Tag Archives: RAF Halton

DEAR MISS BULFORD – PART THREE

Parades made up a big part of life, while in training as a nursing assistant at RAF Halton.  Every few months, we would have the ‘Air Officer Commanding’ Parade and recruits and trainees like us were roped in to attend.

Everything was expected to be polished and ironed steamed and brushed. Any negative remarks from the parade commander about our appearance was NOT a good thing!! I was always on the end of a parade, due to my height as parades were organised by height smallest in the middle and fanning out to the tallest at the end.

The person on the right of the photograph, jaws clenched, anxiously awaiting the officers’ inspection is me.

The Air Officer Commander Parade –  May 1966 RAF Halton

RAF Halton a large camp included the Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital on its grounds. It catered to the big RAF population on the station and the local civilians. Many babies from the surrounding towns and villages were born at RAF Halton and during our training period,  we spent a few hours a week there to observe and learn.

Christmas 1966 was spent at RAF Halton[1] and what an enjoyable experience. The food, once again superb as you can see from the menu below.  One of our duties as trainees, the day before our Christmas dinner, we had to prepare all the vegetables for the meal. I and another girl prepared mounds of Brussel Sprouts all morning! We actually enjoyed ourselves.

 

The Christmas Menu  at RAF Halton, 1966

In January 1967  our course was over and our results posted. We had all passed!  I cried tears of relief because I never thought I would pass the exams.  We had our official photograph taken with our tutor, Sgt. Constantine in the centre.

I am in the front row on the left of Sgt. Constantine.

The Medical caduseus badges were issued which we proudly pinned to each side of our collars on our ‘Best Blue uniform and on our nurse’s uniforms.

My Medical Pins with The Kings’ Crown, on top.

Our Sgt. Constantine’s had King George VI crowns on his pin signalling he was an ‘old soldier’  At the end of the course, he gave them to me! I still have them. Made of brass, and once again, I had to polish well before photographing!

I started life in the Women’s Royal Air Force, as an ‘ACW’ (Aircraft Woman) however, after this nursing assistant course, I became an LACW (Leading Aircraft Woman) and in the future, I could take additional courses for further advancement. I ended my career as a SACW – Senior Aircraft Woman, nursing assistant.

We had a ‘going away party’ in the local pub with our Sgt. Constantine and the group.  Mrs C is sitting front left and I am on the right, with my hand on Sgt. C’s shoulder.

Now, we waited to be posted to another RAF station and start our careers as nursing assistants. Where we would be posted we did not know yet, so once again goodbyes were said and another wait for our next postings which came a few days later.

I was to be posted to the Medical Centre, at RAF Upavon near to the ancient monument Stonehenge in Wiltshire England.  RAF Upavon was built in 1912, It was a grass airfield, military flight training school, and administrative headquarters of the Royal Air Force. [2] and was where I met my future husband.

My RAF romance will be told in Part Four…

Dear Miss Bulford, basic training in the WRAF, can be read here: https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/

Dear Miss Bulford – Part Two can be read here: https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/22/dear-miss-bulford-part-two/

SOURCES

[1]  https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/3425/raf-hospital-halton

[2] https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=RAF+Upavon

A Brief History of RAF Halton

Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital Halton was opened in 1927 as a large military hospital and as an institute for pathology and tropical medicine Before that it was a temporary hospital set up for training nurses during the First World War.  In 1940, it became the first hospital to use penicillin on a large scale soon after its discovery and introduction into clinical medicine by Flemming, Florey and Chain.

In 1945, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain shared a Nobel Prize with Alexander Fleming Penicillin is one of the most important discoveries in medicine. When peace was declared in 1945, the hospital was kept as a training unit using the best facilities and medical specialists. It later became a specialist burns unit, employing the skills learnt to help victims who suffered during WW2 and the medical units grew alongside the main RAF base. 

The hospital closed in 1995 because the MOD (Ministry of Defence) wanted one centralised unit to train military nurses, making the Royal Hospital in Haslar, at Gosport in Hampshire, their main base and the RAF Halton site will be completely closed by 2022.

 

DEAR MISS BULFORD – PART TWO

DEAR MISS BULFORD –  PART TWO

With much excitement, my first posting after basic training was to  RAF Halton near Wendover, Buckinghamshire, the trade training school, called the ‘Medical Training Establishment’ where I would start my training as a Nursing Assistant.  I was now known as “J2844104 LAC Bulford” (Leading Aircraft Woman) and would answer a question put to me with the following,  ‘104 LAC Bulford, Ma’am”.  In 1966  when I was 20 years old, and other girls my age were enjoying ‘Swinging London’ and pop groups, I was marching, shining shoes and making bed with perfect ‘hospital’ corners.

RAF Halton Medical Training Establishment Crest

The camp I arrived at was enormous. In addition to the Medical Training Establishment (MTE) where I would do my training, RAF Halton also had on its property the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Hospital, the RAF Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine and the Dental Training Establishment, in addition, hundreds of apprentices or ‘boy’ entrants attending the No. 1 School of Technical Training learning to be aircraft technicians, electrical engineering and administration trades.

