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43 Marjorie Ruddick joined the Civil Nursing Reserve when she was 23, two years into the War:

“I was 23 when required to register for active service, and was given several choices: the armed forces, the Land Army, munitions, and the Civil Nursing Reserve; after much thought I chose the last. An interview at the County Headquarters followed, and then on to an emergency hospital in Weymouth, where I spent two reasonably happy years. Happy, apart from being bombed out at the nurses’ home and hospital, losing all my possessions. We were housed in lodgings until they could get another house for us.

Yes, things were difficult, things like clothing coupons to get clothes together, but parents helped a lot you know. We coped, everyone had to in those war years, we all got together and got on with it we didn’t think too much about it really.

A few of the girls that I worked with were Red Cross nurses, and some had been trained in St Johns, so they were very useful, but others like myself, and we were quite a bunch, were completely untrained, and we just had two lectures when we arrived at the hospitaltwo weeks’ lectures when we arrived at the hospital and then we were thrust on to the wards, and that was an eye opener I can tell you.

We must have been an awful headache for our matron, who was very strict, very different to the matrons of today, and we just had a trained sister in charge.

It was quite a big hospital, an emergency hospital, commandeered fromI’m not sure what it was before, but after the War it became a maternity hospital. But the premises were good, and we were well looked after really, considering that, you know, we were on war rations, and we had a chef and special waiting girls to serve us, and our food was very good really. We had 2ozs of butter, 2 ozs of meat (which of course the hospital took from our ration books, and yes, it wasn’t too bad really.

And the soldiers that we had, it was mainly army personnel, just one or two naval came in but not many. The soldiers had come from all over, and it wasn’t only wounded soldiers, it was, I mean when you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of men, you get all sorts of complaints, operations, yes. I helped in the operating theatre for one stint, about four months at a time, and you had seven days’ leave, and came back and were put on to a different ward. The theatre was ever so (traumatic) it was a completely different way of life at first, but as I say we coped, we just got on and did what we were told.

We could see our parents by bus too. Oh, I should say that we had one pound and sixpence a week, and out of that we had to buy our stockings, shoes, and little white cuffs that we had, little frilly cuffs on the sleeves, and so we didn’t have a lot of money to spend, and we had to save to go home. I just can’t remember how much the fare was to Bournemouth. At the time I was seeing my future fianc, he lived in Salisbury, his parents, so I used to go and see them occasionally too. He became a Methodist minister; he went to London, so he was in the thick of it, and he went to a Mission Church, the Poplar and Bow Mission, and yes, I didn’t see Eric very often. But we corresponded by letter,
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didn’t use the phone much, only dire necessity, and of course ordinary homes didn’t have a phone in those days, and we had one, when we arrived in London later, but you see our parents didn’t, so it was difficult in that way.

After two years my fianc was sent to the East End of London, and we married, so again I had to experience a big change in my life, ‘cos we went straight into the very high explosive bombing, and then that eased off a little bit, and was followed by the doodlebugs, and then when that eased off, the RAF gradually got the length of these bombs, and they were able to bring a lot down over the coast, and then it became a little easier. And then the rockets started, you know worst of all, because you didn’t hear them coming, never heard a sound until it hit the ground and you, if you were on that particular plot of ground it was very, very trying.

I wasn’t still nursing in London, I helped generally at the Mission and we used to go into the shelters with coffee and help, whatever was needed you know. And I can remember very well on one occasion, there’d been a little row of shops, and I had been shopping that afternoon, went into the shelter as usual, came out when the all clear went, and I just couldn’t find my way round, it was completely you know, everything had gone. And that was most unnerving, you felt lost, and where am I, who am I? Yes, it was very difficult, that. But the East Enders were wonderful; I had difficulty coming from the seaside, being brought up in a seaside town, but they were always calling me ‘duck’, I hadn’t heard that expression, and they were so kind, they just got on with everything and they didn’t make a song and dance. But almost every house, you know, the rafters, they were all bare into people’s houses (tarpaulins to cover the roof). And the little children, well they justthey played as normal, but it was a terrible time. I think we should remember, because it’s so easy to forget, isn’t it?

I remember VE Day, I was expecting a baby by that time. My eldest son, he is in his 60th year now (he’s a Methodist minister too).

We had babies at home. Actually when Paul was born, we had moved to Basingstoke, so I was able to have the baby in my own home which I preferred, it was lovely. I had three babies in different places, and three marvellous midwives, oh they couldn’t have been better.

On actual VE Day I think we’d gone to Bournemouth to see my father really who was very ill at the time; I’d already lost my mother during the War and VE Day happened just as we were seeing my father, so that’s what I remember about that now.

Later we had time in Yorkshire, Basingstoke, Swindon, all different types of work. My husband was an industrial chaplain as well as being in normal church work, and hospital chaplaincy of course he had, he was a very outgoing man, yes.

When we came to Stratford he was a telephone Samaritan too; the base was at Coventry then, there wasn’t a branch in Stratford at the time. He died at 71, had a massive heart attack. We came to Stratford in ’67, so I know a lot of people.”
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