Herbert Woolwich

HERBERT HOSPITAL – WOOLWICH

The Royal Herbert at Woolwich was the first military hospital built on the pavilion plan which Miss Nightingale favoured most. It opened on 1st November 1866. It had been decided that it should be staffed by trained nurses under a superintendent. This would be the first steps to an official scheme of military hospital female nursing. It was therefore important that the right person was found. The only possible candidate was Mrs Shaw Stewart. She took up her post in 1862, but she did not get on well with the governor of the Hospital Colonel Wilbraham. They often quarrelled, Colonel Wilbraham alleged that Mrs Shaw Stewart ill treated her nurses, and struck them repeatedly, even some of the doctors corroborated what he had said. She turned to her brother for help, he was Sir Michael Shaw Stewart who was an MP. This lead to an enquiry at the War Office in 1868. There seemed to be no argument about her nursing or her nurses, only her ability to hold her temper when supervising them. None of the probationers lasted long under her. She eventually resigned.

There were no trained nurses at Herberts, and it had lapsed into the old regimental system. After there experience with Mrs Shaw Stewart the Fund was ignored by the War Office. There had been many disagreements between the War Office and the Fund, mainly over the supremacy of superintendent

The Regulations at the Herbert were those they had adapted from Netley, but the War Office adaptations were unacceptable to the Fund. A compromise had to be made. The War Office had agreed to pay nursing staff on the same scale as at Netley. They remained adamant that the superintendent would be under the Principal Medical Officer. The Principal Medical Officer was not resident, this meant that the superintendent would not be responsible to the resident Medical Officer for day-to-day nursing matters.

At the end of April, the War Office was still not ready to receive nurses. Many of the nurses who were waiting to go to the Herbert had become fed up with waiting and had applied for other positions. The Fund never succeed in altering nursing at the Herbert, there was little improvement until Miss Caulfield from Netley became superintendent. She had insisted on having nurses already trained in civilian hospitals, having proper rules and regulations. Miss Caulfield insisted on the need for army nursing sisters to be `Superior educated persons` so as they might command respect of the soldiery.

Miss Nightingale and the Fund never successfully established a military nursing service on the lines laid down in her ` subsidiary Notes.`