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More Nursing Memories

by cornwallcsv

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Peggy Bennett nee Phillips; Dr Tocker
Location of story: 
Penzance, Cornwall
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 November 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by Cornwall CSV Storygatherer, Martine Knight, on behalf of Peggy Bennett. Her story was given to the Trebah WW2 Video Archive, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2004. The Trebah Garden Trust understands the terms and conditions of the site.

** This story is complementary to that of Nancy Tresidder **

I was training to be a nurse at West Cornwall hospital in Penzance and there were Americans stationed in the town. Some of their medical staff worked in our hospital prior to D-Day. They introduced us to intravenous drips and drugs, which we didn’t have.
They also brought in ice cream for the children’s wards. I often wonder what happened to them, especially Dr.Tocker. I believe some years ago he phoned the hospital to see if there was anyone there who remembered him.

We had evacuee children admitted to hospital and all had to be checked for head lice. We’d have a competition to see who could find the most!

We had no antibiotics and some of the drugs we had took quite a lot of preparing. I think people’s resistance must have been higher then as it’s amazing what we pulled people through. Peritonitis was dreaded and TB was rife. There was little we could do for those with TB. If we worked with the TB patients we got extra rations of milk.

Penicillin didn’t really come in until just after the war. It came as a yellow powder, which had to be made up. Every ward had different ways of doing it to see which was best. It was given by deep intra-muscular injection, which was very painful, as the needles were often blunt. We used to practise on oranges.

There were lots of different types of nurse in the hospital — some from the Red Cross, some from St. Johns and also the nursing auxiliaries, who were very helpful to us.

We once complained about our food and matron showed us all a tray with one weeks ration for one person and reprimanded us saying, “This is all we have to feed you on”.

There was no NHS then and people had to pay to see a doctor. There were a couple of schemes people could pay into, which covered some costs. My brother and sister had their tonsils taken out at home on our kitchen table. We had one houseman in the hospital and local GP’s came in to deal with patients as well.

I was working on VE Day so couldn’t join in the celebrations.

My wedding, although done on a shoestring, was a whale of a time. I was married from my brothers house. My mother went to the food office to see if she could get extra rations for the wedding breakfast. They gave her a little extra, but surprisingly you could get a three tier wedding cake without rations and I got mine from Liptons shop of all places.

Video details CWS110804 14:14:37 to 14:59:21

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