Not long after the outbreak of the First World War, the Military Hospital in Colchester became over-stretched with wounded and ill men who had begun arriving from France and this put a strain on resources.
A request for help was made to the Essex and Suffolk Equitable Insurance Society – then owners of St Martins House – in relation to dispensing work for the Military Hospital. The Society offered space in St. Martin’s House for a temporary over-flow dispensary, which was accepted. Apparently, it was used for this purpose up until the time the Postmaster General took up the lease on the property (?24 March 1915?).
The Military Hospital needed more help though … dressing soldiers’ arms after vaccinations. Every new recruit had to be vaccinated and, with such huge numbers of men converging on Colchester, there was a high number who experienced an adverse reaction to the vaccination. The local Branch of the Red Cross Society offered to undertake some of the vaccination dressings for the Military Hospital – it accepted. However, the question was asked “where could these dressings take place?”
Again, the Society obliged and, within twenty-four hours, St. Martin’s House had been converted into a Dressing Station – under the supervision of the Medical Officer and a staff of nurses. Some of the Society’s staff members from the Fire Office acted as clerks and assistants. It is reported that 10,000 dressings were carried out there.