Belgian Refugees' Dispensary
Belgian Refugee Clearing Station, Aldwych Roller Skating Rink, 265 Strand, WC2R 1BH
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1914 - 1917

At the beginning of WW1 the disused roller skating rink at Aldwych was taken over by the War Refugees' Committee for use as a facility to provide humanitarian and medical aid to Belgian refugees, many of whom spoke only Flemish.  A shed outside became an improvised kitchen, while the rink itself became a food distribution centre.  (By November 1914 the huge premises were full.)

Members of the London/4 Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) had provided medical care as the occasion required but, with the increased influx of refugees and the language problem, it had become imperative to provide better organised medical aid.  The cooperation of Belgian doctors, many of whom had sought asylum in England, was enlisted.

Following a meeting of British and Belgian doctors on 20th October 1914, a dispensary was created from a curtained-off rest room in the building, while an empty shop next-door was taken over and staffed by the London/4 V.A.D.

Arrangements were made for a continuous service of consultations daily from 10.00 until 13.00 hr and from 14.00 to 18.00 hr (on Sundays from 10.00 to 11.00 hr).  Many of the exiled Belgian medical specialists offered to provide consultations in cases concerning their own specialty.  

The patients were men, women and children of all classes.  The majority were medical cases, but surgical wounds and injuries of a minor nature were also treated and dressed.  Between 50 and 60 patients were seen daily, but sometimes as many as 90.

The general expenses of the dispensary were borne by the War Refugees' Committee, but generous donations were also given by friends of the movement, so that medicines and dressings could be supplied free.

The dispensary was forced to close in January 1917 when the building was destroyed in a Zeppelin raid.

In all, some 11,000 patients had been treated during its operational lifetime.  The Commandant of the London/4 V.A.D., Miss Davenport, was awarded the Medaille de la Reine Elisabeth in 1917.

Present status (July 2011)

After the war Danes Inn House was built on the site as offices for the Food Education Society (formerly the National Food Reform Association).

Today the site contains a modern office block for the law firm Covington & Burling L.L.P.

 265 Strand   265 Strand
No. 265 Strand.

References (Accessed 11th November 2013)

(Author unstated) 1914 Belgian refugees' dispensary.  British Medical Journal 2 (2810), 803.

(Author unstated) 1925 The British Red Cross Society.  County of London Branch Annual Reports 1914-1924.  London, Harrison & Sons.

De Schneidauer ER 1916 L'Oeuvre du War Refugees Committee.  A Book of Belgium's Gratitude [in French and English].  London, John Lane. Pp. 86-98.

Peat LW 1918 Mrs Private Peat.  Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill.  P. 229.

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