Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital: A National Asset and Continental Resource: History, Vision and Mission

(Department of Health, Western Cape Government)
collage of children at rcwmch


  1. Vision
  2. Mission
  3. About the Hospital



Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital strives to be the leading specialised healthcare provider for children in Africa.


To be a leading national specialist Children's Hospital providing quality healthcare to our clients, valuing our staff and advancing the frontiers of child health. 

About the Hospital

Brief History

  • 1941 - The Western Cape Branch of the Medical Association of South Africa proposed the building of a children's hospital.
  • 1945 - Cape Region of the South African Red Cross Society requested that the children's hospital should serve as a living memory to soldiers who contributed to the allied victory in the Second World War.
  • 1953 - The building of the children's hospital started under the guidance of the South African Red Cross Society at a cost of R1.6 million. The public donated an amount of R476 000 and the rest was provided by the Cape Provincial Administration.
  • 1956 - The ownership of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital was handed over to the Cape Provincial Administration.


In 1945, the South African Red Cross Society suggested that a children's hospital should be built as a memorial to those of all races who had contributed by sacrifice, suffering and service in the Second World War. Because it was felt that children had been the innocent victims of the war the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital was devoted to the relief of the suffering of children.

Colin Eglin, who served with the Sixth South African Armoured Division in Italy during the Second World War, in his autobiography, "Crossing the Borders of Power - The Memoirs of Colin Eglin", describes the discussions that took place among the South African soldiers who, in 1945 after the war, were waiting in Italy to be repatriated back to South Africa to be demobilised.

"Frequently we held discussions about the world around us, about what South Africa was and what we'd like it to be.

"Our officers did nothing to discourage us; on the contrary, some of the talks took place on the initiative of the Army Information Officer attached to our brigade."

"One issue was whether a war memorial should be built in South Africa, and if so, what form it should take.

"The dominant view was that there should be a memorial, but that this should be a 'living' one that served the community, not merely a monumental structure.

"After various proposals, the decision was that it should take the form of a top-class children's hospital.

"The servicemen, in overwhelming numbers, volunteered to donate two days' pay towards what was to become the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital at Rondebosch in Cape Town."

Since its commissioning in 1956 the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital has been staffed jointly by the Cape Provincial Administration, now the Western Cape Government, and the University of Cape Town. It has established an enviable reputation among the people of the Western Cape, as well as national and international recognition for the quality of patient care, paediatric research and paediatric training practised at the institution.

When the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital was initially planned, minimal facilities were provided for outpatients and outpatient facilities which were housed in temporary prefabricated buildings.

The two-level outpatient wing was completed in 2000.

During 1974 and 1976, the Institute of Child Health block was built adjacent to the hospital to provide facilities for education and research activities of the departments of the University of Cape Town involved in the healthcare of children.

In 1976 the second chair of Paediatrics, the Chair of Child Health, was established by the University of Cape Town and subsequently the Child Health Unit was developed and housed nearby. This unit has been actively involved in the research and development of projects relating to child health care and policy throughout the Western Cape.


"Our success will and must be
measured in the
happiness and welfare of
our children."
Nelson Mandela
The content on this page was last updated on 20 September 2016