Leith Local History Society

American Hospital in Leith in 1918

For a few months in 1918 there was an American Naval Hospital in Leith. It was located at the Leith Poor House - better known to later generations as the Eastern General Hospital.

The Leith Poor House had earlier in the First World War been requisitioned by the British Army for use as a military hospital. In August 1918, it was handed over to the United States Navy as U.S. Navy Base Hospital No.3. It was one of two U.S. Navy Hospitals in Scotland - the other was at Strathpeffer.

The staff were all recruited from the California Hospital in Los Angeles. They sailed from New York on 1st August 1918 and arrived in Liverpool on 15 August, via Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they joined a convoy. They then came on by train to Leith, arriving the next day.

They took over some of the existing equipment and brought over some of their own - enough to enable them to care for 750 patients. Extra huts were erected to increase the capacity of the hospital to 1000 patients. Some of the existing equipment was regarded as unsatisfactory. The Americans installed new sanitary fittings and heating and lighting fixtures. They also brought in high white hospital beds to replace the existing low black iron cots. They brought with them enough white paint to repaint the walls which had been in ‘bright and striking’ colours.

Although this was an American Naval Hospital, the patients were not all Navy personnel or Americans. About 75% of patients were from the British Army. The American Navy patients were mostly influenza cases. The British Army patients were battle casualties. They arrived by train from the Channel ports having been taken off the battlefields about three days before and having only received First Aid at Field Dressing Stations.

The American hospital was kept very busy but was quickly closed down after the Armistice on 11th November 1918. While it was in existence local people in Leith supported it by providing comforts and entertainment for the patients.