Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Pune being under British rule after 1818, it was inevitable that large
contingents of Indo-British Soldiers were stationed here and soldiers from these garrisons were actively involved and participated in the First World War.
Pune had a large military cantonment with British troops .
Some of them must have been deployed on various war fronts during First World War.
The wounded and sick soldiers ,and prisoners of wars, used to be brought from Mesopotamian ( Iraq ) and other war fronts to Mumbai by ships and further to Pune and another facility at Deolali for further treatment and recuperation.
Naturally Poona needed a hospital facility with large number of beds .
Thus came the formation of “Deccan War Hospital “.
And where was the hospital set up you think?
In most unimaginable and unlikely place in Pune.
This hospital was set up in today's “Pune Agriculture College.”
The magnificent Victorian style edifice in Deccan trap stone which was completed in the year 1907 Came in handy for a make shift war hospital.
Some modifications made almost 1000 beds available for soldiers, and prisoners of war.
The hospital was staffed with British doctors and assistants .
On the nursing side nurses from Australian Nursing Core were taking care of the patients .
Their references appear in old British obituaries ,and memoirs of Australian nurses ,about Deccan war Hospital and Poona cantonment areas etc.
A book called “Nightingales Of Mud “ depicts the story of these nursing staff lauding their dedication and single minded service to the cause.
This arrangement of “Deccan War Hospital “ lasted for a good three years (plus) between 1916 to 1919.
However one remaining small part of the college continued to function as educational institution. Their annual socials of the college mentions the chief guest names like Mohammad Ali Jinnah; Lord Sydenham, and Sir Horniman substantiating, the functionality of the college concurrently with the hospital.
It would be interesting to trace history of present Southern Command Hospital, and Kirkee Military Hospital ( Dunkirk Lines) As both the hospitals were already commissioned in the year 1869.
Probably bed capacities were insufficient to handle case loads of both local British patients and war wounded soldiers and prisoners of wars.
Many staffers or patients may have died in the hospital during treatment or otherwise .
They may be eternally resting in Kirkee war cemetery few kilometers away .
Thus this impressive building still standing tall and strong today as “Agriculture College Of Pune” which was the "Deccan War Hospital" earlier.
I am sure that very few of us in Pune May be aware about this “ Deccan War Hospital “ and it’s part time role it fulfilled as war time hospital.
Anybody aware ,whether a placard of this information is displayed in the main building of Agriculture College ?
It would add a spice of history and culture to this beautiful and reputed institution.
(This article is adaptation of old news paper article by Dr.Pushkar Sohoni of IISER, Pune and cross referenced to some other material on the subject matter. Photo is not taken by me, the copyrights lie with the original owners of the image.)