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War Years 1939-45

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Extract from The book "A Vision of Healing" by Ernest Earl - see

The Queen Mary's Hospital for Children WAR YEARS "Hope is grief’s best music" THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939 — 1945

Queen Mary's Hospital for Children, like so many other hospitals and homes was hit by German bombs and rockets, in wave after wave of attacks by enemy aircraft and VI and V2 rockets. Queen Mary's was the most heavily bombed hospital in London. Various reasons have been given for this: its close proximity to Croydon Airport, its aerial appearance being similar to the layout of army barracks, and the fact that German bombers discharged their surplus bombs before flying back over the Channel after attacking London. The first bombing of the hospital occurred in 1940.

Eventually, with the new threats posed by the VI and V2 rockets, total evacuation of the hospital was decided upon on July 21st 1944 and the children taken by coach and train to a number of locations in England and Wales. The school was split between Dryburn Emergency Hospital at Durham and Scotton Banks Hospital, Knaresborough, Yorkshire. After VE Day 1945, the premises were re-occupied, but the war damage meant that the beds were reduced from 1,284 to 840. QUEEN MARY’S MOST FREQUENTLY BOMBED OF ALL LCC AND MDB HOSPITALS AROUND LONDON Places bombed that surrounded Queen Mary's Croydon Airport Denmark Road Anglesey Gardens Dalmeny Road Acre Lane Rothfield Road Kings Arms Pub Carshalton High Street behind Windsor Castle between Salisbury Road, War Memorial Hospital Erskine Road Fellows Road 29 Acres Love Lane Lavender Road Farm Lane Gordon Road Flying Bombs Stanley Park Road Staplehurst Road Burleigh Avenue Wallington Garden Green Ceders Road, Sutton West Way V.2. Just off Boundary Road in to Banstead Asylum (on open ground). Contiibuted by John Vinn (91 years of age) Demolition and Rescue Parties Supervisor for Bombs NEWSPAPER REPORT - 12th October 1944 Over a period of time, 27 V1 Flying bombs fell in Carshalton, killing 25 people. 165 homes were totally destroyed. Rest centres for bombed-out victims were established at Westwenth Hall, Methodist Central Hall, Green Wrythe Lane, Bishopsford Hall and Poulter Park.

The V1s started landing in the middle of June 1944 and the months of June and July saw frequent attacks. Hence the decision to completely evacuate Queen Mary's. THE EVACUATION TO DURHAM - JULY 25th 1944 The following reports appeared in Durham Advertiser on August IIth 1944. Shortly after, approximately 200 of the Queen Mary's children were evacuated to Durham. I can only assume that the sickly children referred to here came from Queen Mary's. The articles have been reproduced by kind permission of Mr Peter Barron, Editor of the Northern Echo. Emergency Rest Centre The emergency rest centre was prepared and conducted for the Durham County Public Assistance Committee by Mr A S Smith (relieving officer), with the help from his colleague, Mr Brains, and a large number of voluntary helpers. These included Mr W N Illingworth (Officer in charge), Mrs Hudson (leader of the women personnel), Miss Viola Fleming, teachers and the caretaker of the City Senior School, Miss Ryans and members of the staff of the school canteen, ladies resident in and near Whinney Hill, a number of boy scouts and boys and girls of the City Senior School.

In its co-operation with the City Council, the rest centre had the help of Miss Holliday in the provision of meals. The rest centre organisation was responsible for the domestic arrangements, such as those for meals and sleeping, washing, recreation and ‘the personal touch’. In looking after the babies and the sickly and slightly injured evacuees, and in assisting the medical examinations, the rest centre had the help of Nurse Tredennick, Nurse Spence, Mrs Barrett and her staff, Nurse Sakell, Nurse Holmes, Miss Bradley, Mrs Uzzel and Mrs Davies.' Air raid wardens, under the superintendence of Mr George Greenwell (chief warden), dealt with the luggage of the evacuees, and some wardens remained all night. Some of the mothers asked whether they were in Scotland or on the Border, and seemed astonished to hear that another county came before Scotland. On hearing that they were only ten miles from the East Coast their faces fell, for 'the East Coast' to them meant a danger zone.

They were taken to the school geography room and shown a map. They had heard of Wales as a safe place for evacuation, but on seeing that Durham was further from London than even Wales they declared, "Well, the Government knew what they were doing when they sent us here!" One of the escorts who accompanied the evacuees said, "You people of the North have a reputation for giving a kind and hearty welcome, and you have lived up to it today." Mayor's Welcome As soon as the train pulled into the station, the Mayor (Councillor W A H Shepherd) extended welcome, and hoped the evacuees would have a very happy time even if their stay in the city would be brief. He was accompanied by Mr G R Bull, Town Clerk, Mr C A Vessey, deputy Town Clerk, Mr A E Jones, billeting officer, and officials of the County P.A.C., under Mr VAiitfield-Jackson, who acted in place of Mr R B Hindmarch, unavoidably absent. Members of the W.V.S. Civil Defence and many others gave every assistance. Altogether the Southerners numbered 394, of whom 58 were mothers, 75 children under five years, 85 over five years and 176 unaccompanied children. By kindness of the Council of Durham Colleges, 115 beds were provided at the University, St Mary's and Hatfield Colleges. In an interview, the Town Clerk said as a result of a survey there would seem at the moment a lack of voluntary billets for certain evacuees, but it was to be hoped when actual billeting began the public would come forward voluntarily to make up the deficiency. If sufficient numbers of voluntary billets were not forthcoming there would be no alternative to using a compulsion.

Constables under Supt. T Hetherington, Inspectors H Alcock and W Nixon were marshals and controlled traffic in and around the station and school. More evacuees expected We are informed by the Town Clerk (Mr George R Bull) that the 394 evacuees recently received in the city have been accommodated. He has been informed that a further batch of 400 may be expected, and desires it to be known that unless a large number of voluntary billets is forthcoming there will be no option but to resort to compulsory measures. I. Queen Mary's is presumably not mentioned specifically due to wartime reporting censorship. II. The Butler Education Act of 1944 introduced the Tripartite system of free secondary education for all, based on ability and not on parental income. All children could now be educated at a Grammar, Secondary Modern or Technical School according to age, aptitude or ability. Jean from Durham - 14.4.97 I remember the Hospital being built as I came to Durham in 1941. Queen Mary's would have been the first in Dryburn as you know it was an Emergency Military Hospital, I plainly remember the wounded soldiers walking around in blue suits. There was also a ward for German prisoners of war, when my sisters and me were invited to Queen Mary's Christmas party we passed the ward were the Germans were and we could hear them singing (carols) we stopped to listen but were told to move on.

There was a Nurse English of Queen Mary's she tap danced at the party and her soldier boy friend was also there. There was a boy patient by the name of Sydney Spears. When Drybum was built I don't think there would be any more than eight to ten wards it is now our main Hospital very big. I have tried very hard to get information of first years of Drybum without success apart from my sisters and me no one knows any thing about Dryburn's beginning at Queen Mary's as I've said to you before with it being a Military Hospital in wartime it was hush hush. If I do get any more news (as I'm still searching) I shall let you have it.

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.