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Hospitals of Barking

                         Daybreak
                                              High Noon
                                                                      Evening
                                                                                       Night fall
                   
To my wife,  Anne, who nursed at Barking for many years.

                                                                      J. G. Brian



DAYBREAK.

When most were debating the outcome of the Boer War and the new word "Mafeking" was heard to describe a celebration, the members of the tiny Council of the Urban District of Barking were choosing the site for their new hospital. It was to  house those with fevers and was destined to provide the nucleus for future services to raise the level of the public health.

The site chosen was that of the Upney Meadows, bounded by Upney Lane and close to the marshland of Ripple Level, which ran from Ripple Road to the Thames riverside. In 1860 malaria was indigenous in the areas of the Wash, the New forest, the Mendip and  the Quantock Hills, the coastal Lake District, the fens, Eastern Kent, the South Downs and the tidal estuary of the Thames. The various forms of malaria had their own local  names, but "The Ague" and "English Sweating Sickness" seem to have outlasted the others. In the mid-nineteenth century life was usually short and very rarely merry. Barking had become a thriving community, in which market produce was grown for sale in  London, and it also had a thriving fishing fleet. Scrymgoeur Hewitt's "Short Blue" fleet had solved the problem of bringing fresh fish for sale in London by inventing the "well smack", a fishing boat that carried its catch homeward alive  in a vast tank built amidships. It has been claimed that Barking is the oldest fishing village in England, sweeping the Thames Estuary and the North Sea for fish for many, many generations. The fishing families inter-married with the families of the fleets of Belgium and Holland, and, as the fish moved into the more distant parts of the North Sea, the Barking families followed them, and now there is a thriving part of "old Barking" in Lowestoft and other East Coast towns. Barking has a varied and  dramatic history, well documented under the "E" section in the local library.

Upney Meadows site was previously used as part of Baking’s market gardens industry, but the stubble and the stray potatoes were cleared and two wooden huts were erected a short way back from the road. One of them, Humphrey Hut, survived until the  Second World War, when it was accidently burned down when a few sparks from the Mobile Unit Crew's stove set fire to some bird nests in the guttering. One of the crew lost his life in that fire when he went back inside the inferno to try to recover a  nurse's handbag.

The two huts stood in that wide, open space and, served as clinics for the advice and treatment of mothers and sick children, and the service slowly expanded as it was seen to fulfill local needs. From earliest times the Council of Barking had shown interest  in the welfare of' its poorest citizens, and the pioneer spirit, so clearly evident right up to the formation of the National Health Service, was by no means of recent origin. Barking seemed to be at the receiving end of anything unpleasant that could be sent its way. As late as 1884, when the sewage of a growing London was being ejected into a River Thames that was too slowly-flowing to take it far out to sea (allowing for tides, the average flow is three miles downstream per day), the sewage was  being deposited on the bank of the Thames at the Ripple Level. Seven men were found to be making a living by recovering the floating fat, boiling it down again, and then re-selling it. For frying chips and roasting meat?

In 1931 new, brick, buildings were constructed to take over the work of the overburdened huts and an Administration Block and Nurses' Home was built at the same time. The Administration Block fronted on to Upney Lane, close to what is now Upney Station,  and the three isolation wards, Jenner (now Worricker), which was for diphtheria patients, Ross, which housed scarlet fever patients, and Lister (with a small operating theatre) which cared for septic conditions, mixed infections and childbed fever were  erected behind the Nurses' Home. All these buildings were very well-constructed, but down to a price, and there were no frills. Characteristically, the flooring is of planks. It was in 1936 that the plans of the Public Health Department of the Borough  of Barking became of great interest to me, for then it was that I joined the team. On the second of November, 1936, I began to work in the newly-opened Pathology Laboratory of Barking Isolation Hospital. The new laboratory stood alone beside the roadway  that ran from the Main Entrance (opposite The Drive) to the boiler house and the mortuary. At the same time three more new wards had been built, and they were Harvey for diphtheria patients, Sydenham for mixed infections, and Paget (since demolished)  for enteric diseases. Two new wings were added to the Nurses' Home, and all the 1936 wards and buildings were built "up to a standard" and not "down to a price". Flooring, for instance, was of highly-polished parquet blocks, and the laboratory floor was  of polished terrazzo chippings.

The general impression of the hospital was one of dignified beauty and charm. Tall poplars lined the roadway from the main gate to the boilerhouse, an  orchard flourished in the middle of the grounds beside a hard tennis court and a rose-garden, more poplars flanked Garland's Drive, a perimeter walk alongside the railway line, magnificent flowerbeds and lawns were kept in perfect condition in front of  the Nurses' Home, and each ward had its own decorative flowerbed. All of the work to maintain the gardens and the lawns was undertaken by one gardener and an assistant, a man who was advised to take up outdoor work after his discharge from a sanatorium.

Behind Ross and Harvey Wards, running the length of the grounds beside the railway line was one large, open field. This was sometimes used by convalescent patients for competitive football matches. The same length of free space was also used by the Medical  Superintendent to improve his golf.

At this point in the development of the hospital site there were very few houses built on the Leftley Estate, which is bordered by Upney Lane, the railway line, Mayesbrook Park and Longbridge Road. It was, therefore, possible to see from the hospital  gate a train leaving Becontree Station, then walk up Upney Lane to Upney Station, and be waiting on the platform as the westbound train came in. Weekday service was at twenty-minute intervals. Trains were of the now-obsolete design in which the doors  were passenger-controlled, and it was therefore refreshingly possible to travel up to London on a hot day with all the doors open wide and nature's own air-conditioning service in operation. In mid-winter travels only the very bad-mannered failed to shut  the doors after boarding.

The Nurses' Home was the centre of the hospital, with the front Ground Floor housing Matron's Office and the Telephone Room. The upper floors and the two wings were mostly nurses' bedrooms, with two rooms set aside as Sick Bays. Between the two wings  was the Kitchen, which supplied food for staff and patients. But not all staff, by any means. The only source of refreshment provided for me was a cold-water tap beside the mortuary. The porters (two) had a Mess Room, which they shared with a fever ambulance driver and a laundryman.

There was an odd little disciplinary rule that the modern generation will probably never understand -- "NO FRATERNISATION" --. If any of the male staff made communication with a member of the nursing staff except by way of a Sister or the Matron the penalty  was a dressing-down and dismissal. I suppose that morals were being protected somewhere, but whose?

Of the old days, possibly two structures remain. One is that tiny strip of roadway between Westrow Drive and the nearby shops. That is the original Upney Lane. The other is the shops themselves, properly "Gibbards Cottages", which are probably the oldest  dwelling-houses in Barking.

Just as the hospital site was a market garden, so Leftley Estate was a farm, and Manor Farm grew the best wheat in Essex. On the hospital site, however, the best crop must have been earwigs, and one was well-advised to blow forcefully down the tubes of  stethoscopes before use in order to avoid hearing a rales and rhonchi tango being danced by a set of eight little feet of an earwig on the diaphragm.

Summer was a delight for naturalists. The bird population was dense and varied (wagtails still abound) and all kinds of moths and butterflies were plentiful, and in the fishpond behind Paget Ward was not only a collection of enormous golden carp but the  finest Tiger Animalcules that I have ever seen. I still have the photographs that I took of them with the laboratory microscope and an ancient plate camera. A summer day at Barking Hospital before the last war was filled with the hum of bees and insects,  birdsong from the poplars, successful shots on the tennis court and the roar of a Lister truck hauling food trolleys or laundry from ward to ward.

Expert souvenir hunters will have noted that the hospital teaspoons are labeled "BARKING HOSPITALS" if they are pre-war. There were two hospitals, Barking Isolation Hospital and Upney Maternity Pavilion. Maternity patients were NOT in hospital, and a  reprimand would follow if that word were used. It was the maternity PAVILION, not hospital. And that led to something else. If any member of the staff who had the duty to work in both units were to go from fever to maternity without washing and changing clothing the result would be instant dismissal. Maternity to fever -- yes, but fever to maternity HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF SEMMELWEISS?
Upney Maternity Pavilion was the most modern in the country. Windows were of Vitaglass, which permitted the passage of U.V. light; floors were of cork; the heating and lighting systems were independent of Barking Hospital and all staff lived in a row  of old farm cottages that were opposite Sandringham Road. The new Maternity Block has been built on their site. During the war-years I lived for a time in one of those rooms. The floor fell in because of dry rot, and to run a bath one filled the bathroom with live steam and the bath with cold water, and the boiler grumbled about it all night-long. One cold tap made pluperfect coffee and the other delightful China tea, but never the other way round, and I never did find out where the additives were getting  into those water-supplies. A large, black cat used to do the rounds in those cottages each night, counting us. We were convinced that it was the earthbound ghost of a former Night Sister doing a kind of penance.

The years from 1936 to 1938 were idyllic, with the challenge of providing a good public health service filling all our days and most of our nights. It was an uphill struggle. We had to plead with doctors to send specimens to the laboratory for expert  examination. We had to plead with patients to attend the free clinics, which they wouldn't do, because they thought of it as charity. We had to plead with the Establishment to realise that the Day of Science was at hand.

I had to call at an outlying clinic to take and collect some swabs from a little girl with a question of rape. For the first time in my life I met a child who had been wrapped in newspaper and stitched up in her underclothing for the winter.

It may be true that lice never live in dirty heads, but other things do. I found that there were people who would never wash their hair in the winter for fear of catching pneumonia or something worse.

I learned from one rheumatic old man that the stiff joints and swellings were not rheumatism. "Can't be the rheumy. Potato allus in my pocket. Ais!"

I learned the hard way that ignorance is not confined to the uneducated.

