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From Royalty to Burma

by BBC Scotland

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Love in Wartime

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Jean Cameron
Location of story: 
Dunrobin Castle, Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, Crieff, Malaysia
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A5839383
Contributed on: 
21 September 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Allan Price, of BBC Scotland, on behalf of Jean Cameron and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

In 1939 I was “called up” and posted to Dunrobin Castle which had become a war time hospital. Patients arrived by train at the Duke of Sutherland’s private station. When a troop train arrived the young female ambulance drivers and ourselves had to lift the men out and put them on very heavy stretchers and then up into the ambulance and later carry them up the long stone stairs at the castle. The troops had to wear light blue skirts and white shirt and a red tie which they hated! In those days patients were kept in bed for long periods — wounds were dressed daily. In those early days the wonder drug penicillin was injected six hourly and by the time the last patient was treated it was nearly time to start again — a full time job.

When we were at Dunrobin the body of the late Duke of Kent was brought in and we were all sworn to secrecy. I was one of the people along with the late Dr Bertie Simpson who dressed his body.

All the men who could walk and we — the staff walked behind the coffin (locally made) to the station where it was put on the train as it left for London.

Shortly afterwards the King — George VI visited us and gave us a message from Princess Marina explaining that she had a very young baby so could not come herself. The King wanted no formality so sat on a bed and was able to chat for about 12 men at a time and as they were from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, they were thrilled to meet their King. This was a really well kept secret — the King had been and gone and nobody but we in the castle knew anything about it!

One night we admitted a man from British Honduras and after getting him poulticed, bathed etc we went out for our supper and then checked again and found him missing. We searched high and low all in vain. When the day shift came on and the bed covers changed we discovered him sound asleep under his bed. What a relief — we left him there.

I was then posted to Raigmore Hospital at Inverness (an emergency building) and in charge of a male medical ward where several emaciated men from the Burma railway were. They were skeletal and it was some time before they were eating solid food. One of them, Alasdair Cameron, became my husband and after a long period of convalescence we sailed to Malaysia were Alasdair was manager of a rubber estate, we remained there until 1964 when we came to live in Nairn with our two sons who were being educated at Morrison’s Academy, Crieff. My husband died in 1982 and there were 17 ex-POW’s at his funeral. I am now 90 and have my son David, his wife Rowena and two grandchildren (Alasdair and Fiona) living with me and they make life happy again.

Sadly our eldest son, John, who was employed by Robert Fleming’s merchant bank in London developed a serious illness and died aged 27 years — a terrible tragedy. We have a very active Scottish Malaysian Society and meet several times a year and all feel very close — needless to say, few men who were on the Burma Railway are still alive.

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