163rd General Hospital (Wimpole Hall)Military site
Created entry for document sent to myself via Meldreth Local History Society.
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In 1943 the British army requisitioned land from the owners of Wimpole Hall, the
Bambridges, in order to build a general hospital to deal with casualties from the expected future invasion of Europe. The hospital site was handed over to the incoming United States Army Medical Department in 1944. The site was planned to be used as a US general hospital for the high amount of American casualties expected from the Normandy Beach landings in 1944 and the subsequent campaign in the European theatre.
It is likely that the hospital was also expected to act as a holding hospital for injured men waiting to be transferred to the United States given that this was the function of the 162nd General Hospital which was formed at the same American camp and at the same time as the 163rd Hospital (it was eventually located in Lincolnshire).
Situated about 2.7 miles from Bassingbourn airfield and about 5.7 miles by road from the Meldreth Train station which had direct train links with London Kings Cross, the hospital was placed ideally to receive injured soldiers from Europe in an area of relative safety, allowing them to recover over a period of time without an immediate risk of bombing by Axis planes or of the site being invaded by advancing troops.
In addition, the hospital’s proximity to Bassingbourn, along with other local American airfields including Fowlmere and Duxford, allowed it to serve the secondary function of aiding any wounded pilots returning from bombing raids in Europe.
The 163rd hospital continued to operate into early 1946 before it fully closed. Throughout the period between VE Day and the full closure of the hospital, staff were sent back in small waves, with many of them briefly serving in other hospitals and stations in other regions while awaiting transfer.
Many hospital patients from East Anglia were assembled at the 163rd Hospital prior to their removal to the United States and the 163rd hospital was actually the last American hospital base to close in the East Anglia region.
After closure, the land was not immediately returned to the Bambridge family but was used (in order) as: a squatters camp, a teacher training college, a community school, emergency housing, and finally as a United States Air Force Hospital (7510) before the land was finally restored to the Wimpole Estate in 1960.
Entry created using information contained within the research paper written by George Duncan - Document 16225 - which was sent to myself by Meldreth Local History Society.