Margaret Ellis, 93, worked in a military field hospital a few miles south of Dieppe during the Battle of France. She spent three years at Bury General Hospital before being asked by her matron if she would consider joining the army, which was short of nurses in 1939.
‘I joined up with Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and we went to Northern France the year the war started,’ she said. ‘I was based in a field hospital with 1,200 beds and on night duty I had six tents with 20 beds in each tent. That took some coping with.
‘I’m not kidding, it was a nightmare,’ she said. ‘We were in fields and we had no meals – all we had was the fresh eggs laid by chickens in the field, and we would eat the raw eggs.’
After being evacuated back to Britain, Ms Ellis worked at a military hospital on the outskirts of London where German prisoners of war were also patients.
‘We didn’t treat them as prisoners. We accepted them as patients and as human beings,’ she said. ‘I’m not very big and I was very young in those days but I was quite strict and they called me Sister Spitfire.’
Mrs Ellis worked in the War Memorial and Wrexham Maelor Hospitals until her retirement more than 30 years ago. Ms Ellis is now a resident of the Gwern Alyn Care Home, part of the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham.
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