Stories: Doris Russell

From Doris Russell

I was a very junior student nurse at Bethnal Green hospital, in Cambridge Heath Road, just a short distance from the underground station. I had gone ‘off duty’ with the Day Staff, but, as was the custom then, we went back on duty if and when the Air Raid Warning sounded.

We were waiting in the ‘Out Patients’ Dept , waiting for the ambulances and casualties to arrive. The few beds were soon taken up and stretchers had to be left on the floor. The Ambulance Personnel were shocked, as also were the Hospital Staff, Doctors and Nurses, as there were no visible signs of injuries. No wounds, no broken bones, nor crying or exclamations of pain. There was no visible signs of life. All were pronounced DOA (dead on arrival) and were beyond resuscitation.
Perhaps today with modern up-to-date techniques some could have been saved.

Not all the casualties were brought to our hospital. I believe St. John’s Church was also a temporary mortuary. Our small hospital mortuary sadly was soon more than full, and during the next week relatives and friends were escorted to the mortuary as they tried to identify family members and friends.

I went home on holiday during the next week. On my return to the hospital I went on Night Duty and the tragic happenings of the night of 3rd March were not discussed or hardly mentioned. No stress counselling was available then.

- Doris Russell.