Gilbert Spencer was a highly decorated student, though the promising start to his art career at the Slade was soon interrupted by The First World War. Spencer enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.) stationed at Beaufort War Hospital, Bristol and then volunteered for active service, where he was sent to Salonika, the Balkans, the Mediterranean and Egypt, latterly becoming an Official War Artist. This work is a believed to be a preliminary study for Spencer’s New Arrivals: F4 Ward, No. 36 Stationary Hospital, Mahemdia, Sinai.
The painting shows the interior of a ward in the 36th Stationary Hospital in Egypt, where convalescing troops, wearing their blue hospital uniforms, sit on a row of beds in the ward. A nurse stands by a shelving unit in the left foreground with a medical orderly to the right. The finished painting was to feature in a Hall of Remembrance devoted to ‘fighting subjects, home subjects and the war at sea and in the air’ at the National Gallery, It is now part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum.