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            A SHORT HISTORY OF ROYAL NAVAL HOSPITAL CHATHAM                                                     


  • 1828   The Melville Hospital was built within the Royal Marine Barracks adjacent to Chatham Dockyard. It was built at the suggestion of the Lord High Admiral, the Duke of Clarence, who later became William 1V. The Hospital consisted of three blocks three stories high. Into the two spaces between the blocks a cook house and a chapel were built. A colonnade ran along the front of all the buildings. Each block contained eight wards and each ward fourteen beds. The Hospital was for the use of all naval personnel in the Chatham and Sheerness area.


  • 1896   Owing to a major increase in the size of Chatham Port Division and with the expansion of the Fleet towards the end of the century a larger hospital became necessary. After much discussion within the local naval authority about a suitable site for the new hospital it was decided to use a piece of farm land adjoining the Chatham Lines (built between 1755-1756 as defensive fortification to protect the landward side of Chatham Dockyard).


  • 1900   Building started on the new hospital It was to be built in the ‘Pavilion Style’ in redbrick with nine two-story pavilions off a long corridor some 900ft long. The Pavilions had two wards on each floor and twenty-eight beds in each ward. Electric lifts were installed at the end of each two-story block. There was also a separate set of four one story pavilions designed as infectious deceases wards. Included in this modern hospital were up to date operating theatres, a pathology laboratory and mortuary. There was a large Administration Block, a Sick Officers Block, a Medical Mess, a Sisters’ Mess, Quarters for Sick Berth Staff and a Chapel.


  • 1905   The new Naval Hospital was formally opened by His Majesty King Edward V11 on 26th July, and replaced the Melville Hospital. which became a Barracks for the Royal Marines.


  • 1914-1918 WW1   Reserve QARNNS Sisters and VADs joined RNH Chatham to relieve the Sick Berth Staff for service at sea. Enemy air raids took place over Chatham and the surrounding area and in September 1917 the Naval Barracks suffered a direct hit, 107 naval ratings were killed and 86 wounded. There was no damage to the hospital from enemy action during the war years.


  • 1927   Head Sister Miss Margaret Keenan CBE RRC is appointed as the first Head Sister in Chief QARNNS. She was Head Sister at Chatham from 1912-1927 and Head Sister in Chief 1927-1929.


  • 1937   The first Inter-Nursing Services Tennis Tournament was held at RNH Chatham. QARNNS won the Championship trophy.


  • 1939-1945 WW2.   Reserve staff and VADs were called up to serve in RNH Chatham. The war years were a busy time for the hospital especially following the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.


  • 1948   King George V1 visited RNH Chatham


  • 1955   On July 20th, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of RNH Chatham the grounds were opened to the public for the Annual Hospital Sports Day and on 24th July a special jubilee service was held in the Chapel.


  • 1960   In July HRH the Princess Alexandra of Kent QARNNS Patron visited RNH Chatham.


  • 1960   Nurse Training began for State Registration and State Enrolment


  • 1961   On January 15th RNH Chatham closed after fifty-six years of service. The Hospital was part of a planned closure of Nore Command due in part to the onset of the Cold War and the decrease in size of the Royal Navy. The Hospital site was empty for two years before being handed over to the NHS to become the Medway Maritime Hospital.

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