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The military hospitals

hôpital de la marine

Saint-Louis hospital.
In 1689, the Navy rented private former sardine-presses buildings situated in the Lohic, between the rue de Gâvres and the battlements. In this place three rooms for patients were fit out, for a total capacity of 150 to 200 beds. But, in 1690 there were up to 400 patients, during an epidemic that made many dead, including three male nurses and three surgeon-auxiliaries.This hospital received the sailors and the soldiers from the garrison. The buildings were not adapted but the patients had individual beds and the cares of a permanent physician, a surgeon and an apothecary. If necessary, the surgeons on board the boats in the harbour could bring their help. This hospital was closed in 1720.

The military hospital in the citadel.
In 1706, a military hospital of eight beds was opened in the citadel. It was a building covered with tiles situated between the Camus bastion and the powder magazine. It doesn't remain any more traces of this construction that closed in 1730 and had been replaced by a cannonball park.Since 1730 all sailors and soldiers were treated in the civil hospital of Port-Louis.

The hospital for venereal patients.
The Sisters of Wisdom, in charge of the civil hospital and assuring cares to the soldiers, opened a hospital called for venereal patients in 1779. In this period this name applied as well to the patients suffering of sexually transferable illnesses as to the carriers of skin diseases, like scabies for example which was very frequent and contagious in the promiscuity, without hygiene, on the boats and in the garrisons.This hospital was established in a house belonging to the Community, situated at the corner of Rue de la Brêche and Rue de la Citadelle. It included four rooms of hospitalisation and conveniences to bathe the patients. It was closed in 1786.

cloitre des récollets
The Recollet cloister
Ouest-france, 1953
The Navy hospital.
At the end of the XVIIIth century, English vessels incursions became more frequent near our coast and the engagements were often bloody. On the 13th Ventôse of year III (March 1795), a maritime hospital opened in Port-Liberté (the new name of Port-Louis since the Revolution) in the former convent of the Recollets then closed. After the disastrous naval battle of vice-admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, between Belle-Ile and Groix, the new hospital was quickly active. From 1804, its importance grew up to eight health-officers, three pharmacists, ten hospital "civil sisters", and a chaplain. On an average 180 to 200 patients were treated per year. From this flourishing time dates back the monumental portal of the entrance. This hospital was closed in 1806.

The patients from the Navy were then treated in the civil hospice in Lorient. However the buildings in Port-Louis have been often used temporarily as an extra hospital particularly in 1808 and 1812. Food, medicines, nursing-staff were taken in charge by the civil hospice, according to a convention. In 1832 and 1848, they were used as temporary barracks. But the building was in a very bad state. The vaults of the former church Saint-François had collapsed and the walls of the building were swollen.
The Navy hesitated : either a total demolition for keeping the piece of land or a retrocession to the national administration. It seems that no decision had been taken, as in 1859, on the occasion of an epidemic, the maritime prefect of Lorient and the admiral visited the buildings of the former convent and decided to set up a temporary ambulance there.

bateau-hôpital à la fin du 19eme
The "Port-Louis" hospital ship 1874 - 1936 - coll.part.

Restructuring works were undertaken and in 1861 the establishment became again a hospital including ten rooms of hospitalisation and a capacity of 270 beds. The Sisters of Wisdom were asked for nursing and they staid there until the staff in military hospitals became civil, that is to say in 1906. The chaplains in the navy being suppressed too, the religious service fell to the parochial clergy.The end of the XIXth century is marked by many works done : the fitting out of a bath-room for the venereal patients, the enlargement of the chapel, the building of two padded cells for madmen, the modernization of water adduction and evacuation, the establishment of cisterns, etc…
During the 1914-1918 war, the navy hospital put up 14 173 patients or injured persons, with a total of 291 320 days of hospitalisation. On August 6th 1936, the hospital, that still sheltered 250 beds, was definitely closed at the profit of the brand new Navy hospital in Lorient. However, shortly after, it became a shelter-centre for several waves of refugees from the Civil War in Spain
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The Navy hospital, 1906 - coll. part.
In 1939, at the time of the 2nd world war declaration, an ephemeral Marine Transmission School (of which only survived the simplified name "the Radio") was fit out. Occupied by German troops from 1940 up to 1945, the former hospital was equipped with an enormous blockhaus still remaining. Most buildings burnt in 1945. The ruins of the church and the adjoining cloister have been laid down in 1953 as well as one of the former building that yielded the place for the new police-station. The only remains are the big portal and the building adjacent to it.

The lazaret of the harbour.
The survey of Port-Louis hospitals won't be complete if a little unusual establishment wasn't mentioned.After Napoleon 1st 's expeditions to the East and the cholera and yellow fever epidemics, it appeared necessary to fit out lazarets to avoid contamination of civil people or men ashore, by isolating the crews and the suspected troops. Islets were frequently chosen for these settlings (in Brest, Lorient, Toulon).Saint Michel Island sheltered a Benedictine convent from the XIth up to the XVIIIth century.Bought to the East India Company in 1748, it became a military property when that one was suppressed in 1770. Situated between Port-Louis and Lorient, it was the object of an ambitious project in 1817-1818. The establishment had to be both a hospital for sick sailors and an absolute isolation place for spry people suspected to be carriers of contagion. "To oppose the fiddle or the careless desire of meeting a parent, a friend, it is necessary to build insurmountable walls, hiding however to the poor wretches kept in the lazaret the aspect of a jail which may affect their moral state. Under this aspect, the arrangement of Saint-Michel Island, establishing the lazaret in terraces, will hide from the inside the safety fences."In 1821, the project was reduced to 500 places. Maybe to give the sailors the illusion of not being ashore the islet was given the outline of a vessel crowned by a semaphore and they were lying in hammocks. The lazaret was closed in 1850.
  • The Lorient civil hospital : the East India Company that left Port-Louis for Lorient fit out a hospital in Trefaven castle on the Scorff river, and then it was moved into the city itself and became the Hotel-Dieu (Civil Hospital). When the royal arsenal settled in the dockyard of the East India Company, the sailors from Lorient were hospitalized in Lorient Hotel-Dieu, and this til the opening of the Navy Hospital in Port-Louis.

last modification : 05 27 2005