The 2nd British General Hospital was a British Army hospital that was deployed to Europe in 1939 in anticipation of the upcoming battles for Europe. The Hospital set up at Dieppe on the 17th September 1939, but was moved to Offranville on the 17th October 1939 where it would remain until the May of the following year when it made a number of strategic withdrawals before being evacuated back to the United Kingdom. That period in the winter of 1939/1940 was relatively quiet however, and at Christmas the Field Hospital issued its own Christmas cards for the men and women of the hospital to purchase and send back home to loved ones. These cards were simply printed in black on white card, however the design was attractive and it is an example of one of these we are looking at today in the second of our three festive posts.
The front of the card features the badges of the different nursing units operating from the hospital, here we see left to right Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserves (QAIMNRS), Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMNS) and The Territorial Army Nursing Service (TANS):
Inside the card is a picture of the hospital with a pencilled in note saying it was at Offranville near Dieppe:
Three of the nursing sisters have signed this card, presumably so it could act as a souvenir rather than being sent back to the UK:
A general hospital was a large hospital away from the front line and Margret Ellis was one of the nurses deployed to No 2 General Hospital in 1939 and 1940:
I was sent to Offranville, where we were lodged at various houses in the village. As I was the youngest sister in the unit, I was given a room in matron’s house, which in more normal times was inhabited by the mayor.
My room was furnished with a canvas camp bed, canvas bucket, canvas washbasin on a tripod and a small square canvas bath. We became expert at keeping ourselves clean under difficult circumstances.
No.2 G Hospital had 1,200 beds and was housed in tents that each held 20 beds. The heating in each tent consisted of a small Beatrice oil stove. There was one blanket per bed. Initially, we nursed pneumonias and many common ailments, such as ‘pains in legs’.
Many of the reserves had been sent to France without careful selection in the first rush of troops. As the weather turned colder the troops succumbed to bronchitis and pneumonia. There were no antibiotics available in those days: we had to rely on M and B 693 together with kaolin poultices and inhalants. Not easy in tented wards during a very cold, severe winter.
Then there was the mud. And the snow. Coal-burning stoves replaced the little Beatrice oil stoves, but these were of little use in cold, draughty tents.
The situation changed daily. We did what we could for the men before sending them on their way. I treated a leg injury not knowing my patient’s next destination I used a whole roll of Elastoplast to support him. For this, one of the Regular Army sisters in our unit reported me to matron. She accused me of being ‘too kind’ to the soldier.
The medical officer who was the head of the hospital spoke to me about this along with matron. My reply was that when we passed our final SRN, it was routine to go to matron’s office to receive the new style of headdress and belt, to which our qualification entitled us. When I went for mine, matron remarked to me that, apart from professional knowledge, human kindness was of equal importance. The colonel saluted me and walked away.