- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Valerie Conway
- Location of story:
- Gloucester Plymouth Malvern
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 31 August 2005
I was sixteen when war was declared. It was 11am on Sunday September 11th and we were in church when the vicar stood up and announced ‘We are now at war with Germany’.
We were living in Gloucester and there was an aircraft factory between Gloucester and Cheltenham. My father had already had an Anderson air raid shelter dug in the garden, every night we went down to sleep in it. We listened to the German bombers flying overhead to drop their bombs on Avonmouth and Bristol.
I returned to boarding school in Weston-Super-Mare. Later the school had a direct hit and was destroyed. When I returned home I went to the local art school. Later I took the Red Cross examination and worked voluntarily for a short time at Gloucester Royal infirmary. I enrolled as a Naval VAD and was posted to the RN hospital in Plymouth. All VADs were young and inexperienced. Plymouth was bombed and the centre completely destroyed. I was there for 3 months, one of them on night duty. The hospital at Stonehouse was dark and depressing, 12 wards all stone built and no lights anywhere. It was eerie and frightening when we had to walk outside from one ward to another.
One night a sailor was brought in drunk and roaring with laughter. He had tried to climb into a taxi and had his ear bitten off. He thought it was a huge joke. The staff nurse said ‘you won’t be laughing in the morning’. We got him to bed and prepared him for the operating theatre. A
fter 3 months in Plymouth I was transferred to HMS Duke in Malvern. It was nothing like a ship but was a series of Nissen huts in a field. The nurses’ hostel was outside the camp in Malvern. There were 30 nurses in the dormitory. The matron was very strict and posted notices about the off duty behaviour of nurses. "Nurse… was seen wearing curlers off duty". This was not allowed. "Nurse … is not allowed to wear bedroom slippers when off duty".
One night when I was on night duty a message was left on my desk telling me to report to the RN Captain. The commanding officer of the whole outfit. I spent the whole night wondering what on earth I had done wrong.
When I came off duty I was called to see him. He was sitting at his desk and said ‘Ah nurse, come and sit down. I understand you are an artist. I wonder if you could do something for me’. He pushed a box a box of small aluminium spinners toward me. ‘I am a keen fisherman and have had these made for me. Do you think you could paint them so that they look like flies’?
This story was added to the site by D. Schofield on behalf of Velerie Conway. Valerie fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
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