Thursday, December 11, 2008
The first Hayes Cottage Hospital Occupation started Tuesday 25th October 1983 and lasted until Christmas when the hospital Occupation secured a victory and closure plans were dropped,
And the branches new UNISON banner with Nye Bevan in 2007
When it was all over and the station was almost quiet again, the oldest porter to be found was asked if he had ever seen anything like this. "No", he said, "I saw nothing like it even at the end of the last war" Replying to speeches of welcome to the returning Brigadiers, Sam Wild, Commander of the British Battalion said:
"We intend to keep the promise we made to the Spanish people before we left — that we would only change our front and continue to fight in Britain for the assistance of
From the Daily Worker,
At last the train steamed into Victoria Station;, and from its windows there waved the flags of fifty-two nations. Even before it stopped, mothers and sons, wives and husbands were re-united.
As they left the train, headed by Battalion Commander Sam Wild, Political Commissar Bob Cooney and Quartermaster "Hookey" Walker, they were welcomed by Mr Attlee, leader of the Labour Party. With him were Will Lawther of the Miners Federation, Mr William Gallacher, M.P., of the Communist Party, Mr J. R. Squance, Railmen's Union Leader, Sir Norman Angell, Lord Strabolgi, Sir Stafford Cripps and Tom Mann."
Led proudly by their wounded comrades, the men marched into
These men have made history, by forming part of the greatest international democratic army the world has ever known. They have inspired the world by their example.
Something of this seemed to enter into everyone who was at
Sam Wild commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigade, was quoted as saying:
"The British Battalion is prepared to carry on the work begun here to see to it that our 500 comrades who sleep for ever beneath Spanish soil shall serve as an example to the entire British people in the struggle against fascism.
Those who were killed included member of the nursing and ambulance volunteers sent by the Spanish Medical Aid Committee (SMAC) established 1st August 1936.
The following SMAC personnel died in Spain.
Percy Batson: Ambulance Driver - Feb 1938
Julian Bell: Ambulance Driver July 1937
Anthony Carritt: Ambulance Driver July 1937
George de Groode: Ambulance Driver July 1937
George Green: Ambulance Driver/Orderly Sept 1938
Vincent Hunt: Ambulance Driver July 1937
Emmanuel Julius: Hospital Stores Oct 1936
Issie Kupchik: Ambulance Driver June 1937
Ruth Ormesby: Nurse April 1938
E. Petrie: Ambulance Driver July 1937
Randall Sollenberger: Doctor July 1937
Halcrow Verstage: Ambulance Driver 1937
Below video of
Maxine Peake reading the "Farewell to the International Brigade " given originally by Dolores Ibarruri in 1938.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Within weeks of the campaign starting in 1988, right winger John Moore, The Conservative Secretary of State for Health was on the ropes, overwhelmed by locally organised guerrilla strike action by nurses from across the UK. Thatcher paniced and he was sacked in July to be replaced by Ken Clarke.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
The London Blitz 1940
The role of the Communist Party in the campaign for Air Raid Precautions (ARP).
The Communist Parties expertise and leading role in campaigning for adequate Air Raid Precautions (ARP) during the Second World War, undoubtedly saved the lives of thousand's of British civilians, yet little has ever been written about their fight to protect civilian lives.
LESSONS FROM SPAIN:
The Communist Party was able to play a vital role in Air Raid Precautions (ARP) campaign during the Second World War, primarily because of the experience it's members had gained first hand while fighting or nursing during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938) in the famous International Brigade.
It was in Spain the fascist had homed and perfected their skills in using air attacks (blitzkrieg) to terrorise the civilian population, most famously on the 26th April 1936, when German and Italian planes bombed the beautiful Basque City of Gurnica, destroying the historic city. Heavy bombings of Madrid and Barcelona followed soon after.
The Mayor of Barcelona warned in the Daily Worker on February 24th, 1938. that
"Instead of the small gas and incendiary bombs, for which officials are trying to prepare the British public, the real danger in Barcelona, just as it would be here, came from large high explosive bombs.
