The original Sunny Bank Association was founded in 1892 by a group of British residents in and around Cannes and financed by personal donations. In 1897 they built a permanent cottage hospital which continued to operate for one hundred years. During the First World War it remained open and in 1918 shared its facilities with the American Red Cross.
In April 1919, the then chairman, Lord Burghclere, wrote to the ‘Spectator’ making an appeal for funds. “Unless we can instantly obtain a sufficient sum to import from England a matron and nurses the hospital, I fear, cannot be reopened.” Fortunately it did manage to reopen, its services being available from January to May each year.
In the 1930s Sunny Bank extended its opening from September to May, many of the nurses staying on the Riviera during the summer period to care for residents privately in their villas.
When Cannes was occupied by the Germans in 1942, the hospital again remained open and continued to nurse its patients. Nurse Elsie Gladman recalled in her book ‘Uncertain Tomorrows’ how they lived “through endless days and nights with the continual threat of being evacuated from the hospital to a concentration camp”.
A perpetual problem was that of raising enough funds to keep the hospital running. No-one was turned away for lack of money, patients paid simply according to their means. The hospital’s longest serving doctor, Dr Ginner, never charged any fees.
Over the years many wealthy patrons financed the hospital. These included, in 1932, the Sir Sydney Waterlow wing, funded by his widow Margaret, post WW2, a new X-ray unit courtesy of then chairman Col Eric Dunstan, and in 1970, a new wing of four rooms paid for by Nulbar Gulbenkian.
Sadly, however, the hospital was forced to close in 1997 because it could no longer remain solvent and conform to modern health standards. The buildings were demolished and the land subsequently sold. The Sunny Bank phoenix rose from its ashes in its new guise in 2010 and continues to serve the community in time-honoured tradition.
Want to learn more about Sunny Bank? See ‘Be Ill in Your Own Language’ by Maureen Emerson: