VCU Libraries Gallery

U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 45 in the Great War

In the summer of 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, a group of Richmond physicians, nurses, and enlisted men mobilized to form Hospital Unit E, Richmond’s first organized medical effort for the war. This unit would expand to become the United States Base Hospital No. 45 (Medical College of Virginia Unit). Commanded by Dr. Stuart McGuire, then-dean of the Medical College of Virginia, the hospital’s 17 officers and detachment of 200 men reached the shores of France on July 21, 1918. A contingent of 106 nurses arrived early in September.

The home of Base Hospital No. 45 was the converted infantry barracks in Toul, France. Located eight miles from the front, it had the distinction of being the first base hospital located in the zone of advance. There was rarely an empty bed at the hospital, and while 17,438 casualties were admitted during the war, only 350 lives were lost. Relieved of duty on January 29, 1919, the last personnel of Base Hospital No. 45 arrived in Richmond on April 26, 1919. Cited by the Army Surgeon General for their “Readiness for service, devotion to duty, and professional excellence,” Base Hospital No. 45 reflected the valor and resolution of those medical professionals to whom lives were entrusted.

In honor of the 100-year anniversary of the Great War, this online exhibition presents a glimpse into the operations of Base Hospital No. 45, as well as the lives of the men and women who composed the staff of the hospital. For further questions or comments regarding Base Hospital No. 45 or this exhibition, please email the Special Collections and Archives staff.

Base Hospital No. 45 Timeline