The 1915 Annual Report (i.e. shortly after the beginning of the Great War) commented: ‘The trumpet call to action has been sounding throughout the Empire for the past year, and its message has been just that upon which the Voluntary Hospitals of this country have for so long depended – willing sacrifice’. The Society, during this worldwide conflict, played a major rôle in care, not only of merchant seamen, but also Naval Ratings (and to a lesser extent soldiers also) – most of whom ‘arrived by ambulance train at Greenwich Station’; the 1918 Report stated that during that year alone 1,720 Naval Ratings had been treated by the Society – bringing the total since the outbreak of war to 4,717 (a number which was to increase to 5,282 by the time the 1920 Annual Report was written). To give some idea of the immense burden on the SHS, the 1915 Report (see above) continued:

In the early part of the year comparatively few Admiralty patients were in the Wards, but as the casualties from the Dardanelles* began to return in growing numbers, more and more beds were required. During the last three months of the year the accommodation was taxed to the utmost, the record number of 320 patients being at one time in the Wards.