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1939 - The QVM prepares

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The Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital had only opened on its current site in 1934, when it was opened by the Duchess of York, soon to become Queen after the abdication of 1936.

In response to the outbreak of war the building was made ‘as secure as possible against air-attack’ including the filling of sandbags to protect the exterior and making the black-out complete. Local people came together to help with the filling of sandbags.

Most of the Honorary Medical staff were called up at the outbreak of war and Mr W Donald Bedford FRCS was appointed Honorary Consulting Surgeon for the duration, whilst local GPs continued to serve the hospital.

Nursing Auxiliaries made their first appearance giving (according to the Annual Report) ‘Valuable Voluntary Assistance’. They were employed as the Civil Nursing Reserve.

In 1940 the sand bagging was replaced with concrete blast walls and Headmaster of St. Mary’s School, Mr Merritt, together with boys from the school cultivated land around the hospital to provide potatoes and vegetables for the patients.

The war years proved difficult for the QVM and its financial position worsened due to rising costs. Nevertheless in 1943 the hospital treated 730 cases.

In 1944 the Government published a White Paper on the future provision of health services and considerable concern was expressed by the Management Committee for the future of the hospital.

By 1946 and 1947 the hospital was in grave financial difficulties as subscriptions fell in the knowledge that it would soon be government funded - and by 1948 the QVM transferred from ‘voluntary’ control to the newly created National Health Service

If you are able to help with any information or photographs about Welwyn in the years 1939 - 1945, or know anyone who could, please contact us !


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