The only way to provide anything like adequate protection was to build enough underground shelters to house the majority of the population. These must be deep and soundly built; cellars under houses were no use at all."
THE LONDON BLITZ
Up until August 1940, the German Luftwaffe had concentrated their attacks upon attempts to destroy British air defences and as a consequence the relatively few bombs that fell on London were of the 250 pounds type.
However, by the end of August the failure of the German airforce to secure a decisive knock out lead them to seek alternative military targets and accordingly turn their attention to attacks upon Britain's wartime manufacturing industries, much of which was based in cities and in close proximity to densely populated residential areas.
On the night 7th September 1940 the first large scale attack against London was launched, some 364 bombers, escorted by 515 fighters attacked the Capital.
London's defences were ill prepared for such a heavy attack and as a result large areas of the Capital were destroyed.
Particularly hard hit areas of London were the areas of Stepney, Poplar, West Ham in the East End and Bermondsey, Deptford in South East London
On the first night of what became known as the "Blitz" over 2,000 Londoner's were killed or injured in the Capital (436 killed and 1,666 injured) this compared to 250 personell killed in the armed forces for the whole of September 1940)
According to Phil Piratin (future Communist Member of Parliament for Stepney)
"That night the East End burned, the dockside was ablaze...........
it lit up a great part of East and South East London....... It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire."
Ernie Pyle a famous news reporter stated,
"They came just after dark, and somehow you could sense from the quick, bitter firing of the guns that there was to be no monkey business this night".
Daily Worker journalist Fred Pateman writing in the 9th September 1940 edition of the Daily Worker stated
“Yesterday, I walked through the valley of the shadow of death –the little streets of London’s East End.....Along the main roads is a steady stream of refugees – men with suitcases, women, with bundles, children with their pillows and their own cot covers – homeless in the heart of London”
A young reporter on the Evening Standard, Michael Foot (later Labour Party leader) wrote on Friday 13th September 1940 that...
"The story of the East End of London is a terrible, tremendous story, a story of anger, hate, love,-defiance; a story of whole streets where you can see women's eyes red with tears, but women's, hearts overflowing with kindness towards their neighbours" .........
"A woman sits on, a rickety chair in the middle of a shattered row of dolls', houses, her family about her. She waves her hand at the pile of ruin which was once her own home and her neighbours'. " We don't care about all this stuff," she says, " our only feeling is for the lives of our folk." "How do you like this sort of life ? " says a passer-by. "Well," she replies, "it's nice and airy." She ties up in a paper bundle the last remnant of her possessions in this world. She hoists her child into her arms".
"She is off in search of shelter for the night. She is the mother who in " The Grapes of Wrath " stood up at the end after suffering afflictions beyond those of Job and boasted, "You can't lick the people." ........
"That is why the defection of France can never be repeated here. French courage rested on the Maginot Line, when it was overturned, the rulers failed the masses. British courage rests on no system of defence, not even on the sea, it is rooted in the hearts of the people. Our rulers dare not fail us. Out of the colossal defeat of Flanders we plucked the glorious victory of Dunkirk. Today, out of the raging hell of the Dunkirk of Dockland, rises the prideful shout of the ordinary Briton: " You can't lick the people !" (end)
The fires caused by the bombing raged out of control for weeks and merely acted as a beacons for further waves of German bombers.
London suffered according to the London County Council a further seventy six coconsecutive nights of enemy bombings.
The RAF retaliated at the bombing of London by bombing Berlin, Hitler infuriated ordered his Luftwaffe to "if they think that they can destroy our cities.......then we shall wipe theirs from the face of the earth...." and orders were given to air crews to bomb at "random" and thereby the German airforce gave up any pretence of attempting avoid civilian areas.
By mid November 1940, it was reported that some four out of every ten houses in the London Borough of Stepney had been destroyed or damaged.
Anderson shelters were named after Sir John Anderson who stated in the House of Commons in 1938 "I do not think we are prepared to adapt our whole civilisation, so as to compel a large proportion of our people to live and maintain the productive capacity in a troglodyte existence deep underground" and on 12th June 1940 "I am devoutly thankful that we did not adopt a general policy of providing deep and strongly protected shelters".
