Cornwall House and
The Man Who Never Was
The Franklin-Wilkins Building, at the Waterloo campus of King’s College London, is an imposing building at the end of Stamford Street, London SE1 which some of us remember as Cornwall House. Before that, the building had a distinguished history as the King George Military Hospital during the First World War as mentioned in recent book Postcards of Nursing by Michael Zwerdling.
Cornwall House was built between 1912-1915 for His Majesty’s Stationery Office to house Government official publications. It was ideal for conversion to a hospital, as it was constructed using innovative fire-proof iron and concrete methods, with ten large lifts, central heating and loading platforms. It was also close to Waterloo railway station, which served the south coast, and there were tunnels between the station and the building. It accommodated 1600 patients and 4000 staff and treated 71,000 patients between 1915 and 1919 in its 63 wards.
There were rumours that an outpost of the secret services may have been based there, and that The Man Who Never Was — the exhumed corpse used to mislead the enemy over the invasion of Sicily — began his journey to the sea from a fridge in Cornwall House.
King's College acquired the building in the late 1980s, and following refurbishment it was opened in 1999 as probably the largest university building in London.