One day a Medical Officer thought that it might be a good idea to look at the haemoglobin of a pallid, sleepy mother who was not doing at all well. So I set out with the necessary equipment on the first call to the wards in the history of the new laboratory.  Half-way across the,grounds I noted a figure standing in the doorway of the Pavilion with an intense interest in my movements and as I came near I called, "I'm coming to see Mrs. ---."
"Why?" she said, standing in the doorway.
"For some blood," I said, "Nothing more."
"NO YOU WON'T," she said, "We've done without you people in the past, and I won't have you in here now!"
And she slammed the door in my face.
The name of that loyal servant of the rule-of-thumb days is perpetuated in the name of a ward.

But they were beginning to come -- the specimens to the laboratory, the patients to the clinic and the poor, poverty-stricken children to the welfare centres. Those pallid, starch-filled children were a very far cry from what healthy, robust children  should be. But things were looking up, and mothers were attending their clinics and children arriving at the welfare sessions with commendable regularity. Immunisation clinics  were almost always full and the dental clinics were even running coaches to the seaside for the day as a kind of reward for total attendance. I was beginning to feel a kind of pride that was new, a pride in working for a worthwhile cause with a dedicated,  worthwhile team. We formed a kind of affinity with each other; we shared our problems and we shared our solutions.

Then came the autumn of 1938. War fever. Munich. The phoney peace. The shattering of our dreams.

HIGH NOON.

Parts of our clinics were boarded-up to give more cubicles, and Gas Drills and Air Raid Precautions notices filled our noticeboards. The Upney Maternity Pavilion was to be evacuated to Radlett in the charge of Sister Riseley, and the two hospitals combined to form Barking Emergency Medical Services Hospital, a hospital of first reception, to sort out air raid casualties and send them to hospitals in an area of greater safety.

Then we had EXERCISES, in which experienced drivers attempted to move ambulances whilst wearing gas capes, gas gloves, gas masks and gumboots, with no driving lights, and taped-up windows, and it was absolutely impossible. It was also very dangerous for  any pedestrians who happened to be lying about.

So we had MORE EXERCISES, in which we pretended to be patients. I chose to pretend that I was knocked unconscious and blown up a tree. I nearly froze to death whilst awaiting rescue, only to find myself later abandoned in Casualty with a large label tied  round my neck. Written on the label was:- "Found drunk hiding up a tree". I gave up acting after that.

All that the A.R.P. exercises proved to any of us was that they wouldn't work, and in our working teabreaks we were all filled with gloom that the dreams of a ~ood public health service were gone forever.

That last year of peace, for what it was worth, dragged on through a sultry summer and many subtle changes were taking place all around us. There seemed to be a lot of secret meetings taking place behind closed doors. Those who emerged were grim and silent,  far too busy and far too important to stop and explain away our fears. From various Town Halls emerged strange faces with one thing in common -- they were all officers. Billets Officers. Evacuation Officers. Transport Officers. Supplies Officers. Everyone of them with a large lapel badge and a clipboard thick with foolscap papers. We began to get a bit worried. They were drinking our tea, and there were more strangers than natives at teabreaks. It was  the final invasion that shook us most. Twelve magnificent ladies with strange headgear descended upon us and announced that they were the Sisters from the London, and that they would be in charge. With them they brought twelve ernest but undisciplined  young men -- the Medical Students -- who were to be fitted into our teams.

It was the final invasion that shook us most. Twelve magnificent ladies with strange headgear descended upon us and announced that they were the Sisters from the London, and that they would be in charge. With them they brought twelve earnest but undisciplined  young men -- the Medical Students -- who were to be fitted into our teams.

On Friday the first of September the whole hospital was "stood down" except for a skeleton staff, and we were told to report back instantly to our posts if war were declared. We all felt it would be our last weekend alive, and few of us had any idea of  what to do with it. On that sunny Sunday morning came the radio announcement, then the sirens wailed announcing the first air raid, and we were at war. My instructions were to report immediately to Barking E.M.S. Hospital Laboratory for Blood Transfusion and General Pathology.

The clinics were filled with sawdust and carpenters and strangers were drinking our tea. Jenner Ward was cleared of everything and then it was all put back again "in case it might be useful". There were bandages and traction weights and those awful Thomas  splints lining the walls and there were stacks of hot-water bottles and those round shock-cradles which fry patients so well. Sterile wound dressings were stacked against sand buckets and stirrup pumps for incendiary bombs. Shop assistants arrived as stretcher bearers and office boys arrived as "Admin.". A few priests hovered around, looking for something nearly dead to practise on. Some of us found a spare teapot. It was going to be a long, hard day.

But the first casualty was from a motorcycle crash with a kerb in the black-out. The rider was taking his girl-friend home and they weren't supposed to be out, and they pleaded with us to keep their secret. I am not absolutely sure  of the names and addresses on the casualty cards (I didn't write them) but I don't think they were right. They only had two bruises between them, anyway.

The first operation in the Pavilion was an appendicectomy on a man who was not in the least amused that he was operated on in a maternity hospital. We were left with the impression that he wanted it stitched back in again until he could go to a "proper"  hospital.

Then we were on the map, and we began to collect the hospital birds looking for any chance of a shot of morphia, and we learned the value of never leaving a cupboard or drawer unlocked. There were drunks and suicides and lead-swingers and cheats, and  no end of black-out accidents and people falling down stairs, and we found that there were only two kinds of policemen, those who drank endless tea and those who didn't. Anybody with a thirst dropped in at the hospital.

