Base Hospital 21 Collection


Reference code


Level of description



Base Hospital 21 Collection


  • 1917-1967 (Creation)


7.00 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Administrative history

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 content

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.

System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

The collection is open and accessible for research.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines 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 (

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

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Immediate source of acquisition

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


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Existence and location of copies

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Alternative identifier(s)

Rules or conventions

"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

Sources used

Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

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