Miss Mildred BrettMildred Brett, 1930s

‘I can never thank St John enough for the start they gave me and if there had not been a war, my life would have been very different.

I started work at the George Hotel - I worked from 6.00am until 11.00pm. I was given one hour off during the day. I sat in a kitchen and in the evening the Mistress used to come down and say, “Here's some oranges. Peel them very thin.” When I was nearly 17, the Mistress came down into the kitchen. She said, “It’s time you did some war work.” 

A new world opened to me when I went making hospital beds, taking temperatures, changing drawer sheets and learning first aid. Unbeknown to me, the Superintendent told her sister, “I think I've found a born nurse. She only works at the George Hotel but I am going to do everything in my power to get her into nursing.” The first I heard about it was when a letter arrived for me to report to the Southampton hospital in the year 1941. The morning I arrived there had been some heavy bombing in the city, docks, and the railway station. I got into a taxi to get to the hospital. The driver asked, “Have you come to replace the nurses that were killed in the nurses' home last night?”

After a year in Southampton, I was transferred to Oxford. This was an Emergency Medical Services Hospital, meaning a block in a civilian hospital was taken over during the war by the military. We had a fair percentage of Italian prisoners and I nursed six German pilots. These were the happiest years of my 42 years nursing, especially for the comradeship. I shall be ever grateful to my St John Superintendent who saw in me the nurse I did not know about.’

Source: Museum of the Order of St John

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