A First World War photograph that captures the men and thinking behind the camera.

Red Drawing Room postcard, 1915

This postcard was produced in 1915. It shows the Red Drawing Room of the Royal Pavilion in use as a hospital ward for Indian Army soldiers.

Red Drawing Room of the Royal Pavilion as Indian hospital ward, 1915
Red Drawing Room of the Royal Pavilion as Indian hospital ward, 1915

The photograph is part of a series taken by Brighton photographer Allen Hastings Fry, who had been commissioned by the military authorities running the hospital. Fry’s photographs were printed as postcards which were bought and sent in their thousands, often by local people who were both curious and proud of the Indian patients cared for at the Pavilion. The photographs were also distributed in India, where they were used by the British to show how well the Empire cared for its wounded Indian soldiers.

Photograph showing detail of Red Drawing Room as Indian hospital ward
Detail of Red Drawing Room as Indian hospital ward

Fry’s photographs are one of the best records that survive of the Royal Pavilion’s time as a WW1 Indian military hospital.But this particular photograph also provides an insight into the circumstances in which these photographs were taken.

Look closely at the mirror in the centre of the photograph, and two military officers can be seen. These men were standing behind the camera, accompanying Fry as he photographed the Pavilion.

King George V and senior military officers in the garden of the Royal Pavilion Indian hospital, August 1915
King George V and senior military officers in the garden of the Royal Pavilion Indian hospital, August 1915

The tall man on the left in the mirror is clearly identifiable as Colonel J McLeod, the commanding officer of the Pavilion Indian hospital. McLeod can be seen in the centre of this photograph from August 1915, in conversation with King George V.

Fry’s photographs emphasise the sumptuous, almost luxurious surroundings in which these Indian patients were treated. Yet the inclusion of these two officers is a reminder that the men were still held under military discipline. It is also a reminder that, although the men seem to have been given excellent medical attention, the Pavilion hospital was also managed for political effect.

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