6th November 2018 marked the unveiling of a plaque to mark the use of the West of England Eye Infirmary, now Hotel du Vin, between 1914 and 1919 as one of Exeter’s Temporary War Hospitals for the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers.
Immediately on the outbreak of war, in August 1914, the Devon Red Cross was asked to prepare two hospitals in Exeter to receive wounded patients returning from the front, and the Governors agreed to lend the Eye Infirmary agreed for that purpose. Inpatients requiring eye treatment went throughout the First World War to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for their surgery.
During the course of the war the hospital more than doubled its numbers from the initial 100 beds, with the addition of a number of marquees on the neighbouring Bull Meadow park where patients could benefit from ‘fresh air treatment’. The hospital did not close until April 1919, remaining open to treat returning prisoners of war, and also the victims of the flu epidemic of 1918-9.
Relatives and connections of a number of the former staff and patients of the hospital – Bessie Hayman, Wendy Lutley, Mary Tiffen, and Robert Guyver and his family were present at the unveiling. Robert, the great-nephew of Cornelius Kerslake, one of the many soldiers who became a patient at No 1 Hospital, unveiled the plaque.