RAF Hospital Wegberg
The RAF Hospital Wegberg was a hospital facility in Wegberg, near Mönchengladabch, whose purpose was to serve the British military officers based in the region – not just RAF personnel, but also Army personnel. It was built in 1953, one year prior to (but in preparation for) the huge, nearby JHQ army base. RAF Brüggen, RAF Wildenrath, JHQ and several other Mönchengladbach military complexes were all within 15 kilometres of the hospital, making it a crucial and busy part of the British military ecosystem in Germany.
With so many military bases relying on the hospital for medical care, it was important that it had sufficient capacity. There were, therefore, enough spaces at the hospital to accommodate 6,000 in-patients and 32,000 outpatients a year. The maternity ward was designed to deliver up to 1,000 babies a year.
Built in a peculiar style, the main hospital building was an unusual horseshoe shape. It contained a single storey, outer horseshoe building, and an inner, two storey horseshoe building. Together, the outer and inner buildings were connected with radial corridors. The outer ring building consisted of wards and clinical areas, while the inner mostly contained the administrative and support services offices, as well as the large, central canteen and kitchen area.
To the rear of the hospital were the mess quarters and a small housing estate, used to home the medical personnel and their families. Here there were children’s play areas and tennis courts. Also, there was a larger boiler room, which supplied electricity to the hospital and surrounding infrastructure. Further to the rear of the hospital was the Rheindahlen Military Cemetery, a graveyard used as a final resting place for British service men and women who died whilst on service in Germany.
The hospital remained open after the end of the Cold War. The Joint Headquarters NATO Army base was less than a kilometre away, and because it too was remaining open, it was necessary for the hospital to do so. For as long as there were thousands of troops and members of their families based in Germany, there would be the need for the provision of care and treatment. But the cost of maintaining RAF Hospital Wegberg, as well as the nearby Army and RAF bases, was starting to be drawn to the attention of the government in London.
For the time being though, everything continued as normal at RAF Hospital Wegberg. That was until the First Gulf War broke out in 1990. The conflict saw doctors and nurses based at the hospital in Wegberg leave and travel to the Middle East to provide treatment to those serving there. This caused a shortage of staff, and local civilian nurses had to be recruited to cover the shortfall.
Two years later, in 1992, the number of beds in the hospital was reduced from 171 to 90, and the paediatric and special care baby units were closed. It was now three years since the end of the Cold War, and the British government were looking at ways to reduce defence spending. The military defence installations in Germany were now in the spotlight. Three years later, in 1996, the hospital closed for good. For medical care and treatment, serving British personnel in Germany would now be accommodated by local German hospitals.
From its official closure in 1996 until 2010, there was a small inpatient psychiatric unit based on site. In 2010 the hospital was finally handed back to the German authorities, and has remained ever since abandoned. Six years of abandonment have taken their toll, and the hospital is now in a state of severe disrepair. In places the roof has collapsed, while many of the internal walls have been trashed or gratified. Recently there was a localised fire within one of the old wards, causing further damage and putting a burden on the local fire brigade. With no future viable use for the hospital being apparent, it would seem that demolition is now the most likely fate.