We all worked "A. R."  (=  As Required) and that meant a day or two without any sleep at all at times, then everything settled down to sleep in that period of the "phoney war".

All nurses had trouble with their stockings, and I was having trouble with the stockings of a certain Nurse Ratcliffe. The trouble was that she had six pairs, and I could find only five. I took all of them out of the pot of formalin and alcohol and counted  them -- ten -- and then she realised that she was wearing the missing pair. I stretched her stockings on the drying frame and gave them back to her a few minutes later, hardened and ladder-proofed by my own secret process. It was our proud boast that  no Barking Nurse ever laddered, and the service cost them nothing.

We had just reached the stage of accepted apologies and the air of the dull, grey Saturday afternoon was filled with the drone of aircraft. The Red Alert sounded, and the Night of Fire began. Everything shook and went on shaking, and burning legal documents  from fires in the City of London began to fall from the skies. Westward and nearby the red glow was white-hot, and the whole of Silvertown was ablaze. Still the planes came, and the whine of falling bombs became confused with the cries of the injured  as they filled the beds in Jenner Ward. Those with the smallest wounds made the most noise, and I began to dread the finding of the blank gaze and bored look of those about to die. The guns in Barking Park aimed at the incoming invaders and the shrapnel  from their shells brought in even more casualties. The drone went on. And on. And on. We forgot it. But the air was filled with the smell of cement dust, blood, faeces, vomit and even more cement dust. Every casualty admitted had first to be wiped clean  of dirt and dust. In practice sessions everybody was clean and sweet-smelling, but in reality they were indescribably wretched and horrible. Tags were tied round the living, tags were tied round the drugged, and more tags were tied on those not yet positively identified. It was important to keep the books straight. Someone brought tea, but it tasted of cement and blood. Transport was arranged for those fit for transfer, the dead were stacked in the local school which was to act as a mortuary, and the more  difficult fitted up with more plaster and splints.

And then it started all over again. And then we learned that we would never rest, for it started again and again as we were ready to stop. At dawn the sky was filled with smoke and Jenner Ward was piled high with discarded clothing and empty packs. Someone  started to clear it up and new stocks were found and Jenner Ward was made ready again, and all was still. A Sunday morning, and no bells rang.

No-one asked them, but they came. A few at first, then more, until a steady queue of volunteers kept me busy and wide-awake for most of the day bleeding the donors who had come to replace the vast amount of blood that we had used during the night. I found  that over and over again. These Barking people never had to be asked. When there was need for blood they were there, eager, determined, and bringing a friend as well. Right through the whole war Barking Blood Bank had enough to supply other hospitals  as well.

Night after night the bombers came back, and day after and day the blood -donors, who had been bombed all night, came back as well.  them it would have been a disaster.

Two particularly nasty bombs were the V.l and the V.2. The first was a ton of T.N.T. carried by a kind of automatic airplane which crashed at a chosen distance and exploded. The second was a faster-than-sound rocket that entered from the stratosphere  and exploded without audible warning.

One morning at six a V.l landed at the open end of the bank of boilers of Barking Power Station. It was change-over time, and two shifts were there. One by one the men were brought into Jenner Ward with all the hair and clothes burned from their bodies.  They were cheerful. Their wives were sent for and joined them at the bedsides. They were given as much as they wanted to drink and most chose bottles of Guinness, and we watched as, one by one, they collapsed and died. The air was filled with the smell  of roast pork. I have never eaten it since.

One of the casualties had been left until last because he said that his neck was broken. He came in later, strapped to a chair, and his neck was wrapped in Plaster of Paris and a hook-ring fitted to the top. Two months later he was returned to us from  another hospital, his neck healed, and instructions were to remove the plaster. We tried, but there was a problem. His beard, meanwhile, had grown into the plaster. It took two of us four hours to get him out.

One summer evening I was having a quiet drink with one of the students in a Barking pub when the wall came in. We both rushed out to find the site of the incident, and I jumped aboard a passing loaded Army ambulance heading for the hospital. There is  a door behind the driver giving access to the stretchers, and I went through to help where I could. On Jenner Ward we unloaded, and I was very busy for the next four hours with the casualties from the incident.

Then we began to clear up and re-stock. From the shadows came the A.T.S. driver of the ambulance I had boarded.

"Could I have some help, please? I've hurt my foot."
From the sole of her right foot we drew a piece of glass one inch by three inches, tapering to a point. She had driven that ambulance all night with that piece of glass embedded in the foot she used on the accelerator pedal.

Sportsmen, actors and Civil Servants get medals and O.B.E's .. I doubt if she did.

