THE grounds are now deserted and the grand red-brick walls are weathered with the passage of time.
But it was a totally different story at Royal Hospital Haslar exactly 200 years ago.
Reports of Napoléon Bonaparte’s defeat at Waterloo on June 18 would have been coming in, and the Haslar medics were no doubt preparing for soldiers wounded on the battlefield.
Medicine was then marked by many weird, wonderful and brutal cures encompassing everything from snail water to limb amputations.
Eric Birbeck, 68, from Bishop’s Waltham, said the hospital would have received hundreds of casualties from the battle, in which more than 40,000 people lost their lives.
‘It would have taken them a good two weeks to get back, so they wouldn’t have been dealing with immediate injuries,’ Mr Birbeck said.
The injured who made it back to Haslar were the lucky onesEric Birbeck
‘There were many who died at the scene of the battle and others who died on the way back. So the injured who made it back to Haslar were the lucky ones.’
Mr Birbeck is a former Haslar technical officer and founding member of the Haslar Heritage Group, set up to preserve the hospital which closed in 2009.
He said many of the returning soldiers would have suffered from sepsis infections. ‘You have to remember that most soldiers actually died of disease, they didn’t usually die of battle injuries,’ Mr Birbeck said.
‘The only thing you could do with an arm or leg wound was to cut that arm or leg off.
‘They didn’t have operating theatres in those days, so it all would have been carried out on the ward.
‘The records from 1815 show that they were treating all sorts of injuries from the battle. There were no such things as trained nurses either but there were women who cared for the patients.
‘Those who were suffering from disease would have been put up onto the top floor of the hospital so that they didn’t spread whatever they had.’
Peter Edgar, a Hampshire and Gosport councillor and long-time Haslar campaigner said: ‘They were certainly primitive times but we had to go through those times to get to the excellent standards of care we have today.
‘Haslar led the way with how we looked after and treated servicemen.’
Mr Birbeck will appear on a BBC documentary about the hospital, called Haslar – Secrets of a War Hospital.
The show, presented by Rob Bell, will air on BBC One South at 10.35pm tonight.