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The Grey Lady
Royal Victoria Hospital
The Royal Victoria Hospital was a military hospital in Netley, Hampshire in the UK, an imposing building from 1856 and demolished in 1966. During the Second World War it was 28th US General Hospital. There was some controversy about the design of the hospital when it was built and did not receive the approval of Florence Nightingale – the champion of the wounded soldier. It was the largest British military hospital of its day.
It was badly designed, badly ventilated and a grim place to be sectioned.
In the early late 1950s my father was serving in the Royal Army Medical Corp at the hospital, after he was wounded in action and flown back to the UK. It was a grim place, foreboding and sombre. At that time, it was in use to treat Army and Navy personnel suffering from psychiatric problems, STDs (Dad didn’t tell me that), and addictions. The rear of the old hospital was the psych unit.
My late father was a storyteller and imaginative - I’m certain some of the tales he told us had a little embellishment here and there. That said one story he’d tell us he swore was true – the time he saw the Grey Lady – the Ghost of Netley Hospital.
My father was not a man to particularly believe in an afterlife, or ghosts in general but he swore he’s seen an apparition. There was, he said, a ledger in the hospital of sightings and strange occurrences. It was not just your average squaddie – higher ranking officers, medical staff and civilians had seen a ghost.
One night, when Dad was on patrol with another soldier they passed a corridor, containing a locked door. It was always locked. As they passed the door opened and a woman clad in an old-fashioned nurse’s uniform walked past them… and disappeared. They had seen the Grey Lady. Dad told me he’d never run as fast in all his life.
So, who had she been? There are mixed rumours – a nurse who’d accidentally killed a patient and committed suicide from remorse, or, as my father believed, a nurse who’d fallen in love with a patient and went mad with grief when he returned to the war and then was killed in action. She walked the grounds, and some said her appearance heralded a death – but in a hospital that’s not unlikely.
Another notion is the nurse’s lover was also seeing another woman, and so she killed him and then herself.
Other people within RAMC and QARANC (Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps) had also seen her.
Since the building’s demolition the ghosts have not been seen. Do I believe my father saw a ghost? I believe he thought so.
There’s also the ghost of an old blind monk, said to guard some hidden treasure in the chapel (which still remains). The treasure is believed to be concealed at the end of a long tunnel – and an explorer was literally frightened to death by what he found there.
© A.L. Butcher
There are several books about the hospital and it’s ghosts.
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