Medical staff came from many sources, and the range was wide. Some were G.P.'s from anywhere in Britain, some had been on the staff of provincial hospitals, and some were from Europe and had fled the horrors of political tyranny. These last were often  the hardest to work with, since their English could sometimes be inadequate. But the biggest problem was that they had suffered terribly, and we simply didn't understand. One poor woman, who could say more by waving her hands and arms about than she could  put into English words, was a particularly sad lady. Much of her time she spent silently weeping into a tiny handkerchief and turning away when approached. It took many months, but later we learned that she had watched her parents and her brother thrust  into a gas chamber and she had escaped with her husband and her son. The son had been accepted for training as a pilot/navigator, but on his third flight had been reported as "missing, presumed killed". She had come to us shortly after the son's death,  and within three months her husband had a fatal heart attack. She was then entirely alone, and in a foreign country facing an unknown future. She spent much of her time in the hospital silently sobbing and hiding away and I deeply regret that none of us did much to make her life worthwhile. We thought of her as a very wet blanket. But we were only later to believe the evidence of Mauthausen, Treblinka, Dachau and all the other places that she had tried to tell us about for months.

These Continental doctors came with their mid-European accents and mannerisms and their yearning for their homelands and we expected them to understand that the British stiff upper lip would solve all their problems.

Some of these doctors had actually seen warfare, and the Spanish Civil War veterans tried to advise us on schemes that would work or fail. We could pump blood more quickly into shocked patients with a CO 2 cylinder, as in Spain, they said, but we had visions of bursting bottles and wasted blood. One night a young girl was brought in after a bomb had ignited a gas main and she had been almost grilled alive. From an Italian doctor who was on the run from  a bad-tempered Mussolini came a solution that was unknown here, but outstanding.

Vultures and Carrion Crows are well-mannered birds, for they won't eat any part of you until you are dead. Then they plunge their scrawny necks into all alone, your cavities until bare bones, remain. But they won't eat you alive. They patiently wait.

Maggots are nicely-mannered as well, for they won't eat living flesh. They prefer their food to be dead and preferably putrefying.

Now, if you find a little girl who has been badly burned over a lot of her body there will be an awful lot of dead tissue lying around that the little girl will find it most painful to part with, so you have a problem.

But not if you are an Italian Refugee from Mussolini in a bad mood.

You wrap the little girl in an oil-soaked blanket which has been "sown" with maggots. Then you find a nurse to volunteer to stay with her, day and night, for a few weeks. Then you unwrap her, and a beautiful body emerges without a scar and the maggots  have eaten away all the rotten bits.

Sister Nason of Lister Ward was the one who stayed with the little girl, and when we both unwrapped her the stench was quite  the most repulsive that I have ever met. It took me days to wash it out of my hair.

Nobody gave Sister Nason a medal, either.

Somewhere, in the maternity wards, there should be a baby's cot, a rather special one. It is in memory of Dr. Mary Lough, who died from septicaemia acquired when treating a patient with Childbed Fever. It was before the days of anti-biotics, before the  days of M. and B. 693, when a streptococcal sepsis was a fairly certain killer.

Ross Ward has a desk pad in memory of a nurse who collapsed and died from a typical pneumonia, which came as a mini-epidemic soon after the war.

The Social Club has a record player in memory of Miss Hilda King, the one-and-only clerk that the hospital needed before the coming of the N.H.S ••

There were other "in-service" deaths, but not on hospital premises. Mr. Foy, a charming and admired Chief Dental Officer collapsed and died on Aldgate East Station one morning on the way to Central Clinic. He had been an anaesthetist during the war.

One of the twelve medical students who descended upon us so' suddenly in the phoney war was always popular and a tireless worker, but he was dying from leukaemia when they all left us to return to the London at the end of their six-month stay. Dr. Eager  from Australia and Mr. Stafford G. Meyer from the London both died from heart-failure in mid-life. Dr. A.W.A. Michie, our popular surgeon who performed miracles in the tiny Lister theatre and produced enchanting music on a tin whistle at staff concerts  went home to his practise in Great· Yarmouth and never came back. Another heart attack. The medical profession is not famed for its longevity.

There were lighter moments. It seemed to have been decided that Barking E.M.S. Hospital was too near the "front line" for comfort, and admissions for routine treatment were reduced to a minimum. Ross Ward was closed down and the space used as a reserve  store for beds, splints, dressings and the vast Bragg-Paul Resuscitator that had been donated by the Nuffield Charitable Trust to every hospital in the country after the epidemic of Anterior Poliomyelitis had swept the country pre-war. We soon packed  everything into the smaller half of the ward and turned the larger half into a kind of Staff Communal Recreation Hall. I don't know if we ever actually asked for permission to do so, but I don't know of anybody who would have refused if asked. The Resident  Engineer, Mr. Greville, built a stage and wired up lights. Someone found stage curtains. A radiogram provided any background music required, and a microphone was wired into the amplifier stage for further facilities. From nowhere came talent, for Barking  lacked nothing. We had nurses with wonderful voices, and by no means were they all Welsh. Shaw's "Pygmalion" was performed, and performed again and again every night for a fortnight to entertain patients, staff and friends. "The Importance of Being Ernest"  followed with equal success, and short plays and sketches written by the staff followed on a regular basis. The morale of the hospital was very high indeed, and even I got involved in the entertainments. Before disc-jockeys had ever been heard of I was producing monthly Record Concerts from requests, and building up quite a network of lenders of records to make it all possible. I like music, real music, very much indeed, although I can neither sing nor play, but I was rather humbled when I watched the  audience at many of my sessions. The Refugee doctors were all accomplished musicians and had clearly been brought up with the Classics, but often I would see them openly weeping when some of the beautiful music filled the ward. Perhaps they had known  the composers, or their families, or the music of Beethoven or Mozart took them back too forcibly to the lands they knew they would never see again -- I don't know. But music meant a great deal to them.

