1917-1919 – An exceptional nurse’s photograph album documenting life in one of the first to arrive and last to leave hospitals supporting the America Expeditionary Force in France during World War I.
Base Hospital No. 27, Angers, France: 1917-1919. Album.
This half-leather photograph album is 13” x 9” inches. It was compiled by Alberta E. McKeever, a nurse in Base Hospital No. 27 which set up in the Mongazon Seminary at Angers, France. It contains 52 pages that hold over 300 uncaptioned items, including about 265 vernacular photographs ranging in size from 1” x 1¾” to 6¼” x 4½”. There also are two large official photographs of transport ships, one 9” x 7” and one 10¼” x 5½”, as well as over 25 small souvenir album photos, more than 15 postcards, and one Christmas card. The album also contains one of the Welcome Letters signed in print by King George that was presented to many arriving U.S. soldiers. All of these items have been glued to the album pages. A Foreign Service Certificate from the War Council of the American Red Cross is laid in. Although the pages and contents are in nice shape, the album is well-worn. Its hinges have been partially mended, and the original page ‘locks’ no longer function.
Base Hospital No. 27 was an Army reserve hospital first organized in April, 1916 from the staff of the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical School. With the U.S. entry into World War One, the hospital staff mobilized at Pittsburgh on August 18, 1917 and three days later boarded train cars bound for Allentown, where it began five weeks of training. It departed New York on September 27, 1917, on the transport S.S. Lapland for Liverpool, England. It departed England for France on October 16, and arrived at Le Havre, France the next day and arrived at Angers on the 19th. There, it occupied the Mongazon Seminary, a large three-story masonry structure, which was readily converted into a hospital, and began to receive patients on November 9, 1917. After constructing additional wooden wards, its normal capacity increased to 2,800 beds, and the hospital could be expanded to 4,100 beds for emergencies by setting up additional beds under canvas. The hospital closed its doors on January 5, 1919 and sailed for home where it was demobilized at Camp Dix, New Jersey on March 25, 1919. During its time in France over 19,500 patients, almost evenly split between medical and surgical cases, were cared for by Base Hospital No. 27.
McKeever’s photographs and postcards appear to be arranged chronologically.
The first item is a large official photograph of the S.S. Lapland, the ship that transported the hospital to Europe, and it is followed by a series of snapshots of the warships that protected its convoy.
Next are postcards and photographs from England, followed by photographs taken at Angers of the female nursing staff, wooden wards, male staff members and officers, presumable physicians.
A series of photos show an arriving hospital train and patients in the wards.
More photos follow showing the nurses, physicians, enlisted staff and patients at meals, ceremonies, and parties, as well at the Mongazon Seminary campus.
has also included photographs of the local community as well as postcards and photos of places she visited, probably while on leave or pass.
Several post cards show nurses visiting General Lafayette’s tomb and U.S. troops marching through Paris.
The album concludes with the relative scarce letter of welcome from King George, a “Mother’s Christmas Prayer” card with a color illustration of a Blue Star service flag and holly branch, and the laid-in Foreign Service Certificate.
The last photograph in the album is of the U.S. Transport Ship America. This is apparently the ship that carried McKeever back to the United States although the Army Medical Department history of the hospital reports the unit returned on the S.S. Manchuria.. Very good. Item #010015
(For more information, see Ford’s The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, and various online military and genealogical databases.)A very nice photo-record of an early-deploying World War One Army hospital’s service in support of the American Expeditionary Force..