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WW2: Joe's Story

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From the book "The Queen Mary's Hospital for Children" by Ernest Earl THE WAR YEARS - Queen Mary's Hospital for Children - Carshalton


Now the night the bomb dropped, I was on that night then - all the ceiling was down on top of the kids in B8. Cots were blown into the middle of the ward and the cots were touching like that and the heads of people were tangled up like barbed wire. That was with the blast, they were all underneath their blankets in their beds all covered in plaster, the windows had gone and the blackout was going out and all the screams were going out. I said to nurse, "Nurse, have you any salt to throw on that fire?" So I had to splash it out with water because of course we were in the darkness by the fire, but Sister Hope she came running across from the homes with her clothes in her arms saying, "Oh Joe! Is there anything more terrible?!!" "No Sister," I said, "I think everything's alright" Sister said, "You know Joe, I took little Jo Wyman out of the Day Room back into her bed last night and she missed the bomb. She would have had the bomb all to herself, dropped on the Day Room, it did. So she missed it." Sister was crying like a kid... (There was little girt in the ward, blond hair girl, she was about 5 or 6 and I used to take her for treatment down to A7 and Sister said she'd been playing up for quite a long time so she put her in the day room). It was a hectic night, and we loaded the kiddies up, we put some in the bowl room; some round the lavatories; some in the kitchen, wherever we could lay them and we were waiting to find out what Ward we were going to. So we were going to D5 that's where we were going to take these children - so when we got them half unloaded at D5 someone came across and said there was a time bomb at the back of D5. So we had to take them to F8. We were exhausted by then.

So we get all the kids, well we got plenty out there at the finish. When the children were evacuated, Nell my daughter was coming up with me. She was up at .............. with a load of children, she stayed up there for a long while. Now they said to me, "Joe, where would you like to go?" "Well", I said, "I don't know where I'd like to go until I go home and see my wife and see what she says". So I came home here but my wife wouldn't move. I went back and told them so, of course, I had to stay there. I would have liked to have gone to Wales; they had a lovely time in Wales. Anyway, we stayed here - up and down the shelter - bombs up and down the shelter here - under the ground there. I was of course more in the hospital than I was here. The whole lot of children went from the hospital - it was absolutely empty. Some went to Knaresborough, some went to Wales, some went to the West Country, all over England and they never came back. The hospital has never been the same since. After the bombs had dropped that night there were loads of coaches coming up the drive - 6 o'clock in the morning - and at 12 o'clock there wasn't a kiddie in the hospital, they'd all gone - in 6 hours.

After there would have been about 15 Porters staying there at the ARP. The Council had built that - where the Porters Mess was that was the ARP which was bomb proof. It was an ARP post. In 1959 the National Health Service Act made it into a comprehensive hospital, when they joined it up together and they brought their kiddies from the Fountain in Tooting. About 300 beds each - each department. In 1947 when they started to get all the children back in from all over the world it was my job to do their parcels up. I used to get their boots, callipers, from A6, I used to get ENT from D2. I used to get stores work from stores office, samples and all that - that was my job to wrap that up and send it away, I used to take it round to the drugs office at the AD and they used to stamp it and so it went out every night. It was my job to wrap it up and put the address where it was going to in a book I had. That was my job. That was created in 1947 for the National Health Service - I finished in 1966. Worked from 1913 to 1966 in the hospital. I don't know anyone now that used to work at the hospital. The Nurses Homes opened in 1930. The Chapel was built before the homes because we used to store a lot of blankets in the Chapel during the War.

The Chapel was always open - never locked. I used to help the Padre out a lot with empty boxes - he used to come and ask me for empty boxes. Dr. Pugh was the first doctor that came into the hospital and the Gate Porter he came from Earls Court, he lived in the Lodge and he was there permanent. He had a doorway made to go back into his living room from the Gate Lodge. Everything that went in there had to be weighed outside the Porter's Lodge on the Weighbridge, but it ain't there now, its been taken up. We had to weigh in all coal, all coal going down to the stoke hole had to be weighed. All coal had to be brought into the Wards and had to be separate. You had a fair busy time on the Gate those days - you had to book teachers in the morning - put it all down in the book - in and out. They came in at 9 o'clock and went about 3 to half-past and they all used to teach their kiddies in the Day Room until they built the Recreation Hall down by where Lollipop is. Dances and Concerts in there too.

