Book review:  Bandaging the Blitz

WHEN I picked up this book I thought it was a girly book about a nurse, but then I started reading it and was surprised that it was a factual account of a nurse training in London during world War II.

Phyl MacDonald Ross and ID Roberts

Sphere, €11.99; ebook, €6.99

In 2010 Channel 4 produced a documentary to mark the 70th anniversary of the Blitz and Phyllis MacDonald contributed. 

Her grand-son was amazed to hear just what his grandmother had experienced during the war and decided to document her experiences.

Bandaging the Blitz is the result and recalls a time when bombs were being dropped on London and thousands of people died and many, many more suffered severe injuries us a result.

She finished her nursing training to become a state registered nurse.

Working long hours and studying at the same time. As a nurse you are never off duty, when sirens went off everyone went down the underground railway.

On one occasion going down to the platform, she was conscious of a young woman in trouble and realised she was about to have a baby.

She delivered the baby with nothing more than a bottle of gin to sterilise her hands and a peg to clip the cord and a blanket to shield her from the passers by.

At 5am the all-clear sounded, with the wails of the new-born baby there was a ripple of applause echoing along the platform ... it was amazing, even in the darkest hours, new life still come into the world.

Despite long working days and little time off, the nurses still had time to socialise, meet members of the armed forces during their days off. 

Phyl met Alistair and married him on her two days off as he was expecting to go abroad. With very little time off from duty at the hostel they spent very little time together, and often had to travel long distances to meet.

This was with a backdrop of papers and radio with depressing news about the war.

Not knowing what the future would bring, with the dreadful feeling — would I survive this?

This is a rare book about ordinary people living in extraordinary times never really knowing if they would be alive at the end of it but continuing to live in hope, caring to those who had been injured, and living a happy social life as well, in fact, living life to the full.

Finally, Phyll MacDonald Ross. Her story was found and recorded by her grand-son presenting her story with much love and affection recalling the life of his grandmother through his writing while bringing those far off days to life and the thought “lest we forget ...”

As the ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of World War II come to an end this is an evocative memoir of what war, and living through it, is really like.

Sheila Ashby began her nursing training at the end of World War II and worked in Britain, Africa and America.


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