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The Hospital at Play
From the outset the people of Leicester contributed to the equipment of the hospital and the provision of services and recreation opportunities for its patients. Initial requests for beds, bedding and furniture were later supplanted by regular appeals and fundraising events organised by many different groups and individuals. A strong lead came from
Jonathan North, who served as Mayor of Leicester throughout the war. At Christmas 1914 he and his wife Kate donated a giant cake weighing 200 lbs to patients. Later major donations funded a recreation hall and workshop for patients. Among the war charities, the efforts of the War Hospitals’ Committee were perhaps the most extensive. During the course of the war its fundraising events, which supported all the institutions affiliated to the 5th Northern, provided, among other things, 36,700 periodicals, 66 gramophones, 28,000 picture postcards 1,400 packs of playing cards and many millions of cigarettes.
One item provided in large quantities by the Leicester War Hospitals’ Committee was cigarettes. The records of the Committee indicate that it supplied nearly 12 million cigarettes and over 12,000 lbs of tobacco to the 5th Northern General and its affiliated hospitals. Each patient received at least 40 cigarettes and 2 ozs of tobacco weekly. Nottingham-based John Player & Sons was a major supplier.
Hospital patients, sporting the distinctive uniform of ‘convelescent blues’, were regular attendees at the events and entertainments organised to raise funds for their comfort. Voluntary efforts were also in place to provide accommodation and support to relatives of patients who came to visit them in Leicester. To the left is a detail from a painting by Frederick Cayley Robinson showing patients wearing the 'convelescent blues' uniform at Middlesex Hospital.
The uniform, made of flannel and flannelette, was designed so that a limited range of sizes could accommodate all soldiers and was an important means of maintaining cleanliness in military hospitals. The adjacent photograph shows patients at the 5th Northern General Hospital with visitors at a fundraising event. The patients are wearing the ‘convelescent blues’ shown in Cayley Robinson’s painting.