They've had dances in the Recreation Hall until quite recently - (1990). You can say that I've seen the start of Queen Mary's till now. You see Case More was the name of the Gate Porter. He came from Earls Court and I used to relieve him at his dinner hour and then he was relieved at 8 o'clock at night and he was there all day. He started 6 o'clock. Of course, he could always go in and out of his living room for a cup of tea. They were pushed for Gate Porters - they said to me - "Joe, could you manage doing the packing and do 2 shifts down the Gate Lodge?" I said, "Yes". I could do that packing job in my head, I could do that easy. I used to do 2 turns on the Gate Lodge and then drop back on my packing job. I used to be on the Patient Car outside, moving kiddies all over the place - transfers, going to treatment, going swimming, drill all sorts and I used to be on that car and the 3 years I was with Sister Kenny I handled 60 children every day. It's an awful lot of kiddies isn't it?

There was about 8 or 9 masseurs and 2 Australians and Sister Kenny — she was a wonderful woman and they all used to do about 8 or 9 kiddies themselves and I used to keep them going so, roughly speaking. I used to take 60 kiddies from A8, B8 and B7 into where the bars were in A7 and they done their exercises and then they used to have the advantage of ........ come down about every couple of months and then I used to carry the kids in for the doctors to examine them. That was a busy job. I enjoyed Queen Mary's, but my ankle got so bad that I asked to be taken off. (That was where I got shot). That got so bad and they sent another fellow up there and he came back the next morning down to the office and he said that there was enough work up there for 2 Porters never mind about one Porter and I'd been doing it for 3 years, but I never went back there any more. I retired in 1966. 1 had to go before a committee and I was sent for by doctors and all the heads up in the Committee Room upstairs and all the palaver. I was sent for, for doing Services to the hospital and given a cheque for £25.

There used to be big boys up in C street and there used to be an attendant on C1 and 2, C4 and 5, C7 and 8. They were big boys all waiting to go out to ......... to learn the trade and all that. So there was an Attendant on 3 blocks, 3 wards — C1 and 2, C5 and 6 and C3, 7 and 8 and I used to go relieving them occasionally when it was their day off. I used to help Dan with his horse and trolley picking up the rubbish - Punch was the horse's name. Dan Doulton was religious - he wouldn't kill a rat he wouldn't. He used to pray for the horse before he left it at night time. Never heard him but seen him kneeling down by the horse. I was delivering one morning in the Winter time when the roads were very slippery - we should never have been out on the streets but round about 7 o'clock Punch went down. I went to him and said, "Let me sit on his head, Dan". He said, "Alright Joe, with the help of the Lord we shall manage." With a bit of harness broken and the shaft broken we got him up alright and we tied some sacks around his feet. No, we shouldn't have been out that day! In the middle of winter we'd been coming down the main drive came across E Street and skidded right into the garden.

Punch was alright, nothing to speak of, but that broke his heart when he had to get rid of that horse. He had to pack up because Dan was finishing and they had to get rid of him and he was sold to a man up in Woodmansterne to pull his pig cart but I expect old Dan used to go up and visit, but Dan didn't live too long after. On Sundays he used to go up and see the horse on his day off. When Dan had his fortnight's holiday I used to do his job. They used to have a contract that all the clinker out of the stoke holes used to be thrown outside, out in the yard, and when the contractors couldn't come and get it I used to have to keep it clean. You know where the Stanley Road Gate is, well you know where the wood is on the right hand side, there used to be a pond there - that's why it disappeared. Ah, some happy days, but there you are, some good days and bad days - there you are, you don't have good times in wars. You see I was born about 18 months too soon - I shouldn't have ever been in the war - terrible things going on over there everywhere was smashed down. You try and find that *photograph, it's in the hospital still and there's my name and address on it and I gave it to Dr. Ward and when he retired he said he'd given it to a Dr. Mony and it's in his ward, but whether Dr. Mony is there or not I don't know. Try and find that photograph of all the staff in the early 20's, the first photograph that was taken with all the staff. That was the doctor, who we didn't know whether he was a man or whether she was a woman doctor, but she was one of the first to ever attempt to swim the English Channel.