How Londoner's paid for such stupidity, as Londoners were according to Ted Bramley "uprooted, blasted from their homes, scattered over the face of Britain"
The few deeper shelters which were situated mainly underneath large warehouses and privately owned and open to the public, once deserted were now full to overflowing, poorly lit, wet, and unsanitary. People lined up from 12 in Stepney to enter the Tilbury shelter, originally planned for 1,600 now holding 10,000. Meanwhile, Godfrey Phillips shelter in the City, a shelter for 3,000 was locked everynight at 5.30pm. Ted Bramley estimated another 200,000 safe shelter places were available in the City, but locked at night.
East Enders joked in the early days of the Blitz on how when caught out during a raid they had learnt to "hug the walls".
Many other Londoners were forced to travel “trek” from East London to North London, West London or South London and even the Kent countryside (Chislehurst Caves in the side of the North Downs), or coaches taking people out into the countryside to sleep by the roadside at 2s 6d.
Communist Party who had campaigned for effective Air Raid Precautions before the War, now sought to secure effective and immediate protection for the civilian population.
The Government had failed seriously to listen to the Communist Parties advice about the need for a comprehensive and universal air raid precautions, preferring to leave it to individual councils, employers or individuals to do the best they could.
Ted Bramley states "The real reason is to be found in their callous refusal to provide for the people and their cynical disregard for the suffering and lives of working people. they value the lives of the workers cheaply. There are 800,000 unemployed - Left on the scrap heap. So long as their own families, their own privilefes and profits are secure they dont care".
One look at Winston Churchill lunch and evening meal menu, shows that he for one was not ready to make some sacrificies.
Meanwhile, the rich had already secured access to their own private shelters, and their was non more famous and elaborately decorated than the shelter beneath the Savoy Hotel, which even boasted of their own nurses on standby. The Sunday Express revealed that fourteen Ladies and Twenty Three lords were living at the Dorchester Hotel, sharing luxurious bombproof shelter among them Lord Halifax (who as Foreign Secretary had followed a line of appeasement with Hitler) and other Tory Government Ministers.
During the early days of the Blitz the Government controlled media tried to show that life in London was carrying on as normal, and there was much coverage in the press of people going to parties, dining out and clubbing in the West End.
This sham, was at great odds with the experience of the people in the Working Class areas of London, who were now being systematically bombed into oblivion.
To highlight the plight of the people of Stepney, the Stepney Communist councillor Phil Piratin took on Saturday 14th September 1940, some fifetyworkers, including a group of what Time magazine called “ill-clad children" from Stepney and burst into the Savoy Hotel.
Within minutes and with the help of sympathetic waiters the group had invaded and occupied the Savoy Hotel shelter, stating “ if it was good enough for the rich it was good enough for the Stepney workers and their families”.
During the confusion an air raid alert, (all to helpfully), was sounded, and the Savoy Hotel manager realising that that could not be seen to send the "invaders"out into danger was forced to allow them to remain until the "all clear" siren was sounded.
The group soon settled down and after an element of negotiations the catering staff agreed to provide silver trays laden with pots of tea, bread and butter and for the children.
The next day the press was full of stories about the audacious occupation of the Savoy Hotel shelter and the terrible conditions of the shelters in Stepney. The Communist Party had succeeded in its objective. At St Pancras The Party organised a picket of Carreras, the tobacco factory, demanding its shelter - capable of holding 3,000- be opened to the public at night.
The Party had previously organsed an occupation by 200 people from the East End of the Mayfair Hotel shelter on the night of Thursday 12th September, but this seems not have secured much press coverage.
In Walthamstow Councillor Bob Smith went with some homeless "bombed out" families and occupied empty houses, and similar actions took place in Chiswick (Heathfield Court) and Kensington
Meanwhile, The Communist party who had long demanded that the London’s underground stations be made available for shelter.
