Veteran Stories:
Jean Holmes

Army

  • Badge of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

    Jean Holmes
  • Christmas card from Jean Holmes's Soldiers, December 1944.

    Jean Holmes
  • Jean Holmes, 1944.

    Jean Holmes
  • 16 Canadian General Hospital.

    Jean Holmes
  • 18 Canadian General Hospital, Germany, 1945.

    Jean Holmes
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"And we were terrified. We were just positive that it was Hitler’s secret weapon, so in our nightclothes and our pin curls, we tore up the road and into camp looking for help and protection. That was very exciting."

Transcript

I trained in Ottawa, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. I’d always wanted to be a nurse, I’m not sure why now. I couldn’t get into the service right away; I had to wait, so I worked general duty or private duty, both of them, until I got in, in February of 1944. And around Colchester [England], we were on the path of the buzz bombs on their way to London. And we were pretty scared. And then I remember one night so clearly, we were billeted in a cottage down from the camp because there wasn’t room in the camp. And there were six of us in our cottage. This night, there was a commotion out, we went out and one of the [barrage] balloons had escaped from London, was up in the air, nobody knew what it was and the lights were on it. And we were terrified. We were just positive that it was Hitler’s secret weapon, so in our nightclothes and our pin curls, we tore up the road and into camp looking for help and protection. That was very exciting.

The daily care of our soldiers, depends if you’re getting new ones in or not, but we worked very closely with all the health team, where the orderlies, the up-patients [patients who were not bedridden], when they put on their blues, they would call it. And the doctors and the nurses were all in the same team. And when we got new patients in, that was a very busy time.

They’d have - whether they’re seriously ill or whether they were up-patients or whatnot. So we would put them in appropriate beds or wards. If they were up, we’d get them some clothes to be up in and of course, the dressings were very important. At first, we didn’t have all the new things we have now, like penicillin and, and sulfa came in, so we were putting sulfa on all their dressings. And burn cases usually went to a different hospital because burn cases had to have special care.

If there was a warning, I would go around and a lot of the patients would be under their beds. That was the safest place for them. You know, that was kind of heartbreaking too, to see them all lying under their beds. Well of course, there were an awful lot of amputees. That was difficult for the patients. They had to learn how to get along before they would come home. I even had a patient who was only 17 and he’s in one of the pictures.

Some of them that had been married and had come over and they were due to come home, I can remember early in the morning, they’d come out to the desk and chat with me and say, they were terrified to come home because they were married but they couldn’t even remember what she looked like. They had married in haste and went overseas for maybe four years and they lost touch, emotionally and physically. But they were scared to come home.

However, they were always happy to be going home but they were scared with their amputees and the different things that had happened to them. You got to know them very personally. You got to be very good friends. I don’t recall ever having an ill feeling towards a patient. They would all like to have you come and sit by their side and talk about home and their wives and children. I think they looked to us as a favourite cousin. And they used to tell us all their stories. And I don’t know, it was just very personal.

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