Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sisters In Arms

The Telegraph has an extract from the book, 'Sisters In Arms: British Nurses Tell Their Story' by Nicola Tyre, which is about military nurses who came under Japanese attack in the Far East during the Second World War. From Telegraph:
'The wards were quickly filled to overflowing as one after another of the hospitals were hit, till eventually No 20 (ours), Alexandra and BMH Johore were the only military hospitals functioning… We had many shell-shocked patients, who were, I think, the most pathetic of all. When the din had worked up to a crescendo of shells whining overhead, bombs bursting and our AA guns banging away, one found them in all sorts of odd corners and it was difficult to prevent them running out into the open…'

The fall of Singapore was just a matter of time, and on February 15 General Percival, the Commander-in-Chief Malaya, surrendered. Before he did so he ordered the evacuation, not just of thousands of civilians, but of military nurses too. The order to abandon patients was seen as unprecedented.

Sister Hartley at the Alexandra Hospital expressed the general consternation. 'We felt as though the bottom had fallen out of our little world. The hospital was full to overflowing - everybody was working at top speed - our poor boys lying all over the floor and they were coolly saying we must go. The faces of those boys watching us leave, were saying, "It's all up now".'

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