However, the reality was that at the beginning of the Blitz, the doors to the Underground stations were systematically locked by the Police during air raids, in order to stop civilians seeking refuge in them. The authorities fearing that once down in the relative safety of the underground network, Londoners may not not return to the surface to carry out vital war work "Deep shelter mentality" or that children would fall onto the track.
Finally, one night (some state 8th September) at Liverpool Street underground station, with the East End shelters overcrowding due to intense bombing huge crowds of East Enders forced entry and surged down into onto the platforms.
Warren, Goodge Street and Highgate underground stations were "broken open" and according to Ted Bramley "every inch of stairs, corridors and platforms taken by the people. Working men, women and children of al types and trades, from all parts of london, including soldiers and their families, were and are united in their resolve to share the Tubes".
Meanwhile, at other underground stations crowds organised by the Communist Party swept past police guarding the stations and used crowbars to force open the underground station network to thousands of Londoners who sought refugee from the bombings.
Finally, Herbert Morrison the Labour Home Secretary in the War time coalition (and who loathed the Communist Party and its campaigns) was forced to reconsider the issue of the underground being used for shelters and finally allow civilians to use the underground for shelter.
By the end of September 1940 it was estimated that 79 underground stations catering for 177,000 people were being used for shelter at night. However the authorities had tried various attempts to limit people using the tubes for shelter, no shelter before 4pm then 7pm, then no able bodied men, then ticket only. In Stepney a wealthy military man, Captain Beaumont was appointed advisor to to the Town Claerk (another "Dictator" according the local Communist party) usurping the role of the local councillors accountable to a Regional Commissioner (Tory) Captain Euan Wallace and his boss was London Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence ( The new Shelter "Dictator") a retired Admiral Edward Evans of the Broke. The Communist Party claimed they knew nothing of working peoples lives in the East End and were not accountable.
The Communist Party soon established effective shelter committees (initially Stepney) in order to secure proper conditions such as provisions for feeding and amenities from the authorities. These Shelter committees soon spread across London. The Communist Party even organised the first entertainment in the underground shelters, through the auspicious of the "Unity Theatre" Group.
The Communist Parties main slogan during this period was to "stand firm and demand bomb proof shelters”, they also demanded that private shelters be made available to the general public, that empty flats and houses be commandeered for the homeless who should be entitled to compensensation for lost furniture and clothing.
The Party also did vital work with evacuated families and children from London, to towns and villages outside London to areas such as rural Berkshire and Northamptonshire. campaigning for decent accommodation, rations, and schooling for the evacuees.
Undoubtedly, during this period of the War it was the East End and it's women in particular who were on the front line. It was East End women who were forced to search for shelter for their families, try to salvage possessions from bombed out houses, it was the women upon whom the burden fell to find enough food for their families, despite rationing and a 25% rise in the cost of living. All this while trying to organise childcare so that they could carry out vital war work.
"No one who witnessed it will ever forget the courage of the mothers of London's East End during those terrible days and nights of the second week of September. Their houses were not palaces, their belongings few, but they spelt home to them, Their world came crashing round their ears on those awful nights, but with grim faces red with crying but alive with righteous anger they marched on - solders all" said War illustrated.
At its peak 1,500 fires raged across London during the Blitz. During the War over 20,000 Londoner's were killed including 327 firemen and women, as well as numerous Anti Aircraft personnel, nurses, police, rescue, salvage specialists, bomb disposal staff
In just two nights in April 1941 148,000 London homes were damaged by German bombs. By the end of the war increadiablly only one house out of ten had not recievied some kind of bomb damage.
The London County Council emergency services, alone employed 50,000 people, providing vital services such as fire, ambulance, salvage, hospital, canteens, nurseries and orphanages. The LCC ambulance personnel for example had gone from a pre war figure of 420 t0 8,500. At Bethnal Green Museum Restaurant 1,000 hot meals a day were being organised.
The German (and Italian) bombers continued to bomb London for the rest of the War, however the continued relentlessly bombing started on 7th September 1940 and continued daily until 2nd November and lasted until 11th May 1941 (the official end of the Blitz).
