Unit History: RAF Hospital Wegberg
Work on the unique design of the Royal Air Force Hospital at Wegberg, near Mönchengladbach in former West Germany, was begun in January 1953 by the Royal Air Force Airfield Construction and Medical Branches of the Headquarters 2nd Tactical Air Force. Number 5004 Squadron of 5357 Airfield Construction Wing began building on 9th February 1953 and, by working on into the long winter nights, the Hospital was completed just 111 days later on 31st May 1953.
On 16th November 1953, shortly after the Royal Air Force Hospital at Rinteln had been handed over to the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Air Force Hospital Wegberg was officially opened by Lady Foster, the wife of the Commander-in-Chief 2nd Tactical Air Force.
In 1958 Wegberg became the only Royal Air Force Hospital in Germany when Royal Air Force Rostrup (situated near Oldenburg) was returned to the Germans.
Three incidents happened during the 1980’s. On the 14th June 1980 a different type of burden was placed on the hospital staff. An explosion, powerful enough to rattle the windows of the Officers Married quarters some 400 metres away, occurred in the Dental Laboratory, situated on the 1st floor. In addition to serious damage to the neighbouring Accounts Office, the 2 walls separating the Dental Laboratory from the main corridor and the Dental Surgery Department were blown down.
Following the blast (which was caused by accidental ignition of the contents of a propane gas bottle) fire broke out in the demolished laboratory and the roof. This taxed the initiative and resources of the staff at the scene, but, commendably, they kept the damage to a minimum.
On the weekend of 10th and 11th January 1987 the outside temperature in the area fell to approximately -14o Centigrade and water supplies to most areas of the Hospital froze. The first major burst pipe was in the Dental Department!
By the weekend (all the wards, department and domestic areas having been affected) a rise in temperature caused major bursts in several departments and in the female accommodation. A broken high pressure steam valve also caused extensive damage to the Medical and Dental Servicing Section (MDSS), resulting in much testing equipment being damaged or destroyed.
By midday on the 16th January, the Hospital had closed to all except emergency admissions and some out-patients’ appointments. Some 3 weeks later, long after heating services had been restored, repair work was still in progress and damage had been estimated at costing DM 350,000.
Later that year, during daylight hours on 2nd September fire broke out in the Maternity 2 Ward and destroyed the roof.
The blaze caused damage worth DM 1,000,000 and, once again, this figure might have been higher if the staff on the scene had not acted admirably in attempting to curb the flames. Some 2 years alter a new modernised wing comprising the Maternity 2 Ward and Special Care Baby Unit was opened.
The School or Nursing closed in 1984 having provided a large part of the training of both Enrolled and Registered Nurses who studied there. In particular, Student Nurses from UK Service Hospitals (Ely, Halton and Wroughton) were detached for training in Obstetrics.
A decision has been made on 1st December 1992 that, with immediate effect, catering services for all 3 messes were to be housed in the Officers’ Mess, and that from 1st July 1993 all living in Officers and SNCO’s were to be accommodated in the RAF Rheindahlen Support Unit.
On 4th May 1988 Her Royal Highness, the Princess Margaret, who was visiting RAF Bruggen, made an unscheduled stop at the hospital to visit 3 airmen. They were the survivors of 2 separate terrorist attacks in Holland on the night of Sunday 1st May when 3 of their comrades had died.
In October 1990, 17 aeromedically-trained nurses and one Medical Secretarial Officer were put on standby for duties in the Gulf where Armed Forces of Iraq had illegally occupied Kuwait. During December 1990, 31 nurses, 2 laboratory technicians and one pharmacy technician were detached from the hospital. In January 1991 a further 42 personnel including 7 theatre technicians, 2 anaesthetists, 1 physiotherapist, 1 general technician electrical and 1 dental technician followed. The Hospital hastily recruited civilian nurses to make up the shortfall in the nursing staff. In April 1991 the last of the RAF (H) Wegberg detachees had returned safely.
On Tuesday 16th November 1993, exactly 40 years after the first patient was admitted to RAF (H) Wegberg, AVM G A Robertson, the AOC No 2 Group, unveiled a brass plaque in the Reception area. In the same week Herr ‘Siggi’ Wassermann, virtually the last remaining civilian to have started work in the hospital at the very beginning of its existence, went into retirement.
Today the only in patients unit is a small Mental Health Unit, all other patients within the British Forces Germany community requiring in-patient hospital treatment are now treated in local German Hospitals. The Headquarters of the British Forces Germany Health Services (BFGHS) is based in the Hospital.