HMCS Niobe (His Majesty's Canadian Ship Niobe) was a shore establishment which occupied the site which latterly became Ravenscraig Psychiatric Hospital, Greenock, Inverclyde. Operating between 1941 and 1946, HMCS Niobe was the headquarters of the RCN (Royal Canadian Navy) in Britain and fulfilled a wide range of functions, including the provision of a hospital for wounded Canadian Servicemen, and a transit camp for RCN crewmen between postings in the UK. It also maintained listing of ship's crew and next of kin for all RCN personnel based in the UK.
The establishments was named after the first warship transferred from the RN to the RCN.
History of the institution
The old Poor House of 1850 in Captain Street, Greenock, was replaced by Smithston Hospital on the site in 1879. Some Canadian records refer to it as Smithston, which corresponds with the renaming of the original institution when it was became part of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1947, removing the potential stigma of references to poor houses and asylums.
Until 1944, the hospital had its own railway station, Ravenscraig, since closed and demolished, and replaced by Branchton, which is not very far from the site of the former hospital station.
World War I
Between 1915 and 1919, parts of the hospital were given over to the treatments of wounded servicemen.
World War II
In 1941 the patients and nursing staffs were transferred to other institutions such as Dykebar (Paisley), and the huge Larbert Asylum, but not before the hospital had been subjected to at least one incendiary bombing attack. To accommodate the various tasks set for HMCS Niobe, a large area of mainly Nissen hutted accommodation was constructed in the grounds.
At the end of the war, some of the steel bunk beds were commandeered and welded into the hangar deck of HMS Puncher, a lend lease aircraft carrier (formerly USS Willapa), to equip her to carry large numbers of Canadian servicemen back to Canada.
Postwar - Ravenscraig Hospital
In 1947, the hospital was returned to civilian use, after a period of refurbishment, it reopened and became part of the NHS in 1948, when it was renamed Ravescraig. Numerous improvements were made, including the addition of an occupational therapy department in 1951. In the 1950s a day patients service was introduced, the first in Scotland. In the 1960s two new units for long–term patients were constructed. The hospital was transferred to the Board of Management for Greenock and District Hospitals in 1969. When the NHS was reorganised in 1974 responsibility for Ravenscraig passed to the Inverclyde District of the Argyll and Clyde Health Board. The original asylum buildings were closed in 2005 but peripheral buildings continue to provide psychiatric and geriatric services.
The Hospital provides continuing care in-patient services for Adult and Elderly psychiatric patients along with rehabilitation and alcohol addiction in-patient services.
The closed buildings of the original asylum are believed to be awaiting demolition as of 2009.
Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-
- VE Day in HMCS Niobe
- Thread on 28DL shows pictures of old buildings and official plaque commemorating use site.
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