Anti Aircraft defences (ack Ack) were also improving throughout the month of September, on September 29th accounting for six out of ten downed German aircraft in the South East of England. This success rate also made them targets, such as the AA unit at Borough maned by the local Labour Party which was wiped out by a direct hit.
The Home Guard was established in 1940 and was again the brain child of a Communist Party member Tom Wintringham, who had fought with the International Brigade in Spain.
DISASTER AT BETHNAL GREEN
On a wet evening Wednesday March 3, 1943 The East End was once again under attack (retaliation for the RAF bombing Berlin), a crowd of over one thousand people surged into Bethnal Green underground station, a women with a young child tripped on slippy steps deep within the system and those behind fell ontop of her, piling up behind her, as yet more rushed in to avoid the bombing.Despite the best efforts of rescuers, 173 people: 27 men, 84 women and 62 children died in the tragedy.
WEST HAM DISASTER
In the worst single incident in the Blitz 450 were killed when a bomb hit an air raid shelter at a school in West Ham.
PRE WAR CAMPAIGN FOR ARP
The well respected Communist scientist Prof "Jack" J.B.S. Haldane headed the Communist Parties campaign for effective Air Raid Precautions. Crucially, Prof Haldane was keen to move away from the initial poistion of simply condeming the authorities into provided practical advice and suggestions.
Accordingly, the Communist Party had organised a ARP Co-ordinating Group. This committee included architects, engineers and scientists and was established and chaired by Prof Haldane.
Despite producing vital information on the effects of bombing and the need for adequate safety precautions, few local authorities took on board their reccomendations until the first bombs fell. The Labour Party paranoia with regard to the Communist Party even lead them to proscribed Prof Haldane's organisation in 1938 because of it's links to the Communist Party. Prof Haldane's 1938 recommendations included building a system of tunnels in London to provide shelter. A project not begun until the first bombs fell on the Capital.
However, the Party was active locally on ARP matters as early as July 1938, Sheffield had produced a detailed pamphlet, and preliminary memorandums had been produced in Hull, Leeds and St Pancras. ByJuly 1939 Norwich Communist Party had produced a four page leaflet outlining the party’s position regarding ARP and what steps Norwich City council should take take to protect the civilian population.
The Norwich leaflet headed air raid precautions, the leaflet announced in bold type the communist party demands adequate protection for the workers of Norwich,
The Norwich Party demanded
Bomb proof shelters for all
Effective gas masks for all
plans for evacuation (of children)
The Party also helped establish many local ARP groups across the country, including women’s ARP committees such as those in Liverpool, Portsmouth, and St Pancras by July 1939.
In ARP Act Now by the Communist Party printed first in May 1938 and which sold over 50,000 copies the Party called for
1. Bomb-proof shelters for all
2. Democratic control of all Air Raid Protection schemes
3. Adequate Government grants to local authorities
4. Make the rich pay
The Communist Party estimated in the booklet the cost of various form of protection
Bomb proof shelters £14 per head
Evacuation (new accomidation) £30 per head
Evacuation (existing accomidation) nil
they estimated that some 45,000,000 would need increased protection at a total cost of £596,000,000
Communist Party ARP Demands 1938
1. A Ministry of Civilian Defence to be formed.
2. Air Raid Precautions personnel to be appointed democratically, including evacuation wardens where needed.
3. Landlords to provide materials for covering lights with Government assistance. Showing of lights to be made a crime.
4. Gas protection for babies to be provided at earliest moment: and pending this, immediate evacuation of children-in-arms with their mothers.
5. Civilians to receive instructions in use of respirators (" gas-masks ") in tear-gas chambers. Reserves of gas-masks (respirators) to be formed to meet loss or damage.