The handbook below has the crests for these various schools on the cover.  ‘Main Camp’ was where I signed in and then directed to ‘Hospital Camp’ and given an arrival information book (below) with a large map attached to find my way.

After a very long walk to my barracks,  I found the two-story red brick building named ‘Paine Barracks’.  My shared room was on the second floor and again, a long bright room with 14 beds seven on each side. The number of girls who intermittently arrived from all parts of England were all strangers to each other. They were pleasant and chatty, and, after introductions and a sizing up of one another, we started to exchange ideas about what the next stage of our life would be like.

Most of us seemed to be of the same idea;  we came from similar backgrounds after all.  We had left school at 15 years old and wanted to see life and get more education before settling down.   A Corporal arrived to show us the way to our mess hall on the main camp and we all set out for our tea.  Once more, I found the food to be very good, I suppose it does not say a lot about meals at home!   We still had to clean the large dormitory we all slept in, the bathrooms and our uniforms and shoes, but inspections were only once a month and not quite so stringent.

The following day started the next phase of my learning.   We were known as “Course 642, Medical Training Establishment”  We attended the classes every day, once again, marching to and from them.  Our tutor,  Sergeant Constantine,  (Sarge) and various other tutors were assigned different subjects but Sergeant Constantine was our main man.

Sarge taught us anatomy and physiology, first aid, infectious nursing surgical techniques removal of sutures, transfusions,  infusions vaccinations and general examinations. We learned about the body systems, body cells tissues then bones and the skull. Plus, types of wounds the composition of plasma and blood and platelets and the heart and other tutors taught us everything needed to take care of patients, such as care of their body, hair, teeth, intake of food and their general comfort.

With much hilarity, we practised giving each other first-aid, bed baths, and shampooing each others’ hair. Then fittingly,  ‘Last Offices’ were shown and practised. ‘Last Offices’ the laying out and preparation and treatment of the dead. I actually found this very interesting and enlightening, probably because my Granny whom I lived with for a few years had in a no-nonsense way had introduced me to death at a very early age. [2]

We went to the hospital wards a few times a week, to be bullied by the ‘Sisters’ – Princess Mary’s Nursing Sisters were Registered Nurses and officers  – but did they ever teach us well!

In England, in the RAF  all the Senior registered nurses were addressed as ‘Sister’. Not in a religious way, but as a formal address. In civilian hospitals, she would have been called  ‘Matron’ [1]

With our other tutors, we had to learn ‘Passive Defence’  the definition of which is ‘Any action which will reduce the effect of a nuclear biological or chemical attack’  We went into great detail about symptoms and proper treatments.  (Should we be so lucky to survive such attacks!) This was something I had never even thought about, but we still managed to fill whole exercise books of information and treatments and I found this quite scary.

One day, we were taken out to a huge field with bunkers which we were herded into. Once inside this bunker, we were told to take down a gas mask off the wall and put it on.  Sgt. Constantine then set alight a gas bomb. We were ordered to remove the gas mask hold our breath then  – Sgt. Constantine was with us –  walk in a circle three times, before exiting the door.  We did so, but not before some girls were shrieking with fear and crying to be let out! When we eventually stumbled out gasping some of the girls vomiting and with tears falling down our faces we were told this ‘exercise’ was to alert us to a gas attack. Very enlightening. These exercises, we were told, was because should such an event take place, the military would be called upon to assist civilians.

We were taught how to sterilise, prepare and layout numerous treatment trays and instruments everything in those days being metal. In a military hospital, we had reams of RAF forms to learn and ‘civilian’ forms too. Admissions were different for each. We had something called the duties of a ‘Crash Orderly’ Actions to be taken after a military of civilian plane crash, shown in my notebook, below.

I particularly like “Kettle is put on for tea” The panacea of British life!

Many studies for the general care of a patient were performed, and one day, in class, we had a ‘mock’ plane crash alarm in the woods although, at the time, we did not know it was a ‘mock’ It was very frightening and realistic.  Everything we did was recorded in our study books, which I still have. I rooted them out to write this story and I enjoyed reading and reminiscing.  Everything we did I now realise, was extremely thorough, which I will explore in part three.

NOTES

[1] The word “matron” is derived from the Latin for “mother”, via French.  The matron was once the most senior nurse in a hospital in the  United Kingdom before ca. 1972. She was responsible for all the nurses and domestic staff, overseeing all patient care, and the efficient running of the hospital. Matrons were almost invariably female—male nurses were not at all common, especially in senior positions. They were often seen as fearsome administrators but were respected by nurses and doctors alike.

The matron usually had a very distinctive uniform, with a dark blue dress (although often of a slightly different colour from those worn by her direct subordinates, the sisters) and an elaborate headdress.

More recently, the British Government announced the return of the matron to the NHS, (National Health Services) electing to call this new breed of nurses “modern matrons,” in response to various press complaints of dirty, ineffective hospitals with poorly disciplined staff.

Dear Miss Bulford – Part One Basic Training

https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/#like-6570

My Brothers’ Keeper – An Early Introduction To Death

https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/01/14/my-brothers-keeper/