This photograph shows two Indian soldiers being treated at the Kitchener Indian Hospital in Brighton. The typewritten label tells us that the soldier lying down is receiving electrical treatment, while the soldier sitting up is receiving galvanic treatment. Both treatments involved passing electric current through the patient. The treatment was supposed to stimulate damaged nerves, helping soldiers to regain movement in paralysed limbs. Electric shock therapy was also used to treat ‘shell shock’, known today as post-traumatic stress syndrome. The controversial treatment could cause much pain, and had the potential to do more damage than good.
The Kitchener Hospital was one of several buildings in Brighton used to treat wounded Indian soldiers returning to the UK from fighting in France. It had previously been the Brighton Workhouse, and after the First World War became Brighton General Hospital, which still exists today.
The Girdwood Collection
This series of several hundred photographs recording the contribution of Indian soldiers to the Allied war effort was produced in 1915 by the Canadian-born photographer Charles Hilton DeWitt Girdwood (1878-1964). As a professional photographer Girdwood had an early connection with India, photographing the Delhi Durbar of 1903, the royal tour of 1905-06 and the Delhi Durbar of 1911. In 1908 he set up a photo agency called Realistic Travels, specialising in stereoscopic photography.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, Girdwood returned from India and in April 1915 was given permission by the India Office to photograph the work of the Indian military hospitals in Bournemouth and Brighton. From July to September 1915 he worked in France as an official photographer to record Indian and later British troops in the field. In the later part of his time in France he also made ciné film of the campaign, which later appeared under the title With the Empire’s Fighters.