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Mary's story

Caring for children around England

During the war I worked at County Hall three days on and three days off. I worked with Evacuees as a 'Journey Nurse', picking up children who were not happy or who were disabled and taking them to safety. There would be expectant mothers as well.

In September 1939 I had taken part in a practice evacuation by bus with 62 children. We ended up in Dymchurch on the South coast of England and stayed there until the following May. These were disabled children who had previously lived at home. Very soon the authorities realised that being on the coast put us at some danger from enemy planes so we were moved inland to Oxfordshire.

Where we were staying there were no air raid shelters, which meant that if there was an air raid they got under their beds (which wasn't always easy with some of the children who were physically handicapped).

I also worked in various stately homes and large mansions around the country which had been given by their owners for use with evacuees. I remember one very splendid country house where the children all slept in the ballroom, as many as seven to a bed - sideways on - while Lord and Lady so-and-so lived in a couple of rooms in a different wing. We brought in our own cooks and employed house-mothers from London residential schools.

Very early on I applied to be a nurse. I was only 19 and couldn't have general training until I was 21 but I was told I could be a 'fever Nurse'. The funny thing is that when I got to 21 they said I wasn't tall enough (I had to be 5'3") so I couldn't be a general Nurse. That was in London; provincial hospitals weren't so fussy so I did my training in Northampton and was there for 4 years.

Mary Langley
Royal Leamington Spa
April 1995

Mary has written other stories about this period :

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