Haslar Heritage Group

Haslar War Stories

Surgeon Lt Cdr H R Vickers served at Haslar from 1940 to late 1940 and wrote on Haslar prior to his leaving the hospital and the following are some extracts from his memory of events taken from an article published in RN Journal of Medicine.

Some years earlier in 1940 a Dutch Merchant ship was sunk in the Channel and the Captain and crew were rushed to Haslar and the Capitan’s wife arrived hugging her dog and never let go. In another incident HMS Worcester was bombed and strafed in the Channel and many of the crew injured and treated at Haslar including Worcester the ship’s cat and they were all evacuated up the line and never seen again.

On many occasions German aircrew rescued from downed planes were admitted and Surgeon Lt Cdr Vickers was the casualty notification officer and he informed the RAF at Ford and an intelligence officer would attend and Vickers would sit in on the interrogation and was amazed at how easily the German patients gave up their information.

Vickers picked up many jobs and this included Motor Transport Officer and responsible for the logistics of evacuating patients as quickly from the hospital in order to keep the patient numbers at the required manageable level. On top of this he was also a practicing Dermotologist having trained in Sheffield and joined as a Probationary Surgeon Sub Lieutenant RNVR in 1931.

In the midst of all his work and various roles at Haslar he was asked to assess a patient recently admitted only to find that he was suffering from Leprosy, which found hi writing a paper for publication in medical journals, on top of all other work he had.

In 1940 the first German air raids started and the warning sirens went with great regularity and the Surgeon Rear Admiral in charge, who was a severe diabetic and not always able to control his temper and he issued an order that all medical officers who were in the hospital would not be allowed out (of the hospital) after the siren had gone. At the time the warning was probably for a lone plane on reconnaissance. We called ourselves the ‘sunset boys’ and some incurred great displeasure from above by having a setting sun painted on the side of our tin hats.

Wartime entertainment for staff and patients at Haslar was adhoc with ENSA groups putting on shows having travelled down from London. Many of the staff played musical instruments and there was many a Tea Dance in Errol Hall when duties allowed. One of the Surgeons had been a professional pianist before the war and he was a great acquisition, as was another surgeon who played the piano accordion. Many a good New Year’s Eve party was held in the VAD’s quarters and well attended.

The war did not stop a good number of weddings in the Haslar Chapel (St Luke’s) one was only three days before D-Day and nearly all were medical staff marrying nurses. Mrs Bradbury always laid on a marvelous reception at the residence in the Terrace.
‘Job Done’

VAD Nurses Cape from WWII and 171service flashes sewn on the inside ranging from UK, US, Commonwealth and even German insignia.
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