My mother was seventeen when the war broke out. When she left school she
went into nursing and joined the Blood Transfusion Service.

In 1941 my Mum was posted to The Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, outside Southampton.

“It was a terrible place Netley, it had such a horrible atmosphere. I had all the fright frightened out of me there. The place was surrounded by cats, feral cats, and you would hear them fighting and wailing around the hospital and these awful sounds were mixed with the cries of the meningitis patients. So many men got meningitis from their awful wounds, they were untreatable and the meningeal scream is the most ghastly one there is,” she said, “and in that awful barrack of a place these screams echoed, just dreadful, terrible screams coming down the passages like a cat catawalling, oh it was awful.
oh yes, there was another chap whose guts were all, no, no, no I don’t think about those things. I was nineteen. You just come to terms with it, you have to, everyone else is.”

During the winter Netley was bitterly cold. “I remember having the most awful chilblains on my hands and feet,” she said, “and then in the summer, all the glass along the front of the hospital meant that you absolutely cooked.”

“There were a lot of badly wounded men at Netley, a lot of RAF chaps, who we used to have to wheel into the passage in the daytime because they’d got maggots coming out of their plasters and the smell was absolutely dreadful. In fact, it was good treatment, the maggots cleaned away all the dead tissue, they never ate any of the living, but it was a pretty horrid thing. And a whole lot of them with burnt hands in poly-bags, oh, we had a lot of very very ....

In 1942 she was posted to the Isle of Wight

Here is Mum (far right) at Godshill House on the Isle of Wight.

“There were about fifty soldiers to one woman on the Isle of Wight,” she laughed, “so I mean, it really was gorgeous. I had a wonderful time on the Isle of Wight, I enjoyed every minute of it. There was Totland Bay Hospital where the really seriously ill went so we weren’t dealing with the really horrible stuff. Then while I was on the Isle of Wight, D-Day was coming up and we were not allowed off for six month. We weren’t allowed to go to the mainland and nobody was allowed on. All our letters home were vetted in case we talked about something we shouldn’t."


In 1945, just after D-Day, she embarked for Naples to follow the Allies up Italy as pockets of German resistance fell.

At Boyce Barracks my Mum met Brigsie who was her close friend for the rest of the war and on into peacetime.
“We were sent to Boyce Barracks there before embarkation, just before going abroad. It was a centre that took the troops in and gave them all their injections and did various things before they went overseas.

“And then you see these women were sent. Because I remember we had a drill sergeant and he’d walk round and say “Backs closer, that’s right, that’s straight,” then he’d walk round to the front, and it was “Oh dear, something’s gone wrong, would you just move back ...” Obviously it was our tits. If he got our bottoms to line up, our tits didn’t line up.

My Mum in Anagni outside Rome in 1945 where she nursed TB patients.

“All the time we were in Italy the Italians were all - well, the country Italians were still very anti-British. You can’t blame them. We’d been fighting them all these years and then were told you don’t have to fight them anymore. We’d hear bangs going off in the countryside.

“One day we went off with some chaps in a jeep. I can’t remember where we were going, but we’d gone the wrong way, me and Brigsie and a couple of chaps. And we went up this very narrow track and it was too narrow to turn round and we ended up right up the side of a mountain in a village. We stopped the jeep to turn it round, and all the villagers came at us. They were yelling and screaming, and the chap who was driving said, ‘Don’t make a move, don’t make a move, stay absolutely still, don’t you dare scream!’ We just sat there, petrified.

“They surrounded us, yelling, waving their fists, and God knows what. Finally they got the jeep turned round and got away."

Finally she was posted to Graz in Austria, where she met my father.

Mum in the The Central Supply Room in Graz

"One day this lovely chap walked in and said he was making some kind of instrument.

“’Have you got a something something?”

“I said, ‘I have no idea, I haven’t looked in all these cupboards, let’s look in these.’

“And I opened up this cupboard and there were a whole lot of blood bottles with FLs (condoms) on, all leaning over sideways, so I slammed the door quickly and looked the other way, being the modest sort of girl I was in those days, and he was also very embarrassed.


Dad in 1945 in Graz

He was demobbed eight months before she was. Their separation was painful. On the troop train leaving Graz he wrote:

"My dearest Darling, when you read this I will have gone and as I write this - even now - my poor old jam tart is just aching with a big big sadness. Oh my darling, I do love you so very very much. You'll never know quite how much until our great day comes, when Usses will be really Usses for evermore. Let's try, my dear darling, not to be too sad, though we are bound to be that way for a little time. When I think of the thousands of little things I'm going to miss, I wonder how I'll ever get through these months that lie ahead. But at the end of that time, the sun will come out again and shine for Usses, and we'll wonder then how we could ever have felt so sad, knowing deep down inside our hearts that all will come well in the end.

This little bit of our lives here in Graz has been the most perfect thing that has ever happened to me, my Booful one, and I can't believe that the gods would have be so cynical as to allow us to be so completely happy if they didn't mean us to have a future as well. So just go on loving me, as I love you, and go on trusting Usses as we always have done, and I thank God, my dearest one, that you have good friends in Brigsie and Mike, who will help look after you for me, because they too love you.

"And now I'm going to bed. Goodnight my dearest darling, and never forget that I love you.

Your very own, Brian. xxxxxxxxxxxx