To the concerts I added exhibitions of craftwork by staff, and the walls were covered by beautiful embroidery and needlework. More hidden talent! I found a teacher of Handicrafts at a local school, and she formed a panel of judges to award the prizes  that the judges, themselves, provided. There were four such exhibitions, and the standard grew higher every time.

But the best of the Ross Days was at Christmas.

Christmas ends on Twelfth Night, so there was plenty of time for each ward to hold its own Christmas Party, as well as the traditional Nurses' and Domestics' Parties. New Year's Eve was always to have a Scottish theme, but on the other nights the sister  could choose the theme as she wished. The final party was always given by the Maternity Staff for some long-forgotten reason and the Christmas Tree was burned outside at the end. The rules were simple. Each Ward-sister could choose the night that she wished, and her staff would then acquire, by means legal or otherwise, everything necessary for a Ward Party which was open to all staff. Everybody. Each ward could choose a theme for their own -- Disneyland, Mountain Inn, Fingal's Cave, The Mine of the  Seven Dwarfs, Alice's Wonderland -- anything, but it was up to them to provide everything that they needed, and that included food and other delicacies. It meant that from about September the night and the theme would have been selected and the ward staff  were already getting friends, relatives and patients to provide a little extra "something" for the ward party. Some gifts were most surprising. A promise of a bottle of Scotch -- almost unobtainable -- a dozen eggs from a poultry-keeper; some old sheets  for back-cloth, some secret recipes known only to the family of the donor, and the result was that we all learned about the wonderful country that we lived in, with its pikelets, its laver bread, its figanny 'oben and all those ways in which rural families  have lives richer than the townsfolk. A hospital, by its nature, is always a very cosmopolitan and inter-racial community, and it would be no bad thing if all the M.P.'s and Wise Ones of our world spent a compulsory ten years working in our hospitals  before being allowed to open their mouths.

Some of those Christmas Parties were very moving, for we are all human and homesickness affected us all in one way or another. We were all a long way from home.

At the Domestic Party in 1943, when we were all feeling the strain of the restrictions and shortages of wartime life and the war-front news was anything but cheerful, a skinny and pallid lank-haired girl crept silently to the centre of the stage and the  lights were dimmed. We all knew the girl, or we didn't, for she was so shy and self-effacing and timid and weak that one had to make a conscious effort to know that she was there at all. She never spoke in more than a whisper, and she was always sniffing  and wiping her nose on a bit of dirty rag.

There she stood, in the centre of the stage, staring vaguely mid-left of the audience and began to sing. Over her spindly arm she carried an old raincoat and a cardboard gas-mask case. The pianist, an Austrian Refugee doctor, played very softly and matched  the timing of the clear but whispering voice perfectly. She sang the Negro Spiritual "Going Home", which you may know as a theme in Dvorak's "New World" Symphony. Her voice grew richer and she slowly turned to face the audience, seeming to be looking into everybody's eyes. There was no other sound but the piano and her voice, which was growing even richer. She ended her song, slowly turning and walking off-stage as she did so, and the silence was filled by heart-breaking sobs from many places in the  audience. The applause was deafening, but she wouldn't come back on stage "to take a bow". She was flooding with tears herself.

There were never a large number of Scottish people on the staff, but those who were there made their presence felt on each New Year's Eve. Whichever ward ran the party that night could be assured of some surprise gifts of shortbread and other items of  Scottish confectionary that came out of thin air. Scottish people are very generous. But perhaps the star attraction was the tireless Mr. Michie, perched on the back of a chair and playing endless reels for hour after hour on his tin whistle. Genuine  Scots, of course, led the way, but the large Irish community were not far behind, giving their own version of how reels should be danced. New Year's Night was a time of active exercise for everybody, and the hugging and the kissing that broke out at midnight made up for all the restrictions of the year.

Sometimes performers from outside the hospital would offer to give us a free concert sometime during the year, and we always made them welcome. Some were very good, very good indeed, and may well have gone on to well-earned recognition.

