Royal Naval Hospital
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Royal Naval Hospital
The earliest surviving Royal Naval Hospital complex is on Illa del Rei, Port Mahon, Menorca (established 1711, rebuilt 1771-6, restored 2011)

A Royal Naval Hospital (RNH) was a hospital operated by the British Royal Navy for the care and treatment of sick and injured naval personnel.[1] A network of these establishments were situated across the globe to suit British interests. They were part of the Royal Naval Medical Service.[2]

No Royal Naval Hospitals survive in operation, although some have become civilian hospitals.

Early history

Individual surgeons had been appointed to naval vessels since Tudor times.[3] During the seventeenth century, the pressures on practitioners grew, as crews began to be exposed to unfamiliar illnesses on increasingly long sea-voyages. One response, as proposed in 1664, was the provision of hospital ships to accompany the fleet on more distant expeditions. Another was the provision of temporary shore-based hospitals, such as those briefly set up during the Anglo-Dutch Wars in such locations as Ipswich, Rochester, Harwich and Plymouth (the latter being established on a more permanent footing in 1689).[4] By the turn of the century, permanent hospital provision was being contemplated for overseas bases; one was set up in Jamaica by Admiral John Benbow in 1701. More were to follow, both at home and abroad.

Head of Royal Navy Hospital

The hospitals were usually administered by a governor[5] appointed by the regulatory boards charged with providing medical services to naval personal.


Royal Naval Hospitals included:

United Kingdom

RNH Great Yarmouth, built 1809-11, architect: William Pilkington.
Former Royal Naval Hospital in Deal, Kent.


Hospitals were established close to several of the overseas Naval Yards, including:

Royal Naval Hospital buildings of 1821 in Port Royal, Jamaica; Admiral Benbow had established the island's first naval hospital in 1701.
Pink-rendered quadrangle of the old Naval Hospital in Gibraltar (1741).
The small former hospital of 1814 at Kingston dockyard now serves as the commandant's residence, Royal Military College of Canada.

Other naval hospitals were established in other overseas locations, usually in the vicinity of other small naval establishments (e.g. coaling or supply yards) including on Long Island, New York (1779), Newfoundland, St Lucia (1783), Kingston, Ontario (1813-14), Barbados (1815), Fernando Po, Mauritius and Wei-Hai-Wei.

Royal Naval Auxiliary Hospitals

During the Second World War around twenty 'R.N. Auxiliary Hospitals' were established in various locations, at home and abroad, on a temporary basis.[10]

Royal Marine Infirmaries

Royal Marine Infirmaries were established near the divisional headquarters in Chatham, Deal, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Woolwich, along with a separate Royal Marine Artillery Infirmary in Portsmouth.


Greenwich Hospital, which predated all the above, was established on somewhat different grounds, as it cared for retired seamen rather than those on active service. Also called the Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich, it was a home for Greenwich pensioners, established in 1692, and although closed at Greenwich in 1869 still exists as a charity. Its buildings housed the Royal Naval College, Greenwich between 1873 and 1998 and are now open to the public as the Old Royal Naval College.


  1. ^ "Sick And Hurt Board, In-Letters And Orders - National Maritime Museum". Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ Wickenden, Jane (6 September 2013). "The Royal Naval Medical Service from the earliest times to 1918 - British Naval History, Historic Collections Librarian, Institute of Naval Medicine, Alverstoke, Gosport". British Naval History. British Naval History, 6 Sep, 2013. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ "British Naval History article".
  4. ^ a b c Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet: Architecture and engineering of the Royal Navy's bases, 1700-1914. Swindon: English Heritage. p. 24.
  5. ^ Marshall, John (Nov 18, 2010). Royal Naval Biography: Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-Officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals, Retired-Captains, Post-Captains, and Commanders. Cambridge University Press. p. 173. ISBN 9781108022668.
  6. ^ "Naval documents database".
  7. ^ "RCAHMS".
  8. ^ The Madras Tercentenary Commemorative Volume. Chennai, India: Asian Education Services. 1994.
  9. ^ "Navy Band website".
  10. ^ See the Navy List, various issues, 1939-45.

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