Helen OwenHelen Owen, 1930s

‘In 1939 children were evacuated from the cities. Arrangements were made for children from Hull to be billeted in Lincolnshire. The Staniland School at Boston was the reception centre, manned by the billeting officer, the WVS, the Council with a list of names, and me with my first aid box. At twelve a policeman arrived on bicycle to say there was a delay, owing to an overnight stop at a village hall, there was some trouble but they were now on their way. Around three o’clock they arrived, angry, tired, hysterical and lousy.

Many of the children had been ‘sewn up for the winter’ (rubbed with goose grease or whale oil, their flannel underwear sewn on until spring) and were hosts to infection, which they happily passed on! The first aid manual did not appear to cover this. It was decided to move everyone to the local casual wards, well equipped and used by the local police for vagrants.

Sadly, the infestation was so great that Derbak soap and hot water were of no use. It was decided to cut off the children’s hair, bandage their heads and apply chloroform. Before this could be done a doctor had to be found to accept responsibility. Dr. Snow, a very elderly retired GP agreed to sit in. He managed to re-assure the mothers that cutting them out of their clothes would not be fatal. We got on with the bandaging and killing the fleas that staggered out from under them.’

Source: Museum of the Order of St John

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