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A Royal Visit

by CSV Solent

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
CSV Solent
People in story: 
Ruth M Ridge (neé Johnson)
Location of story: 
Winchester, Hampshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 January 2006

This story has been added to the People's War site by Marie on behalf of Ruth Ridge. Ruth has given her permission and understands the site's terms and conditions.

Prior to the National Health Service, the Lady Almoner and her team were an important part of the life of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, where I, aged 18, was working in 1944.

During that summer the leafy lanes of Hampshire were lined with armoured trucks, tanks, etc — all camouflaged and awaiting the call to embark for France. June 6th — D-Day arrived — the tanks had all vanished and in my memory it seemed a lull before the storm and an uncanny quiet in the grounds of the hospital in warm sunshine. I could hear the distant sound of gunfire from the coast that afternoon and my diary says it was a full moon that night!

A couple of days later the first of many convoys of ‘battle casualties’ reached us and were brought in on stretchers with some ‘walking wounded’ to the Out Patient Reception area where we worked. Each man had a label tied to him with name, nationality etc, plus details of treatment, medication, type of injury etc following first assessment at the First Aid Posts at the ‘Front’

The scene on arrival was one I’d never forget — terrible injuries, blood, dirt, blackened faces and the horror of war. These were all exhausted human beings — some POWs, French refugees, as well as troops from many parts of the world. For some days arrival and departure of Battle Casualties became a regular feature of our work day or night. To assist the Medical Team, our part was to document details of the arrivals, admissions and transfers to hospitals further north.

The wartime slogan “careless talk costs lives” was firmly imprinted on our minds, but rumours often spread and we heard that a ‘V.I.P.’ visit to the hospital was imminent. All was ‘hush-hush’ but an air of excitement and activity was growing. Suddenly, on June 23rd the doors opened and in walked H.M. the Queen (our late Queen Mother), a tiny figure surrounded by very tall military men!

I was so impressed with her dignity, charm and beautiful complexion — my first sight of her other than in a photo! She moved from stretcher to stretcher with a smile and a gentle word for each of the casualties who had ‘just’ arrived — perfect timing or coincidence??!! The Queen’s obvious compassion and visit was like a ray of sunshine in that tragic scene, and both she and her husband King George VI were a great encouragement and cause for hope during those dark days of the War. I treasure my memories and thank God for our late King and Queen of the war years, and also their daughter Princess Elizabeth — our present beloved Queen who in 2006 will (like me!) celebrate her 80th birthday!!

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