A group of three, dressed as strolling minstrels with an additional member, a pretty girl who was a talented singer, wandered among us one evening on Ross. With no apparent plan they would break out into song or music near a group or in a corner, then  drift away and catch the mood somewhere else. It soon became clear that they were cleverly sizing us up, and when they felt that they could identify the origins of the various groups among us they took advantage and played appropriate local music. (It  is true, when in large company, we tend to agglutinate together into groups of similar taste). The fiddler, dark and slim with clever fingers, played away at Irish Reels where he detected a group of Irish nurses, but the star of the night was the bluff, round-faced, smiling accordionist, for somehow he got the mood of everybody. In one of those quiet moments when nobody seemed to be talking he began to play, very softly, "Pedro the Fisherman". Feet began to tap and soon there were some singing as well,  and before anybody realised it he had almost the whole assembly singing along with him, no matter what he played. Then the fiddler and the piper joined him, and the girl singer too, and we simply wouldn't let them go. It was interesting to watch, for  I have never seen such an example of sheer professionalism by entertainers. I wonder who they were and where they are now?

By the time that the war was ending I had developed an intense loyalty and admiration for Barking Hospital, although conditions were hard and the work fairly exhausting. There was never an end to it. It went on and on. Rations were not really adequate  -- not for me, anyway, for I often had to miss a meal and there was no second chance. Nurses saved my life more than once with a sly slice of toast. I had begun to recognise the quality of the people I was working with, and learning that they were really rather exceptional people. We had shared bombs and fire, we had been demoralised by the rumour-mongers, we had wept silently when news came of a death or injury to a loved one in a raid on a faraway home, we had done our best to console each other in  times of trouble or despair and, most of all, we had built up a state of mutual trust and respect that could never fade. We were Barking Hospital. The Rest was bricks and mortar.

A great pile of wood and rubbish, almost as high as the ancient chestnut tree, stood near the hard tennis courts and awaited ignition. It was Mr. Michie who threw the torch, and soon we were standing around the V. E. Fire, for the war in Europe was, at  last, ended. Some of the refugee doctors were standing in the firelight hugging each other with tears streaming down their faces, but most of us were happy to find ourselves still alive. I know well that most of us did not expect to see peace, ever again.  Trying to deal with screaming or moaning casualties with exploding bombs and the sharp crack of gunfire all round, the silent prayer of most of us was "Make mine quick; no mutilation, PLEASE!" We felt so vulnerable, and with the V.l and V.2 missiles day  after day and night after night we knew that our luck would run out soon. Hospitals had been bombed to dust nearby and our colleagues lost forever. -There was really every reason to behave badly as if each day were the last, but I never once saw anything  but loyalty and dedication among my colleagues, and that includes the domestic staff and the caterers and the porters, as  well as the doctors and the nurses. It was a real privilege to work with them. I had been very lucky.

The fire eventually died down in the early hours of the morning and we began to say our goodbyes. Some had already resigned,  and were going immediately to their homes in the far North or down to the South-west or to proud Yorkshire. We all exchanged addresses, and I am still in contact with many of those who still live. Some have gone world-wide, to the U.S.A., the Antipodes, or back to mid-Europe. Most merely went home. Many, far too many, have since died.

EVENING.
Matron Hedgecock was in tears, and I felt like weeping with her. Trying to speak clearly, she kept on saying, "All my best nurses; they've gone. What am I going to  do now?"

Most doors were wide open in the Nurses' Home, the rooms evacuated and ready for cleaning. Dining tables in the Refectory were reduced to three, holding about eighteen nurses. Patients had long been discharged home.

Dr. C. Leonard Williams had been the Medical Officer of Health and Medical Superintendent, and began to set plans in motion. Eventually the National Health Service would take over everything, but meanwhile we would carry on as if the war had never happened.  But, of course, we would use anything that the war had taught us. Bit by bit we salvaged the clinics and the concrete sandbags came down and natural light streamed into the gloomy wartime wards. Shelters were demolished and the vast iron tanks of water for firefighting were drained, and I often wonder what happened to their resident water boatmen.

Dr. Williams was a unique man to work for. He did not drive, but expected you to drive yourself to the utmost of your ability. He tolerated fools very badly indeed, and pompous officialdom got very short treatment from him. Plain speech, well-chosen words  and a respect for etymology seemed to govern him. During the war he used to hold "court" during the late night and early hours, and he called it the "University of Barking". They were really brain-stretching exercises, and he chose his delegates by their performance. Some moved on, very rapidly, by their own desire. In some ways a very hard man to work for, but an excellent leader once he was understood.

With such a man we began to re-form the Public Health Service of Barking. In those days it was all, sensibly, under one control, the hospital, clinics, school medical services, maternity service, public health, immunisation, health visiting, T.B. visiting,  District Nursing, Welfare and District Midwifery. Any problems were resolved without delay within the Department. Everyone knew who was in charge of what. A pregnant mother, attending for a blood test, may casually complain that she had no coal delivered  after waiting a week. It would be there next morning, for a word to the right department and it was assured that no pregnant woman was ever in need, and someone would "get on" to the coal merchant and ask the reason for the delay.

New faces came, and some went again fairly quickly. Some came from the Services or from closed-down wartime Government departments, but there was an air of uncertainty about everything. Slowly normality evolved, but the danger and the tragedy of the war  was gone and it was hard to rekindle that feeling of common purpose.

