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Base Hospital 21 Collection | Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives

Collection Overview

Title: Base Hospital 21 CollectionAdd to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1917-1967

ID: RG/RG006

Extent: 7.0 Linear Feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Base Hospital 21 – a US military hospital staffed by doctors and nurses of the WU Medical Center and civilian volunteers from the St. Louis area – served with distinction during World War I.  The 21st was one the first six military hospitals units sent ahead of the American military to serve in France during the war. The officer corps had been drawn in large part from the medical staff of Washington University Medical School and Barnes Hospital. Dr. Fred T. Murphy, professor of surgery at Washington University Medical School, was commissioned as the commanding officer for the military hospital. Also, Dr. Malvern B. Clopton, professor of clinical surgery at WUSM, acted as the chief surgeon for the base hospital. Julia Stimson, superintendent of Washington University Training School for Nurses, became the unit’s chief nurse.

Organized in July 1916 the unit was mobilized on April 27, 1917. On May 17, 1917, the unit left St. Louis for New York and set sail for Europe on May 19, 1917. Disembarking at Liverpool, England, on May 28, 1917, the 21st trained for a short time in Britain. On June 10, the unit landed at Le Havre, France and on the following day arrived in Rouen, the largest city in France's Normandy region, where it took over and operated British General Hospital No. 12.

The original capacity of the hospital was 1,350 beds, but by October 1918 as many as 1,950 patients were cared for at one time. It received 29,706 surgical and 31,837 medical cases. Of these, 2,833 were American, the remainder being British and other Allied Forces.

The greatest testament of the excellence of the care provided was how many of the unit’s key members were promoted to greater responsibility by the end of the war. The unit’s chief neurologist Sydney Schwab was reassigned as the commander of a first American hospital specifically for shell shock cases, orthopedic surgeon Nathaniel Allison was made co-director of all orthopedic surgery in the combat zone; head nurse Julia Stimson would become the head of the Red Cross nursing service and Chief Nurse of the American Expeditionary Forces, and Fred Murphy would be promoted to head of the Medical and Surgical Service for the Red Cross.

Following the Armistice ending the war on November 11, 1918, the 21st continued to care for the wounded and the sick and increasing repatriated prisoners of war. In 18 months of service in France, the 21st had treated 61,543 patients.

On January 22, 1919, the hospital was demobilized and the last of the patients were discharged or transferred. After several months of incidental duties and awaiting orders, the officers and enlisted men sailed to the U.S. on April 7, 1919, while the nurses, sailed on May 12th. In 23 and a half months of active service, the unit spent 23 months overseas.

After returning to the United States in 1919, Base Hospital 21 was designated a Reserve Officer Corps unit of the General Hospital category. During World War II was known as the 21st General Hospital.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection covers the correspondence, records, and publications from the Base Hospital 21, the Barnes Hospital affiliate military hospital in Rouen, France during WWI. It has seven series, including staff identification cards and X-ray service ledgers.


Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: The collection is open and accessible for research.

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection should read and abide by the guidelines of the Use of Archival Collections policy at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.

Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.

For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (

Related Materials:

The Becker Library exhibit Medicine in Times of Need is an online exhibit based on the 21st General Hospital Visual Collections and the Base Hospital 21 Visual Collections.

Its succeeding base hospital for WWII, the 21st General Hospital, also has a collection located in the Becker Medical Library Archives.

Preferred Citation: [Item description, Box number, Folder number], Base Hospital 21 Collection, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence.],
[Series 2: Major Malvern B. Clopton.],
[Series 3: Operational Records],
[Series 4: Publications],
[Series 5: Staff Identification Cards],
[Series 6: Unit Alumni],
[Series 7: X-Ray Service Ledgers],

Series 2: Major Malvern B. Clopton.Add to your cart.
Box 6Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Army Book 152 notebook.Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Operations notebook.Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Mobile Hospital No.4 Correspondence.Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Muster-in-roll & membership lists.Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Standardization of Splints: Front Line Orthopaedic Surgery by Nathanial Allison.Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence.],
[Series 2: Major Malvern B. Clopton.],
[Series 3: Operational Records],
[Series 4: Publications],
[Series 5: Staff Identification Cards],
[Series 6: Unit Alumni],
[Series 7: X-Ray Service Ledgers],

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