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Caring on the Home Front - Volunteer memories from World War Two

Stories » Welfare work » Kathleen Thomas

Kathleen Thomas

Remained on duty

kath1Kathleen Thomas of Liverpool spent nights on duty, at a first aid post and in a casualty ward. With the city menaced by bombs, she sacrificed her safety to provide comfort and a brave face. Even when neighbours arrived, reporting of great loss, Kathleen pushed aside her own fears to remain on duty.

What did you do ?

“Mill Road Hospital was where I trained, but it was very, very badly bombed. A sister was killed. And a doctor was killed. And ever so many people were injured and hurt. That was when I went to Broadgreen.
After work [in a wholesale chemist] if the air raid warning went, I reported to Broadgreen Hospital for [first aid casualty] duty. I’d done many, many nights where I didn’t do anything.”

Any special memories?

kath2“The night of the [May 1941] Blitz, they had to wake me up. I was fast asleep! Cause they were just dropping the bombs all round us.
No windows in anywhere. And the fires were terrible. It was terrifying. It really was. There was no water, no electrics, no telephone. The streets were simply just covered with debris. Holes where there’d been houses. The ambulances had an awful job getting to the casualties. I can only describe it as the worst night of my life.

kath3The bombs dropped actually on Withnell Close. I mean, where I lived.
House next door but one, the little boy was killed, the little girl was badly injured. And there was hardly…well, there wasn’t a house left. We were admitting patients into Broad Green Hospital knowing perfectly well what was happening outside. They’d also bombed the air raid shelter which was underground. And I’d left my mother and my grandmother in the air raid shelter.

You subconsciously knew…that they were…
But you just admitted patients and didn’t really register who they were. You were there to do the job and you just got on with it.

kath4Going from the hospital, seven o’clock in the morning, all I could think of was I must get home and find out whether my mother and grandmother were alright. I only had mother. Father was killed in the First World War. She was very worried of course every time I went out during the war.

I met my auntie and she said that they were with a neighbour. When it [had become] so bad, he went up and took Grandma and Mum down. He’d taken them to a shelter deep under his house.

kath5During the War a great sense of comradeship was evident; we all lost loved ones, at home or in the armed forces. In general you felt that if a bomb had your ‘name on it’, there was nothing you could do about it, so we just carried on and did our best to help each other, and thanked God for each day.”


First aid posts were intended to treat people slightly wounded as a result of air raids. They were usually set up in adapted buildings or in Casualty Receiving Hospitals. Each first aid post had three sections: one for receiving and sorting casualties, a second for giving treatment and a third where patients could rest before being sent home or to hospital. Find out more about first aid posts.


During the Blitz, it was vital for volunteers to remain calm under pressure and to be able to comfort people who may have lost loved ones or their homes in bombing raids. This was also the case for welfare workers, who were chosen on the basis of their character rather than their qualifications. Find out more about welfare work.


After the Nazi’s had defeated Poland in September 1939, it was expected they would move quickly on to Western Europe. In fact, several months passed with little happening. This gave Britain the chance to prepare for possible bombing, for example by putting up barrage balloons to force German planes to fly higher. By April 1940 some people thought the war might never happen – something that was proved wrong in the face of the horrors of the Blitz after May 1940. Find out more about the bombing of UK cities.