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Friday, 23 October 2020


104 years of caring for veterans

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ERSKINE has been caring for veterans for one hundred and four years.

The first wounded Veterans admitted to the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers did so on 10th October 1916. 13 patients came through the doors of the pioneering hospital when it opened over a century ago.

They came from throughout Scotland to the newly opened hospital, to be fitted with prosthetic limbs.  Of the first patients admitted seven had suffered injuries to their arms which required amputation while six had severe leg injuries.  They came from various regiments including the Gordon Highlanders; Highland Light Infantry and the Black Watch.

The first patient was Corporal James Ritson of the 1/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers, a 29-year-old rigger from Troon in Ayrshire. James fought in Gallipoli where he was reported to have been buried alive.  He survived the horrific ordeal but suffered 22 wounds on his body, one of which was so serious his left hand was amputated.  Just over one month after he entered the hospital, which was in Erskine House in Renfrewshire (now the Mar Hall Hotel), he was back with his family living his life with an artificial arm.

By the end of the First World War over 3,450 men had been admitted with 2,697 wounded ex-Servicemen like Corporal Ritson fitted with artificial limbs. By 1924, 8,000 of the 41,000 permanently disabled Veterans in Britain had been treated at Erskine, with 6,400 supplied with artificial limbs.  Since 1916 Erskine has cared for 100,000 ex-servicemen and women and more recently their spouses.

Much has changed in over a century, but Erskine’s unparalleled devotion to caring for veterans remains the same today.

As Scotland’s foremost provider of care for Veterans and their spouses, Erskine provides unrivalled nursing, residential, respite and dementia care in four homes throughout Scotland. The charity also assists younger Veterans who need help to begin the next chapter of their lives, offering social, recreation and training facilities at the Reid Macewen Activity Centre and employment opportunities in partnership with Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Co.

On the Erskine Estate in Bishopton, there are 44 cottages for Veterans and their families as well as five assisted living apartments – with building work nearing completion on 24 single living apartments. This will create a bespoke Veterans Village, supporting UK Veterans of all ages from all three areas of our armed forces.

Erskine Chief Executive Ian Cumming said:

“The 10th October 1916 is a very significant date for Erskine. It marks the innate Scottish generosity and compassion – symbolised by our motto ‘Proud to Care’. We were only able to care for Corporal Ritson, because of Scotland’s horror in seeing her sons return physically and mentally shattered by a war of national survival. 104 years later, the operational experiences and support needs of Scotland’s Veterans, have changed and Erskine has too. We will always be renowned for flagship nursing care services. But, with the continued generosity of our donor family, we will evolve and deliver a growing range of meaningful support services for Veterans and Service-leavers, of all ages, in recognition of public service to their nation.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the history of Erskine can do so by reading the charity’s book – ‘A Century of Care’. The book tells Erskine’s story through its people with richly illustrated pen portraits including that of Erskine’s first patient to that of the founder, Scottish brain surgeon Sir William Macewen who lead the project to establish a new hospital. Priced at £5 it can be purchased via the charity’s website: www.erskine.org.uk.

You can also watch the BBC Documentary (below) – Beyond the Battlefield – 100 years of Erskine – which was aired during the charity’s centenary year in 2016.

You can support Erskine here: https://www.erskine.org.uk/support-our-work/donate/

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