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KC5 Secunderabad

by Charlie

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Archive List > World > India

Contributed by 
Charlie
People in story: 
Kitty Calcutt
Location of story: 
Secunderabad
Article ID: 
A1115010
Contributed on: 
19 July 2003

We arrived very tired and eager to find out where we were. Each of us had a room with washroom at the back, all built in 2 long lines facing each other. A veranda gave shade and we also discovered was well known to the local population who arrived offering all sorts of things for us to buy. Fruit and materials to be made up for us to wear as we only had uniform.
On arrival we had been told there was no senior staff for the hospital, but they would be coming soon. With no matron or senior staff, and therefore no patients, we had time to settle in. So had the regiments also in the area, who hurriedly put on dances and we had dresses made by our visitors who sat on the veranda and turned out very good ones without any patterns, just our drawings. It didn’t last long.
We had quite a lot of equipment delivered - Beds, bedding, lockers and electric bulbs. We justified our existence by putting them all in their places. The next morning it had all gone. Panic stations. The military police disappeared into the town to find as much of it as could be found. It was a salutary eye opener and the matron and sisters and doctors, when they arrived, were not pleased. We got a collective bad name and were told that “other rank dances” were out of bounds except in uniform and even that was frowned upon.
We were told that we would all be posted. Those who had not behaved according to the rules would be posted either up to the front (i.e. nearer the fighting) or to an Indian hospital. All this seemed very strange as in the England we had left, there were no such rules. You did what you wanted when not on duty. However, there was time before postings could be arranged, even for matrons, so life went on.
Patients arrived and doctors came and we had an efficient hospital in action very quickly. Most of the patients had been at several other hospitals since they had their wounds and were awaiting being sent home to England.
Secunderabad was the modern Indian city and Hyderabad the established Old City. The Nizam was the Indian chief.
One of the doctors asked me to go with him to see Hyderabad as a Birthday outing. It was a lovely day out, hot of course. By this time it was mid March. My impression was that most of the women wore bells around their ankles. The answer was that most of the women were dancers. The shops didn’t have anything of value visible in their windows. We were in one shop when the word was shouted “She’s coming”. Suddenly everything was vanishing behind the scene and we only had time to find out why and get out of the shop. ‘She’ was a lady (Indian) who was the Nizam’s wife and never paid for anything and therefore was not too popular in town.
We were now awaiting being split up. Anyone with extra training, more than general, was sent to a special unit. Those who asked to go forward towards Burma also got it. Those who had supposedly disgraced themselves, were OK, I think they were perfectly happy.
The train again took 2 of us, Irene & myself, on our travels. We had both done orthopaedics and were travelling to Camilla in the south of Bengal. The journey took us through Calcutta, which was where we changed to a train going east to Camilla where the HQ 14th army was stationed.

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