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Hospitals and First Aid Posts
Park Hospital, Davyhulme
In September 1939, the War Office took control of Park Hospital in Davyhulme (now called Trafford General), and converted it into the Fifth Western General Hospital. Service personnel from a number of different countries were treated there, including troops from the French Foreign Legion and German prisoners of war. In 1943 it became a U.S. Military Hospital and was staffed by American military doctors and nurses. It was said at the time to be one of the most modern and well equipped hospitals in the country.
And about once a month, we were taken in some sort of a small bus or …, I can’t remember really what it was, and we used to be taken to a hospital and I can’t remember where it is, I told you before. There was a lot of airmen in there, and some of them were American airmen that had been in crashes and they were, I think they were starting to do the reconstruction of their faces and a lot of them were blinded. So what we did was, we read letters to them that they received; it let the other nurses, the trained nurses could do other things, and if they wanted us to write, we’d write a letter for them to be posted, and that was what we did.
- Pauline Brierely, BBC People’s War website.
Professor Daniel Dougal, Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Manchester, was the Commanding Officer of the military hospital in September 1939: a post he was only able to maintain for a year.
Casualties from the parachute training school based at Ringway Airport were amongst the hospital’s patients.
A special ward at Davyhulme Military Hospital was practically devoted to Ringway casualties, and it was a familiar sight to see officers, both instructors and pupils, hobbling about the mess in plaster casts.
- Manchester Evening News, 5 June 1947
American servicemen vacated the hospital in July 1945, and it was formally derequisitioned in September of the same year.
On January 1 the maternity section of Davyhulme Hospital reopens, and mothers in Stretford, Urmston, Swinton and Pendlebury, Eccles, and Irlam will be able to have their babies there for the first time since the hospital was taken over by the War Office six years ago.
- Manchester Evening News, 17 December 1945
After Park Hospital was requisitioned by the War Office, there was a need within the local area for facilities to treat civilians. Abbotsfield, a large family home in Flixton, was converted for that purpose. It contained 50 beds for ‘serious surgical and medical cases’ as well as an operating theatre and X-ray department.
After the closure of the hospital, the building was taken over by Flixton Conservative Club, who still use the building today. A commemorative plaque on the side of the house recognises the work of the hospital during the war.
Sister Winifred Spencer
Trafford’s archive holds the collection of Winifred Spencer (née Connor), who worked as a nurse at Abbotsfield Hospital during the war. As we can see, she qualified at Park Hospital’s Training School for Nurses in 1936.
First Aid Posts
The 1938 Air Raid Precautions Act required local authorities to make plans to protect its civilians in the event of bombing. First aid posts were organised by Air Raid Precautions (ARP) committees to act as a first response in the event of an air raid. Information about the locations of these was given to local residents so that they would know where to go in an emergency.
Buildings with other purposes were often requisitioned to serve as first aid posts. Both Stanley House on the Avenue, in Urmston, and Flixton House were used at different points during the war, as was Seymour Park School in Stretford.
Kathleen Shell recounts her experience at a first aid post in Old Trafford during the Christmas Blitz of 1940:
As I was a volunteer nurse in the St John Ambulance I ran to the First Aid post through Seymour Park, incendiaries falling all around me. The noise of exploding bombs, chains of shells from our guns exploding in the sky, the terrifying screams of bombs falling made my dash to a shelter a journey of complete horror . . . Several doctors were already there as well as some qualified nurses. The stretcher bearers were already bringing in the wounded and those suffering from shock. . . . The long night eventually came to a close. We had been working hard and non stop without a break. One or two had been unable to face up to it and were found crouching under tables or curled up in a corner. Who could blame them? For about 12 hours we had lived through hell. And miraculously I had survived.
- Kathleen Shell, BBC People’s War website
BBC People’s War website. WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.
Michael Billington, The Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme (The History Press, 2018)
E.M. Hoare, Trafford General Hospital: A Brief History, (1998)
Manchester Evening News, 24 January 1940
Manchester Evening News, 27 June 1945
Manchester Evening News, 17 December 1945
Manchester Evening News, 5 June 1947
Manchester Guardian, 8 Aug 1945
The Manchester Guardian, 21 Dec 1945
The Manchester Guardian, 2 Aug 1946
The Manchester Guardian, 9 Oct 1946
‘Obituary: Daniel Dougal, M.D., F.R.C.O.G’, British Medical Journal, 19 June 1948
‘Park Hospital, Davyhulme [Trafford General Hospital]’ <https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/b489e047-e6b1-3992-aaa3-5e40e2147729?component=88fefee8-e2c2-3418-bc00-bc40757d4c48> [accessed 28 March 2020]
The Times, 15 June 1948