I had a wonderful time there; I used to love Christmas there - we never had no time off for Christmas; we used to get well treated there at Christmas time with the staff, with the nurses and sisters - plenty of booze, plenty of cigars, plenty to eat. One set back I had at Christmas was when I was with Sister Kenny. There was a Nurse in A8, I think she had Polio or something like that, she was a nice girl. This was Christmas time and her people were very well off so she used to provide everything for the kiddies on A8 that they could buy for them and everything was loaded with plenty of everything for the children and they were going to have a good Christmas. I go there on the Christmas morning and she'd died in the night. That was my worst memory. There you are, our ups and downs, there were good times and bad times, but there you are, wars disturb everything.

N.B. **During the First World War Joe was wounded (blown up) in Belgium and was brought back on a Red Cross ship and then transferred to Glasgow for treatment *The photograph was hanging up in Dr. Melter's office. ………..Omitted words due to unclear meaning on tape. Queen Mary's Hospital Extract forwarded by Board of Education: from report by H.M. Inspector Mr G A Turner after a visit on March 31st 1914. "The School is doing useful work.

The Head Mistress and her staff are well qualified, and as far as the circumstances permit, the children are making satisfactory progress in their studies." June 24th 1940 Mr Michell's last day on duty as he is called up for the forces and has asked for two days leave before joining on the 27th. (Later to become Acting Head 1970). July 21st 1944 School closed at 4 p.m. for summer holiday. Total evacuation of hospital decided and plans being carried out. July 25th 1944 About 200 children were evacuated to Dryburn Emergency Hospital at Durham. July 28th 1944 The children have been transferred to other hospitals; the last group left yesterday morning. The school is now closed and the staff will work elsewhere until it is re-opened. (The school was split between Durham and Knaresborough.) August 7th 1944 The house "Springfield", Fieldhouse Lane, Durham, was requisitioned by the Ministry of Health for accommodation of the teaching staff. August 14th 1944 Teaching staff reported at Queen Mary's Hospital to arrange transport of stock and travelling arrangement for those evacuated to Durham.

August 15th 1944 13 teachers arrived in Durham at 5.30p.m. August 16th 1944 School re-opened at 9.00 a.m. at Dryburn Emergency Hospital, Durham. November 20th 1944 Mrs Dawson, Head Mistress, has returned to London to visit County Hall and to pack stock at Carshalton. January 31st 1945 Miss E A Brace on duty to take charge during the absence of Mrs Dawson. February 8th 1945 (a.m.) Mrs Dawson at County Hall (p.m.) returned to Durham February 9th 1945 Mrs Dawson on duty at Durham at 9.00 a.m. February 14th 1945 Miss Brace ceased duty at 12 noon. February 19th 1945 Mrs Dawson ceased duties at 12 noon to take up temporary relief duties at Marlesford Lodge Remand Home. February 21st 1945 Miss Brace returned to take charge during the absence of Mrs Dawson. 1st March 1945 Junior County Scholarship at Dryburn Hospital. One candidate - Donald Robert Everton. 22 May 1945 Children returned from Durham to Carshalton. 26th May 1945 The teachers hostel "Springfield" was de-requisitioned. 26th May 1945 Mrs Dawson returned from Durham. 30th May 1945 School re-opened at Carshalton.

By Ernest Earl / WW2 People's War WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at © Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author.