St Thomas' nurse remembers London in the war


Posted on Thursday 10 September 2015
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Nurses working in the basement operating theatres during the war

A service to remember the 10 staff who died at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital during the Blitz will took place on Thursday 10 September to mark the 75th anniversary of the first bombs landing on the hospitals.

Rosemary Hitchcock, 92, from Oxfordshire, became a nurse to support the war effort after her brother, Hugh de las Casas, was killed in action early in 1940.

After her initial training, Rosemary worked at St Thomas’ Hospital, where most of the wards, operating theatres and staff accommodation had moved into the basement for safety.

Despite large amounts of bomb damage, both Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital remained open throughout the war, treating casualties from across London.

Rosemary says: “The nurses stayed in a large room one storey underground, with the lovely old retired nurse who looked after us.

“In my time off, I used to go off into London with my friend. Nurses in uniform were treated specially by the taxi drivers. The American servicemen tried to get into our taxis but the drivers were brilliant and refused to let them.

“Any police who needed hospital treatment were brought to us at St Thomas’. The police and the nurses were a great mix. If anything went wrong, or we needed help, oh boy, they were right there!

“I remember being stuck above ground level, holding a jar of thermometers. If we broke a thermometer, we had to pay for it, so I was being very careful. Then I heard a Doodlebug starting to doodle above me – when the noise stopped, you knew the bomb was about to come down. When the Doodlebug hit the other end of the hospital, two policemen in pyjamas helped me to protect my thermometers and made sure they didn’t crash to the ground.”

Sir Hugh Taylor, Chairman of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, says: “The Blitz was a significant period in the history of Guy’s and St Thomas’, and the history of London. Staff at the hospitals did their best for their patients in terrible conditions, sometimes even sterilising their equipment on Primus stoves so that they could work in the converted basement wards when the hot water wasn’t running.

“The first bombs hit the hospitals on 8 and 9 September 1940. Now, 75 years on, we remember the doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who died at St Thomas’ during the Blitz.” 

 

View our Facebook gallery of photos from the service.

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