Feeding cup used on the Princess Christian Hospital Train

Maker and role
T. Goode & Co (estab. 1827): Maker
Production date
Audio tour

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This white porcelain cup was used to feed nourishing liquids such as beef tea or thin maize pap to patients that were too weak or ill to sit upright. The semi-covered cup with a handle and spout were designed to allow liquids to be poured directly into the patient’s mouth without spilling. These cups were commonly used from Victorian times onwards, particularly by Red Cross nurses, as they were invaluable in nursing sick and wounded soldiers.

The story of this cup is interesting as we can see printed on the cup, along with the Red Cross emblem, is the banner containing the title Princess Christian's Hospital Train, 1899. This indicates it was made for use on The Princess Christian, the first purpose-built mobile hospital train. The construction of which was jointly financed by the British Red Cross and Princess Christian, daughter of Queen Victoria. The train comprised of seven carriages connected by one long corridor, with beds built on shock absorbing springs for comfort; it was in fact a rolling ward that carried everything needed for staff and a hundred patients to survive in relative comfort, even if cut off from supplies for weeks. The Princess Christian was transported to South Africa in May 1900 for use during the Second Anglo Boer War. It brought in supplies to the troops, and covered 42,000 miles ferrying over 7,000 wounded soldiers away from the front line, to hospitals and hospital ships, with only a few having died en route. The reality of war quite often meant that provisions for casualties were inadequate and ill thought out. Often a freight or even cattle train would be converted into a primitive form of ambulance which basically provided shelter over dirty bare wooden floors, with little comfort and no medical facilities. An anonymous nursing sister in a diary entry from the First World War spoke about patients travelling for days in these conditions with wounds that were undressed surrounded by ‘frightful smells and dirt’; in a later entry she compared the ‘tragedy of this’ to the ‘joy’ of properly equipped trains, such as the Christian, that made a huge difference to the recovery and morale of the wounded soldiers.

The British Red Cross’s development of the highly equipped Princess Christian train revolutionised treatment and care of soldiers during conflicts. British Commander Lord Roberts serving in South Africa in 1901 praised the invaluable assistance of the British Red Cross and their hospital train during the conflict. He said, "It is difficult to give expression to the deep feeling of gratitude with which the nursing sisterhood has inspired all ranks serving in South Africa".

Audio recording by Monika Rego (Volunteer), London.
Collection Type
Production Place
Princess Christian's hospital train was the first purpose-built mobile hospital train and was commissioned in 1898 during the Second Boer War. It was named after Princess Christian (born Princess Helena to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert). Helena was a founding member of the British Red Cross and contributed £650 to the cost of the train (total cost around £7000).
Catalogue Number
Associated Person and Role
Princess Christian's Hospital Train
Subject Person and Role
Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (British, b.1846, d.1923)

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