At 10.30am on Wednesday 28 March 2007, around 200 servicemen and women currently serving at the Royal Hospital Haslar, will march out through the gateway of this historic hospital.
Led by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Plymouth, they will process out through the gate and over Haslar Bridge to the Timespace, which is situated on the Millennium Promenade overlooking Portsmouth Harbour.
It is here a short ceremony will take place and where the Freedom of the Borough of Gosport, currently held by The Royal Hospital Haslar, will be extended to include the new Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit (MDHU) Portsmouth.
Following the ceremony, Personnel from Haslar will exercise their Right as Freemen of the Borough to process through the town. Led by the Band of the Royal Marines, Plymouth, they will process along the promenade and up through the High Street to allow residents the chance to applaud and thank these special men and women for their dedicated service to the Borough.
The procession, which will also include former VADs and QARNNS who served at Haslar during the war, will march to the Town Hall where the salute will be taken by the Mayor of Gosport, Councillor June Cully.
Joining the Mayor on the dais for the salute will be the last Commanding Officer of Haslar, Surgeon Captain James Campbell, Commanding Officer of the new MDHU Portsmouth, Commander Bill Durning and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Rear Admiral David K Bawtree CB DL.
Following the departure of the last ever Commanding Officer of Haslar Hospital on 31 March 2007, service personnel working at the site will remain. They will continue to work alongside staff from the Portsmouth Hospital Trust, the organisation taking over the running of Haslar, until its final closure in 2009. At that time Service Personnel working there will transfer to the new MDHU at Queen Alexandra Portsmouth.
“It will be the end of an era for Gosport, for just as Servicemen and women have relied on Haslar’s excellent staff and medical treatment during times of peace and war, we as a community have come to rely on them,” said the Mayor of Gosport, Councillor June Cully. “Perhaps not in times of conflict such as the First, Second or even Falklands War, but when injuries or accidents have occurred in our lives, or when loved ones have required operations or treatment. We all knew we could rely on Haslar and her trustworthy staff.”
“For us this is not just goodbye to the last military hospital, but goodbye to a friend. For Haslar has cared for us down through the generations and restored us to good health to the best of their ability, something for which we will always be eternally grateful.”
Joining the Civic parade will be Mayors and Civic Heads from all around Hampshire. Also in attendance to give thanks will be representatives from the Submarine Branch of the Royal Navy, The Marine Engineering Branch of the Royal Navy, The Fleet Air Arm, The Falkland Veterans Foundation, The Royal Marines and 17 Port Maritime Regiment who all hold the Freedom of the Borough of Gosport and who all have reason to thank Haslar for the service it has provided.
Brief History of the Hospital
The Royal Hospital Haslar has a long and distinguished history in providing medical care to the Royal Navy for over 250 years and more recently to all three Services and Civilians.
After submissions to King George II by the Admiralty, planning for the hospital commenced in 1745. Haslar was to be one of three proposed hospitals to provide hospital care for sailors of the Fleet. The building of the hospital took 16 years and was completed in 1762, but due to over expenditure the fourth side was not completed.
Haslar was designed by Theodore Jacobsen FRS in the manner of the Foundling Hospital. Building was under the direction of James Horne, a surveyor and John Turner, a Master Carpenter from Portsmouth Dockyard. Dr James Lind (‘The Father of Nautical Medicine’ and one of the first physicians at Haslar) in writing to friend in 1758 described Haslar as “an immense pile of a building and when complete it will certainly be the biggest hospital in Europe!”
By 1753, with the hospital only half built, the situation concerning sick and wounded sailors in the Portsmouth and Gosport area was desperate; patients were already living in the builder’s accommodation in the grounds of Haslar. Consequently the first hundred patients were admitted into the first stage of the hospital but no record of a formal opening of the Royal Hospital Haslar can be traced.
The original hospital plans included a chapel within the main hospital, which was to have been sited in the fourth section of the quadrangle building. This part of the hospital was never built and a separate church was completed in 1762 to serve staff, their families and patients.
The first decades at Haslar were not without problems; there are many accounts of drunkenness and petty scandal amongst both staff and patients. The patients being "pressed men" were escaping from Haslar in large numbers necessitating a guard of soldiers from Fort Monckton. Haslar at this time resembled a prison more than a hospital. Soon the hospital buildings became crowded, discharged pensioner sailors lived in the attics, staff and their families also shared the main building.
Following various Admiralty inspections in the late 18th century the hospital underwent many changes and the lot of the sailor as a patient was changed for the good. During the 19th century many Army casualties from both the Peninsular and Crimean wars were treated at Haslar. Such was the fine treatment given by Haslar to the Army that the hospital was held as a shining light to Nursing by the Army authorities.
During the many wars of the 20th century, Haslar continued to grow in professional and technological ability in the treatment of its patients. In 1954 the word Naval was formally included in the title of the hospital only to be removed again in 1996 when Haslar became the core Tri-Service hospital. Although the families of service personnel were often treated in the hospital by the 1960s the hospital had also opened its doors to the local population providing excellent healthcare provision for those living in Gosport and the surrounding area, something it has continued to do.