The old recreation room is fitted with a permanent stage for theatricals and concerts. It is also our “Movie Palace.” (I think our hospital was the first to instal a cinematograph as a fixture.) During the morning the floor area is dotted with miniature billiard tables—which are never for a moment out of use. In the afternoon these are removed; some hundreds of chairs replace them; and at 4.30 we begin an entertainment—music, a play (we have had Shakespeare here), lantern slides, films, or what not. Those entertainments, which have continued unbrokenly since the hospital began to function in 1914, constitute the outstanding feature of the “good time” enjoyed by 3rd Londoners. The “Old Rec.” and its crowded concerts will be a memory cherished by hosts of fighting men from the homeland and from overseas.
In the original hospital plan—drawn up before the war—the Old Rec. (which is a part of the main school building) was marked down to be a ward of forty beds. Its structure, its internal geography, and the sheer impossibility of providing it with the essential sanitary conveniences, would make it unsuitable to be a ward of four beds, let alone of forty. On this account its allotment for recreation purposes would be excusable. But the Old Rec. and the New Rec. too, for that matter, justify their superficial waste of bed-space on other—and unanswerable—grounds. It is a mere matter of common sense to arrange some centre to which the patient can repair and employ his leisure when he is sufficiently well to potter about though not well enough to be discharged from hospital. Instead of idling in his ward and disturbing the patients who are still confined to bed—and who, often, are urgently in need of quietness—the convalescent departs to one or other of the recreation rooms, morning and afternoon, where he can make as much noise as he likes and where he can meet and fraternise with his comrades from every front. (What exchanging of stories those recreation rooms have witnessed!) On the one hand, then, the seriously ill patient is not annoyed by the rovings in the ward of the walking patients; and on the other the walking patients are not irked by the necessity for keeping quiet at a period when returning health stimulates them to a wholesome desire for fun. Both kinds of patients, thus, may legitimately be said to get better more quickly than they would have had a chance to do were it not for the recreation rooms. It is within the writer’s knowledge that the medical staff of the hospital, on being consulted as to the “bed value” of the recreation rooms, unanimously agreed that their existence reduced the average sojourn of the hospital’s inmates by a definite “per day” ratio: that ratio, so far from showing a bed-space waste, worked out at a per-annum gain of bed-space equivalent to a ward—if such a colossal ward could conceived!—of upwards of 300 beds. So much for a point which might not appear to be worth detailed explanation,