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Sick Bay: 1898

Sick Bay: 1898

Aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Brooklyn circa 1898. "Sick bay." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Paint Locker

Based on the identification plate it would appear that this was at one point the ship's paint locker. This compartment was most likely used as overflow capacity for the normal sickbay.

The Hammocks

It does seem odd to put sick bay in the bow where you're going to get the roughest ride, but the suspended hammocks would soften things. Rough seas would produce swinging, not jolting, and you'd never be thrown out of a bunk.


Hammocks were the standard sleeping arrangement for enlisted personnel in most navies until well after World War II. The British and Canadian Navies didn't give it up until the 1950s. The US Navy seems to hav largely given them up by the start of World War II if not earlier.

Supposedly a naval hammock is better than a bunk because it sort of enveloped you like a cocoon. The most obvious advantage was that in a swell the ship may be rocking but the sleepers were stable. Some even claim that they're safer than bunks on the grounds that if a ship rolls far enough or hard enough someone in a bunk could get tossed out or otherwise injured.


Why in the world would you put sick people in a hanging swing on a weaving boat??

It's not easy being green

I am feeling queasy just imagining those hammocks swaying every time they hit a swell. Back and forth ... back and forth ... back and forth. If I wasn't feeling sick before going to sick bay, I would after five minutes in there.

Join the Navy!

But best not to get sick, really.

On the mustaches

Looking at all these naval photos, I have come to surmise that the only ones to have facial hair are the NCOs otherwise known as POs or petty officers.

Mustaches seem to be a badge of the petty officers, and they seem to wear them proudly, and I have seen few POs without a stache.

Forward Compartment

Based on the curvature of the bulkhead, the sick bay was located very near the bow of the ship. A safe distance from the engines and ammo lockers, but hardly the most comfortable ride when the ship is underway.


Being an astute marine aficianado, I surmise the location of the sick bay is in the pointy-end of the ship.

Poor seated guy on the left!

That guy looks like he's been rode hard and put away wet.

But mostly, I'm fascinated by all the mustaches. Isn't facial hair no-go in today's Navy? But these guys are elegant!


I wonder what happened to the hand on the poor man holding the cup. It seems to work but boy oh boy is it 10 times bigger than normal.

Canvas coffins

Yipes -- I don't like the looks of those sickbay beds. Looks like it would be way too easy to carry them up on the deck for a quick burial at sea!

Kinda dark

Aside from the powerful light the photographer used, I don't see any lighting fixtures in there. Portable lanterns?

It appears that this is in the bow of the ship, so those guys would have had a bouncy ride. Good thing they are armored in those fancy and sturdy sick bay bunks.

On the right the patient is being offered something in a filthy cup, but he already has a filthy cup. And a filthy blanket to go with it.

Where did they do the amputations? In that chair?

Ah, the romance of the sea.

Can't kid a kidder

Some of these guys fake it so they can have a turn in the great hammock.

Morning After

a rough night at the Enlisted Men's Club. The MO prepares a carefully calibrated dose of the Hair of the Dog.

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