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- 23 March 2005
We boarded the train to go to Wolverhampton for a military training required by Mc. Arthur for every one going to Australia.
We wondered why nurses had to learn to march???
I love trains especially the big steam ones:belching and hissing;memories of my school vacations came to mind:3 hours in a train to go home. The conductors got to know us:the girls from the boardingschool in A.
He asked us whether we had good report cards-did he have daughters in school??-. we said:"Don't know! they will be sent by mail".
The nuns probably did not trust us to give it to our parents:honni soit........-
In the winter the windows fogged up, the lights at the stations had halo's around them .When it snowed we saw the flakes being thrown against the windows; some got stuck there! we had visions of making snowmen in the backyard and coming in coooold... and drinking hot cocoa . And 3 weeks off...no study hall, not being told what to do,getting up at 5.45 am to go to chapel snoozimg sand being v carefullnot to fall out of the pew.
And the train went clickety click over the rails: making me sleepy. My thoughts went back to St. Paul's and I remembered pre war going to a HIGH MASS in the Aachener DOM where a surprise awaited us:
It was: a magnificent mixed choir, no organ , but a complete orchestra. It was a fantastic experience: praying was no problem at all.
And the train kept moving till we had to get out.We were transported to the military camp:all new impressions
What would "they" do with us.
Well, we had to "march to our barrack"-more or less,as we had not had any training yet-.
When we got in we saw:rows and rows of wooden "beds" and a stove in the middle of the barrack. On top of each bed was something big and round : a straw bag. We were told to jump on it to flatten it so we would not fall off at night.
And jump we did and sneezed from the dust that came with it.
Between the beds were little chests with drawers one for each to store our few belongings in.
Then we were assigned different jobs:Cleaning toilets and bathrooms ,sweep the barrack, get fuel for our stove etc.
( No problem for us nurses but the ancillary personel were not too happy!) "oh", we said:"We'll teach you".
Next was a trip to the dining hall: we were looked at: any possiblities to take these girls out to town?? But we were strictly supervised .The food gave us later the "runs": we were not used to the fat in the food - sheep fat we were told-it had a peculiar taste,but being hungry we were not picky.
We remembered too well how hungry we were in Holland with yukkie bread made from bulbs?-we were told-.or watery soup:no taste.
When we had to bring sandwiches around for the German troops we managed to steal some and hid it in a secret pouch under our uniform: made for that purpose. Nobody was ever caught.
We went to bed on the flat straw and fell in a deep sleep. Reveille was no fun:somebody had to coax the stove to life:we managed as we did it in Holland too if we were lucky enough to have one that would even burn linoleum:Very hot!!!fire.
Back to the hall for breakfast that tasted só good. Troops were fed well!!
Back to the barracks where we were taught how to make and fold the blanket exactly.They used a ruler!! to check it.No problem for nurses :so we helped the girls who did not know how to make a bed period! so they would not have to go on report.
After the chores were done:OUTSIDE and MARCH!!!
This was fun!!1 Some did not have a clue and were never doing what they were supposed to do because they just would not listen: they stepped on the heels of the girl in front of them. Some were completely out of step all the time. I wondered how they ever managed to dance.
When we got a break we fell on the grass around the barrack:pooped!
Slowly but surely everybody got the hang of it and practice makes perfect.
We marched :left, right, left turn, again turn to the left making a perfect angle.Stand at attention and were checked if we were equidistant from each other.
Mc. Arthur could be proud of us!. During the weekend end we were allowed to go to town :Woolworth we just loved.
Every paycheck I spent on buying things for my family. A padre attached to the Airforce-a Jesuit and friend of the family- came to see me and said that the whole family was alive. A bomb did fall on our doorstep but did not explode
He wrote a book about his experiences and I still have it.
One weekend I went to Sheffield to bring personal greetings from their son a Qm .3 in the famous 8 th. Army. He took me to many dances to the chagrin of the nuns, He was called to fight in Bastogne, survived and married a gal in S. Africa: the end of a war romance for me. He went to see my mam and said I was just doing fine. His parents were very nice to me and spent a lot of their food stamps on food for me.
And Then.... Germany ended the war. There was going to be a V.E. parade in London and I was one of the lucky ones chosen to march in London. But fate decided differently; we were transported to Liverpool to our troop ship and boy, that was another experience !!worth another story:stay tuned!
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