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Hospital Nursing:soldier & civilian

by Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk
People in story: 
Phylis Fi Carter
Location of story: 
Ipswich Suffolk
Article ID: 
A7717098
Contributed on: 
12 December 2005

I started Nursing at Ipswich Hospital on Jan 1st ,1941. When it was dark i cycled the mile to the hospital with the lamp blacked out except for a spot in the centre about the size of a ten pence piece.
On night duty we worked from 8pm to 8am for 15 nights, then 3 off duty plus one day a week off, and with an extra hour off duty for a bank holiday. We were paid 10/- a week. Idid a lot of nursing on the maturnity ward, aling with the mid-wife. We had only the abnormal cases as most women had their babies at home.
When the midwife went off duty, since i wasn't allowed to deliver. The night sister,who was also the midwife, was on-call for me. She'd phone up and say " im just starting my rounds," so that i allways knew where she was. One time a rather large woman who I'd seen as a waitress in the town, was brought in when she started in labour. she had triplets, and no one,not even her mother had known she was pregnant. As we'd kept getting cots ready, after 2, the doctor called out," at least one more!" she stopped at three.
When i was on the Mens Surgical ward we had many wounded men and Women, they came to us strapped to the side of a plane to cross from france and landed at Martlesham aerodrome.We just stayed on duty to take details ready to inform relatives. One soldier had caught a hand-grenade that someone else threw- he caught it with both hands and of course he lost both. He could walk about and followed us every where, but we had to attend to all his needs. He was with us quite a long time, then he was sent to a specialised hospital. He returned to our hospital afterwards to say thankyou; and he shook hands with all of us with his wonderfull new hands.
There was one doctor, a big healthy man,a hospital surgeon, who used to go out on his motorcycle, With a blood-transfusion unit in the side car, to tend to the people in the town who had been bombed. No one else ever did anything like that. One dark night, in the blackout his motorcycle parted from the sidecar and he was badly injured.he was brought back to our hospital, to our ward. I'm Afraid he was very badly smashed up.We missed him when he died.
After V-J day wehad men from Japan.I shall never forget their poor condition and anxiety. They were relieved to be back in england, and brave.
The nurse that i worked with , "Button", we called her,recieved about one post card every six months or more, from her husband who was a P.O.W of the Japanese. It was only a printed with his name and "Iam well" on it, but she treasured it, to know he was still alive. When these irregular postcards arrived, Button ad to take some time off, it was such an emotional thing.He did come back-they had 3 sons evntually after moving to london.He told her, when he'd got home, that he had sold his wedding ring to one of the Japanise guards for a bunch of bananas.He knew she would understand.She had a dress made to celibrate his name-coming, though it was difficult to find the material. I remember that it had a great big bow on the back.It was her way to celebrate.
During the war i lived at home with my parents. My brother was in the middl-east. My fiance was a 'dessert rat' with the 8th army untoil he reached Florence Italy. My mother was a deeply christian person without making a to-do about it, but when she went to church while my brother was away, she could not sing one note of the hymns.She recovered her singing voice when he returned. Our church, Turret green on silent street,was bombed one night.Iwent to sunday school and bible class ther; i was baptised and married there, took my children to be dedicated there.
A landmine came down in cemetary road in ipswich but only partly exploded and damaged many houses. Our house in Hervey Street had the windows blown in and the roof badly damaged. My dad was Sewer Foreman and had to go with his white helmet each time there was a bomb. We watched planes caught in search lights at night from the hospital, the hospital was surrounded with barrage balloons.
There was always a friendly and helful atmosphere amongst people. We shared everything, whatever we had. I remember one friend who offered to make a Christmas pudding for another if the lucky person could provide enough lard to grease the bowl. When Prime Minister Churchill gave a speech on the radio we were all greatly inspired and encouraged. What a relief when the war ended and we could put the lights on in the houses and streets. Some of the boys came home. We lost many friends. My family were fortunate that my brother and my finace came home safely. We were married in 1946.

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