This book records the unique achievement of a group of mostly untrained young nurses who, under extremely difficult circumstances, provided health care at the Channel Island of Guernsey’s only hospital during the German occupation of 1940-45. An inspiring story of courage and fortitude and a very worthwhile piece of wartime history, compiled by two senior nursing educationalists from interviews with the nurses concerned.
Throughout almost all of World War II the Channel Islands were placed under military occupation by forces of the Third Reich (1940-1945). To all intents and purposes the islanders were left to their own devices and for five long dark years they were forced to make a life for themselves under the oppressive shadow of the swastika. As may be imagined, this period in the history of these islands produced many stories of personal suffering, courage and dogged resistance.
Among the islanders was a group of people, mainly young unqualified women, dedicated to nursing the sick and injured civilian population of Guernsey during its occupation. Theirs is a remarkable story of providing a health service without proper resources or any real training. Under the disciplined but humane leadership of three qualified matrons they turned the philosophy of ‘make do and mend’ into an art form. These young women, many then still in their teens and early twenties, were exposed to situations and long hours of duty that made huge demands on their resilience, stamina and dedication to duty.
Long before the days of ‘counselling’, their only support was from each other and they ‘just got on with it’. Naturally, under such circumstances of steadfast comradeship in the face of adversity, life-long friendships were forged.
This book became possible through the willingness of surviving nurses to share their youthful memories, which despite the passing of time remain clear and uncluttered, thus providing us with a rare opportunity to learn about nursing life in a small island hospital under wartime conditions.