The Prince of Wales Hospital was originally founded as a Red Cross Hospital in 1914 at No.21 The Walk in Cardiff. Out of an initiative by Sir John Lynn-Thomas, a former surgeon, came the purchase of that property, which became the Wales and Monmouthshire Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. The first Orthopaedic patients arrived in May of 1917. More property was acquired at the Old Mansion House and Richmond Crescent in Cardiff. It was renamed as the Prince of Wales Hospital when it was opened formally in 1918 by its namesake, the future Edward VIII and later Duke of Windsor.
The Prince of Wales’ main task was to help those who had lost limbs during the war achieve some sense of normality in their lives. To that end prosthetic limbs were developed at facilities on-site, so that they could be custom built to suit each individual.
In the first two and a half years of providing this service 878 legs (and 273 peg legs) and 287 new arms had been provided and 480 repairs had been carried out.
Once the prosthetic limbs had been fitted, they would be tested in the garden of the Hospital, which had been modified to house artificial hills and valleys with varying gradients and drops, sharp curves and sudden rises.
Once these tests had been completed, the wounded servicemen would be taken on a trip out into Cardiff, with those who were more mobile allowed to go to the shopping centre. One problem encountered was that at the time there was nowhere for them to sit down, so they had to either lean against railings or lie down on open ground. Eventually public benches were provided.
Even before the War had ended, it had been established in the Prince of Wales’ constitution that it would eventually serve not just wounded servicemen but also limbless civilians, from adults who had been injured working in mining or in factories to children who had been either born with deformed or missing limbs or had suffered an accident or illness that had led to the loss of deformation of limbs.
Further expansion led to new premises at Crossways in Cowbridge in 1930. The Prince of Wales would stay in The Walk and Crossways throughout the two World Wars, suffering bomb damage to the buildings in The Walk during the latter, before moving to Rhydlafar in the Pentyrch area in 1953, this site having previously been used by the United States military during World War II. The Hospital evolved to provide other services such as occupational therapy and speech therapy, before eventually being closed in 1998. Services were transferred to other hospitals and health centres in South Wales, with the orthopaedic services moving to Llandough Hospital in Penarth. The old site at the Walk had closed its outpatient services in 1972, and Crossways closed in 1965, apart from a special school attached to the hospital which closed in 1987.
Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant