1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital

From Our Contribution

1st AAH Harefield.jpg
Harefield House AWM PO2402.005
1st AAH.jpg
Name 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital
Where formed Luna Park, Cairo, Egypt
Date formed 19 Jan 1915.
Capacity 1,000 patients in England
Locations Luna Park, Cairo, Egypt
Harefield Park House, Harefield, Middlesex, England

General Information

Initially formed in Egypt where it was opened 19 January 1915 at Luna Park, Cairo, Egypt, and closed on 10 July 1916, with its designation being transferred to the Harefield establishment in England.

In November 1914, Mr and Mrs Charles Hillyard-Leake (Australians resident in the UK) had offered the property known as "Harefield Park", Harefield, Middlesex, to be used as a home for convalescent wounded soldiers of the A.I.F. Their offer was accepted in December 1914.

At the time it was accepted, authorities estimated that the house would accommodate 50 soldiers in winter and up to 150 during spring and summer. At the height of its use the property accommodated over 1,000 beds. The patients were housed in 36 large huts dispersed throughout Harefield Park. Nearly 50 buildings were in use, including workshops, garages, stores, messes, canteens, a recreation hall (where concerts and film shows were held), a billiards rooms, writing rooms, a library, a cookhouse, a detention room and a mortuary. For entertainment, tours to London were arranged and paid for out of canteen funds, and the ladies of the district made their cars available for country trips, picnics and journeys to and from the railway station, both for patients and visitors.

The first staff for this hospital left Australia on HMAT A54 Runic in April 1915 and comprised 1 Captain Commanding Officer and his staff, along with a Matron and five nurses. Staff levels in 1916 were: Medical Staff of 1 Lieutenant Colonel, 5 Majors, 12 Captains, 2 Hon Lieutenant Dentists; Nursing Staff of 1 Matron; 20 Nursing Sisters; 36 Staff Nurses; 6 Masseuses (male or female); Administration/Support Staff of 1 Sergeant Major, 15 Sergeants/Staff Sergeants, 10 Corporals, 9 Privates, and a large number of volunteers.

The hospital was tasked with providing a rest home to allow soldiers of all ranks to recuperate after sickness or injury, and as a depot for collecting invalids for return to Australia. However, in time all hospital functions were performed, and by 1918 it was a centre for eye, ear, nose and throat diseases. Mostly they were surgical cases and it was possible for special attention to be given to amputees before their return to Australia.

The war hospital closed on 31st December 1918, but today the site is home to Harefield Hospital, one of the top cardiac hospitals in the world. Links to its Australian past remain, with pictures of the men that were treated at the hospital in the Anzac Centre, opened in 2003 and home to the Out-Patients Department, Echo-cardiology, the transplant clinic and two cardiac operating theatres. In addition the annual Anzac Day service is held at St. Mary’s church where 112 Australian servicemen from the First World War are buried. At its peak there were more than 40 buildings in use. A small magazine titled Harefield Park Boomerang was regularly produced (a 2 volume bound collection of these are held at the Australian War Memorial Library).


Soldier Patients by date admitted






  • view of 1 AAH Harefield
  • View of hospital huts from gardens
  • View of a ward AWM H 03583
  • View of hospital