The example of Barking was about to be destroyed. The Public Health Department was to go. There were to be no more Medical Officers of Health. Hospitals would not have Medical Superintendents, but lay Administrators instead. Hospitals would not be answerable to local Councillors or to the general public.

Groups were formed, usually of about four or five hospitals. Barking Hospital would join King George Vth, Jubilee Hospital (its original title) along with Chadwell Heath Isolation Hospital and Ilford Maternity Hospital. Dagenham Sanatorium (built as a Smallpox Hospital for West Ham Corporation) and Goodmayes (Mental) Hospital, also built for West Ham were to join the Group later. The Group was to be called the Ilford and Barking Hospital Management Committee. But it was nearly  otherwise. Another plan was to join Barking Hospital with Rush Green Hospital to Oldchurch Hospital, thereby nearly matching the Barking and Havering Health Authority territory. But it did not happen that way.

The I. and B. H.M.C. raised the status of K.G.V., renamed "King George Hospital" to that of headquarters, but this was a move generally followed, rewarding the voluntary hospitals for coming into the N.H.S  •• Many of the staff were promoted up one stage, but the staff of the municipal hospitals stayed where they were.

Later "Barking" was dropped, and it became the "Ilford and District H.M.C.", then the "Redbridge and Waltham "Forest H.M.C." and finally the" Redbridge H.M.C.". It may change yet again.

All kinds of rumours abounded, and it was once planned to turn Barking Hospital into a sanatorium, or a geriatric hospital, or a General Hospital, and then suddenly it became  a Maternity Hospital. And not before time. The pregnant were everywhere, and at one time mothers from as far away as Clayhall and Cranham and Rush Green were only too pleased to find a bed no further away than Barking Hospital. Plans were made for extension.

Much earlier, long before the war, plans were made by the Borough to raise funds for a General Hospital by means of an Annual Fete and Carnival. The site planned was in Loxford Lane, off South Park Drive, near where Hyleford School now stands. Money was  steadily coming in, but the war stopped activity for a time. When the war was over a National Health Service was planned and the planners promptly took over the Barking Hospital Fund. If anybody ever built that hospital it would be the N.H.S., so they  took the money. There was a bit of a protest but it didn't get very far.

The extension to Barking took the form of a Tower Block, called by some "Princetown Block" because of its ominous, grey colour. It was built in the middle of the space between the fever hospital and the pavilion, and experienced many air-conditioning  and drainage problems before settling down.

Garland's Drive was blocked by a prefabricated building intended to house a few mentally handicapped people before eventual release into the community, and the row of red-bricked cottages near the Pavilion were demolished to make way for a new Maternity  Unit. The cottages nearly fell down on their own.

Between Harvey and Ross Wards new buildings were erected for future geriatric patients and one entrance is festooned by what seem to be large, white pipes. The entrance also abuts well into the roadway.

Between the old Nurses' Home and the station is a structure housing the Hedgecock Nurse Training Unit, artistically built and looking like a cross between an entrance to a tropical plant house and a Swiss mountain inn. Margaret Hedgecock would definitely  not approve, for she was very conservative in her tastes.

The general pattern of Barking Hospital is now decidedly odd. A grey tower, a Swiss cottage, a pipework pagoda and a new maternity block somewhat reminiscent of a 1930's cinema. All a very far cry from the quiet and reassuring harmony of the lawns and the meadows and the waving poplar trees concealing the sturdy red-roofed wards in the pre-war days. One may wonder what Prince Charles would have to say if ever he had the misfortune to visit Barking Hospital!

But I can look back with pride. Fifty four years is a long time and many changes are inevitable, among them many for the better. It is to be hoped that you will never again see a child choke to death with diphtheria before there is time even for a tracheotomy  to be attempted; no more for you the sight of the limping walk of the victim of anterior poliomyelitis; never again a Rhesus baby, and possibly no more Rubella-induced mutilations to be hidden away among the unseen handicapped children. True, the flimsy  safety-net can break if it is taken too much for granted and not maintained in good order, and those who question the quarantine laws may have to think a little harder.

I recall the team and the team spirit, the loyalty and the dependability, those who did not see what there was no point in seeing and did not hear what was never  intended for their ears. In spite of the unflattering NO FRATERNISATION there were many romances that led to marriage, and those marriages have lasted extremely well. Too many may have been separated by death, but very few have ended in divorce.
But then, they always were a loyal lot!

NIGHTFALL.
The architect for the 1931 and 1936 buildings was the Borough Architect, Mr. Dawson, who also build Rush Green Hospital -- hence the similarity.

On the roof at the front of the Nurses' Home two mysterious birds gazed out eastwards, blazing brilliantly in gold in the first rays of dawn.
At a "University of Barking" session, when the style of Greek architecture was being thrown around I asked Dr. Williams the function of the two birds on the roof, suggesting that they were to guard the Aesculapian Temple of the University of Barking.

Dr. Williams was not amused.
""----" and "----"", he said, (naming them, the details are in my 1941 diary) "are there as protectors. If ever they fly away a plague and a pestilence will fall on Barking."
Well, Dr. Williams, I am sorry to report that they have flown.
H.I.V.?



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