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Working for the Red Cross

by Essex Action Desk

You are browsing in:

Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
Essex Action Desk
People in story: 
Doris Hrabak
Location of story: 
Windsor/Slough area
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
24 October 2005

“This story was submitted to the People’s War Site by volunteer Anita Howard from Essex Action Desk CSV on behalf of Doris Hrabak and has been added with her permission, She fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.”

I joined the Red Cross before the war started then did A.R.P. duty at the local post in our Parish Hall in Windsor. At night we slept in our clothes on metal stretchers with two blankets. Heating was from a coke burning stove in the middle of the main hall. At that time I also did voluntary work in the local hospital.
My friend and I were waiting to do full time Red Cross work at a convalescent home, a mansion by the river previously owned by an Italian Prince. The week before we started it was bombed.

We then went to a Czech Convalescent Home at the edge of Windsor Great Park. This was for service men in the Czech Forces. These men had survived many difficulties in the retreat from France to come to England to continue to fight for their country’s freedom. They were all ages, sometimes even a father and son.

At first discipline was very strict and we were not allowed to mix but it was realised that these strict rules needed to be relaxed so we met in the library to talk under the supervision of matron. Later we had weekly dances to gramophone records.
Amongst our patients was a badly burnt pilot who was a patient at East Grinstead,
where he had many operations on his face etc.

After nearly two years I transferred to Upton Hospital Slough, which was run by St. George’s Hospital, London which was evacuated there. Off duty I went to London and remember walking along Oxford Street strewn with glass and with gaps between the buildings from bombings.
Life everywhere continued as normal as possible with everyone doing their best to carry on. People were friendly, helpful and cheerful. In fact, because I was young it was one of the happiest times of my life. There were times when you felt worn out and afraid but not to show it was the thing.
I felt quite safe from any criminal attack even coming home in the black out on the last train from London. You would get your train on the underground to find people sleeping on bunks along the platforms. In 1944 I married a Czech whom I had met at the Red Cross Home. I then went to the Blood Transfusion Centre in Slough.

One day I went out in a van loaded with bottles etc. to collect blood from donors.
We visited factories around London. We enjoyed the trips as we usually got quite a good lunch either in the canteen or the executives’ dining room. Our staff was made up of people from all walks of life. Alternate days were spent at the centre where we cleaned the used sets. This was done at ordinary stone sinks under running cold water. They were then sent away to be sterilized.
Dr. Janet Vaughn was in charge. She went to the relief of Belsen to feed the starving. In fact she told us she had to pick the living from the dead. Dr. Janet became Principal of Sommerville College. Many years after I saw her on the T.V. programme, “This is Your Life.” I regret not writing to her then.
During this time I met many brave and dedicated people and also mixed with ordinary men and women like myself who just did their best and carried on.

Doris Hrabak 91years Oct. 2005

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