Nancy Aird in Fredericton, New Brunswick, July 27th, 2010.Historica Canada
"It was hard for any of the boys to go home because back then, there was not the support there is today. But to go home with a disfiguration would be hard."
I worked in a hospital in Shoreham, Sussex, in England, general duty. Although it was a general hospital, we did have quite a lot of soldiers or servicemen as patients, dispatch riders who were in accidents. They were delightful because they were unconscious and you had to get all this uniform off. We loved the Americans because everything was zippered. And there were ack-ack [anti-aircraft] units stationed around us, so quite often, they’d have accidents and have to come in. And a lot of soldiers were in Sussex, because it was on the coast. In fact, one year, we received a bonus because we were considered working on the frontline, because we were so close to action.
There was a river close to where we were and they used the river to practice their landing crafts, which was quite a new thing. And they’d have calamities, to put it mildly. One time, we had two German airmen, prisoners. They were sent over to bomb; there was a boy’s school in quite an impressive building, away from us. Anyway, they were shot down and injured and so they were patients that we had to look after.
It was very interesting work. Then before I came to Canada, I was sent to a military hospital and I worked in the OR [operating room] there. There were 2,000 patients in Nissen huts and there was also a plastic surgery unit who did amazing work. Some of the boys for instance might have been caught in a tank that was burning. One boy had lost his eyebrows, his eyelashes and you know, it was quite a bit of scarring on his face. And the hard thing for these fellows that had injuries, you know, like that or lose a limb or something, as long as they were there, it was fine but to have to go home, you know, it would be very hard. I think it was hard for any of the boys to go home because back then, there was not the support there is today. But to go home with a disfiguration would be hard.
One boy in this plastic unit, he was in the Navy and his jaw was shot away and they reconstructed his jaw. It was amazing the work they did. And the plastic surgeon there at that time was a Canadian.