examples of medical instruments and equipment that have been used been used to treat injured servicemen. A chiropody instrument set, ECT equipment and portable X-ray machine are just a few items on display.
Military Uniforms and War Memorabilia at The Repat Museum
A selection of soldiers' and nurses' military uniforms are on display, with more in storage due to a lack of room in the current building. I can imagine the National Military Vehicles Museum eyeing this collection jealously.
There are many stories of underground tunnels at The Repatriation Hospital that were used as a wartime air raid shelter. A display board describes the hunt to locate the air raid shelter and includes photos and maps of the locations searched.
The Repat Museum has some second hand books which are available for purchase, and a library of material which may be borrowed. There are many war veterans' diaries that have been painstakingly transcribed and digitised, letting you peek into the memories of those braver than me.
Military memorabilia of all sorts are common, much of them donated by former servicemen and women. Some of the more touching pieces were made by prisoners of war while in captivity. These pieces have stunningly intricate etchings which must have whiled away long hours in captivity.
War service medals, military decorations, photographs and wartime posters add colour to the museum. One area is set up as a signals office with period typewriter and telephone, and even a morse code transmitting set. For anyone wanting to understand our military history, the museum has much to offer.
The Repatriation Hospital Museum is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 12 noon and 2 pm. Admission is free, but a donation is appreciated. You can find it near the Repat's Pre-Loved Treasure Shop by entering from Goodwood Road.
It will be tragic if the government destroys the community that the Repat has become. However whatever the outcome, the Repatriation General Hospital Museum has been told that they will continue. One piece of reassurance in an otherwise sad story.