- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Denis Perry
- Location of story:
- Mayday Hospital, Croydon
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 November 2003
It is interesting that when viewing 'Peoples War' accounts as these have appeared on the B.B.C Television - that in their reminiscing, they quickly acknowledge the group that they were with - and who of course shared the experiences that they relate and that happened during the war.
What follows is almost unique.
What follows is to do with a group certainly - all volunteers - all boys from age 14 until they were called up - but - with more volunteers aged 14-15 joining the group.
On the evening of the 16th August 1940 the German Luftwaffe aircraft bombed Croydon Aerodrome. In fact they hit factories on evening shiftwork. There were many casualties. These were taken to Croydon's Mayday Hospital and to Croydon General Hospital. The pressure on the hospitals' staff made it immediately apparent that within their own staffs these hospitals lacked numbers in their A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) coverage and personnel.
So local troops of the Boy Scout Movement were asked to volunteer.
Thus this is not my story alone - but that of the 48th and the 20th Croydon Scout Troops who manned at Mayday Hospital, Thornton Heath, Croydon. There was also other manning by other Scout Troops at Croydon General Hospital, West Croydon. At the time I was age 14.
As the daylight air raids turned to night time bombing - the London Blitz - the volunteers were asked to cover in groups of twelve or more each night on a duty rota of duty every third night. We were each issued with steel helmets and heavy duty gas masks. The training involved fire-fighting - and in groups of four manned a mobile equipped with hoses, axes and standpipes for hydrants. So we were all trained in handling pressure hoses - and how to couple up on to the fire/water points of the hospital wards on the second and third floors.
Volunteers aged 16+ went up a very high tower as observers - overlooking the whole of the hospitals' many roofs of the wards. This was fire-watching to watch and to report the location of incendiary bomb fires.
Myself, in addition to fire party manning, was among the messengers. When next of kin were needed urgently - to come to very serious casualties - because not many homes possessed telephones - the messages were hand delivered. So we rode our bikes across Croydon - through the blackout and the gunfire regardless if an air raid was on - to hand the urgent request to the relative.
In addition, when there were many casualties - to turn the ambulances around quickly - we were called upon to unload the stretcher casualties arriving at the hospital. Then to carry these into "WARD ONE - CASUALTY" - where there were THREE operating theatres.
Once entering WARD ONE we were required to pull back the blanket covering the casualty to enable the doctors to quickly prioritise the need of each casualty. Sometimes quite dreadful. On one occasion passing a theatre I was handed a large rubber blanket and told "take that to the incinerator". It was warm - it was a leg!
As the Blitz continued - when the siren sounded we went into the Maternity Wards to remove new born babies in wicker baskets and then to carry them down to safety into the deep concrete air raid shelters. The mothers were put under their bed and covered with the mattress for their protection. Also we went to wards away from the main hospital to reassure patients, also to accompany the night duty nursing staffs.
The training and the manning and the duties were organised by a splendid Scout Leader - Ted Mayne. Always there and always good humoured.
Once I was 16 I did the fire spotting duty up the very very high tower. This involved walking up many many floors of the block where the tower was located - and then climbing up interminable rungs of a ladder to get to the observation tower. We had telephones to a control centre. Certainly a very good view perched high above Thornton Heath
However. The night air raids eased. Nevertheless we all still remained doing hospital A.R.P. - now Civil Defence - duty every third night. As our older chums were called up - fresh 14 year olds came in to maintain the rotas. The new arrivals were apprehensive but soon settled into the training and duties.
In June 1944 Croydon + London was hit by Doodlebugs - flying bombs. Initially no-one was quite sure what they were - with motorbike like noisy engines that cut out! And a tremendous wallop when they hit.
So the hospital was busy with casualties again.
Croydon had more Doodlebugs fall on its streets than any other London Borough.
In late 1944 I was called up for the Army.
Denis E Perry 20 Shirley Church Road, Shirley, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 5EE
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