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Nursing in London

by Elizabeth Lister

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Contributed by 
Elizabeth Lister
People in story: 
Joan Furby
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
13 December 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer on behalf of Joan Furbyand has been added to the sire with her permission. Joan fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

At the beginning of the war my father was insistent that I did not join the services. I became a VAD. I completed a first aid course and was attached to Whips Cross Hospital. After a short time I volunteered to work on the small ambulances made from American Packard cars. These were used when the large ambulances couldn’t get through streets that were blocked with rubble. When the siren went, instead of seeking shelter, we went out to help the wounded and pick up the survivors of any bombing. One night the bombing was so bad we had to park up. We were near a wall that collapsed on us when another bomb fell. We had to wait to be dug out. Another night the pub opposite the hospital was bombed and the walking wounded came into the hospital, some with horrific injuries. On another occasion a whole window was blown in just missing a patient. I was under the bed!
I lived in the nurses’ home and we worked for seven days and then we had two days off. We did escape some evenings to local dances. I think the matron knew but didn’t let on.
On the night Fleet Street was bombed I was starting two days leave and was heading home across London. I walked the length of Fleet Street. The firefighters were trying to put out the fires. They were soaking wet and many were in tears because of the devastation surrounding us. I stopped to try and comfort many of them. I was trying to catch a bus across London to Putney — home to mum. Transport was very disrupted and I caught a train but had to get off when the siren sounded. I continued walking with two men who protected me when stick bombs were falling. I was pleased to get home that night.
I worked as a VAD until 1943 when I was invalided out because of a back problem.

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