Jack Hunter built ships on the Suffolk coast. Once war began, his local Red Cross detachment disbanded. So Jack found other ways of continuing his first aid training. When the London docks needed carpenters, his firm sent him. And when the docks needed a first aider, Jack was again on the job.
How did you become involved?
“I was sent out [to London docks] as a shipwright. A shipwright was a reserved occupation. Our ships were getting sunk faster than we could deal with ‘em.They sent us out to London. I met three other blokes up there. King George V Dock. Couldn’t walk away from [the job]. You were directed to go there.
An agent came up, said ‘Heard you’re shipwrights. Can you put that shed up there?’While we was doing that, one of my colleagues struck his hand on a nail. I took him in to the agent’s office. ‘Where’s your First Aid kit?’I took it down. ‘You don’t call this a bloody first aid kit, do you?! Iodine?
The agent said, ‘What do you know?’ I said, ‘I’m fully qualified.’ “
What did you do?
” So he says, ‘That big hut you built, do you think you could put a partition up? I want you to turn it into a first aid Room and give me a list of all your first aid equipments that will be needed to run that room.’
We found timber, built tables and chairs. We made three beds up. And I wrote out a whole list of things needed: Neil Robson stretcher, bags of triangular bandages, cotton wool, lint, bicarbonate of soda for burns, soap and hot water [to prevent dermatitis]. I also carried indigestion powder.”
Any special memories?
” We had a couple of bombs come down there. A Doodlebug come down into the Dock area. The men that were there jumped into the water, out of the way.
‘Hello Doc! Oh, could we dry our clothes off in here, mate?’
Then the Port Authority doctor come round and checked my room.
Listen to Jack’s interview
It is impossible to give exact figures of all of those who responded to the call of the Joint War Organisation. However the following gives some idea of how many were involved:
First aid kits were kept at all places of work during the war, just like they are today. Here are some of the things that you would have found in them: packets of cotton wool, sal volatile (smelling salts), eye drops, tourniquet, triangular bandages, and en electric torch. Find out more. Find out more about first aid kits.
The London docks were a particular target for air raids as they were a centre for industry and the place where food was brought into the city. Fire fighters in these areas had to deal with pepper fires, rum fires, paint fires, rubber fires, sugar fires, tea fires, and grain fires, as well as the burning buildings themselves. Find out more about the Bombing of UK cities.