Connie Robinson tended to the elderly during the Second World War. As the War put the younger generation’s courage in the spotlight, the witnesses of earlier wars entered their twilight years. Connie made sure life went on for them, showing interest in and care for yesterday’s heroes.
Any special memories?
“I got asked if I would go up to a geriatric hospital in Fareham. The patients were dears. You couldn’t fault them.
That’s how I learned to do an ulcerated leg. My mother had an ulcerated leg when she was elderly, and I was able to help with that and bandage it up for her.
The bedsores were very bad. Bedsore was where you were confined to a bed and the continuous pressure causes a sore, which has to be treated every day.”
How did you like it?
“I might very well have gone into nursing but for my experiences [at the geriatric hospital]. Not that I disliked it, but to me it was a bit sad to see people like that. There wasn’t an awful lot of joy at that time. “
Listen to Connie Robinson’s story
Did other volunteers work with the elderly?
“The Red Cross were given a room [for a health clinic] in the Guinness Trust, a big block of flats. The Hammersmith one was quite large. It was quite an effort to get round to all the people who needed it.
We used to meet there once a month and visit all the old people, or anybody that was sick, lonely. The average age was probably about 60; all on the poorer side of life and hadn’t got much money.
They were very pleased to see us.
The visits were, generally speaking, either [people] we thought needed a visit because of some injury; or people who couldn’t get down to us.”
What did you do?
“The visits were, generally speaking, either [people] we thought needed a visit because of some injury; or people who couldn’t get down to us.
We had one gentleman who was diabetic and he got gangrene in his toes and we had to persuade him to get the doctor in. He just would not. The nearest hospital then, in those days, was across the Broadway at the West London Hospital, and that was a bit of an ordeal for the elderly.”
Any special memories?
“Some of them that were able-bodied came down to the clinic to briefly have a chat.
During the First World War bombing raids on London by German airships, Zeppelins, although fairly frequent, were nowhere near as destructive as bombing raids in the Second World War . As well as this, rationing was not as strict or long lasting. Together, this meant that people who had lived through the Second World War as civilians would have been very aware of the different, and more far-reaching, effects of Second World War.
The British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance trained their members in first aid and home nursing, and other subjects like child care. The services the members then provided were vital during the war, as treatment by trained doctors was very expensive before the National Health Service was founded in 1948. Find out more about first aid and home nursing.
The Joint War Organisation ran all sorts of services concerned with the welfare of both civilians and servicemen. For example, during the Blitz they ran hostels for elderly people who had lost their homes in air raids, ran nurseries for children, and rest homes for Civil Defence workers. Find out more about the help they also gave to wounded members of the armed forces. Find out more about welfare work.