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- 07 February 2004
From February 1942 to 1945 I was a student nurse in training at the Withington Hospital, Manchester.
In 1943 and 1944 there were less civilian patients and a large number of soldiers. A notable difference in the way that civilians and soldiers were treated was demonstrated in the use of penicillin. Penicillin was only available for soldiers. I nursed a senior student nurse who was severely ill with meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia. She was not allowed to receive penicillin. She died aged 21 years old.
Penicillin came in a thick oil mixture. It was very difficult to draw up into the needle. It was administered intramuscularly and was quite painful for the patient to receive.
One large block of wards in the grounds of the hospital was allocated for young female patients with active tuberculosis. Some patients were strapped on to frames which later affected their hip alignment. It was essential to have open windows so it was difficult to maintain blackout. There were no rubber hot water bottles, only stone ones, which had to be replenished during the night. This meant a lot of up and down stairs activity for the only two night nurses.
Relatives brought in food which had to be warmed up for breakfast. There was a great use of dried eggs in all wards and staff dining rooms.
In early 1945 the day nurses were on a rota to collect patients from the 9.17pm train at the Exchange Station, Manchester. There was a very long platform to accommodate the train which had brought stretchered and walking wounded from France. These soldiers had been through clearing stations in the south of England. Eventually their condition was assessed and they were discharged home. Wards continued to be made available for soldiers and the admission of civilian patients was restricted.
One night there were 36 German soldiers on the train and they were admitted to the hospital. Herbert Bach, who was the Austrian Resident Medical Officer, started the ward round with me. When we reached the third patient on the left, he opened the Daily Sketch that he was carrying and showed the picture of the sinking of the "Scharnhorst". The German soldiers didn't believe that the ship had sunk. They shouted "propaganda".
I had many great experiences during this period, even though the work was very hard.
The best memory was seeing many planes with yellow stripes taking off from Ringway aerodrome joining with others for D-Day.
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