6. An expert committee to investigate existing respirators.
7. Steel helmets for wardens, and allowances during period when they are training their neighbours.
8. Increase in fire brigades and rescue squads. Landlords to provide fire-fighting apparatus in houses.
9. Trenches to be dug in open spaces, as a temporary measure.
10. Compulsory powers of billeting in steel-frame buildings in crowded areas.
11. Underground railways to be made flood-proof and gas-proof.
12. Compulsory billeting of refugees in country and preparation of small camps.
13. Schoolchildren to be evacuated under teachers: and not only from London but from all vulnerable towns.
14. Evacuation schemes to include use of roads as alternative to railways. Private vehicles to be taken over and controlled.
15. Food stores to be accumulated in country for refugees.
16. Negotiations to be opened for evacuation to the Free State and Northern Ireland.
17. Peers to be created if Lords obstruct.
18. Labour movement to be mobilised behind the scheme.
MORE LESSONS FROM SPAIN
Catalan engineer, Ramon Perera, supervised the building of some 1,400 public shelters in Barcelona, his unique design had been proven in battle but the British government refused to learn lessons.
I once heard a recollection that the Communist Party who led the invasion of the underground was a women teacher from Stepney ?.
This article while not highlighting the role of the Labour Party in ARP recognises that many Labour Party members also carried out vital ARP campaigning work.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
health workers are biking to downing street as part of the action week, starting today fourty Coventry health service workers will carry their protest against the government's pay policy by bike to London.
They will leave Coventry today, calling en route at Banbury, Oxford, Hillingdon and arrive in Central London midday Friday.
Among the bike's are six tandems. The riders include nurses, ancillary and maintenance wor-
kers as well as professional and technical- staff drawn from Coventry's hospitals.
They will deliver a petition to No. 10 Downing Street and present a bill for £325,000 to Health Minister Norman Fowler.
This is the amount the Coventry District Health Authority would have rto find to meet the government's health service wage formula. It has already overspent on its budget.
"The truth is," says Lloyd Randall, secretary of the NUPE hospitals branch in the city,
"there is not a 6 per cent offer.
It is just 4 per cent and an offer to cannibalise the service to meet the other 2 per cent."
In addition to being divisive. the Tory government tactics will also mean the loss of up to 80
jobs in the city's hospitals.
The bikers will link up with local health service co-ordinating committees on their journey.
They are offerins to join picket lines at hospitals and speak at meetings. But they also hope
that other trade unionists will turn out in force to greet them.
They will be joined in London bv strikers whose seven week action has reduced the central sterile supplies depot to emergency only.
Nurses at the outpatients department oi the Coventry and Warwick Hospital, as well as
maintenance and boilerhouse workers in Walsgrave and other hospitals also plan to impose
sanctions in the coming week.
A meeting in Birmingham ot local health service union co- ordinating committees support-
ed calls from Coventry for the TUC to sharpen up the action on health service pay.
A resolution adopted "calls on the TUC health service committee to support a call for an ultimatum for an all-out strike from September 1 by all TUC health service unions, if an im-
proved offer is not made or if the dispute is not referred to arbitration."
Another resolution urges the TUC not to accept any offer which is not fully funded by central government. To do so, it says, would mean accepting cuts in the service.
There is; also a strong feeling that local co-ordinating committees should have more discretion over implementing accident and emergency cover. The TUC's code of conduct is seen as being so wide as to be ineffective in some areas.
There is a call for a review and a tightening up of the TUC's emergency cover procdures.
Friday, September 19, 2008
The Federation of Ambulance Personnel (FAP) was a union formed to cater for Ambulance staff then working for local authorities. Unlike many other unions formed to represent ambulance staff FAP was keen to safeguard the right to take industrial action. FAP actually lead the way on strikes amongst ambulance staff in pursuit of better pay and recognition. FAP meet stiff opposition from NUPE who opposed ambulance staff being transferred to the NHS.
The Federation of Ambulance Personnel finally joined COHSE in the late 1970's and its General secretary Ernie Brook became an officer in COHSE. In 1969 FAP claimed a membership of 600 amongst the Greater London Council's 2,000 ambulance staff. On the 27th August 1969 they took industrial action in 34 stations to secure recognition of FAP by the GLC Bob Salmon was General Secretary, Richard Harmer London regional Secretary and Keith Best liaison officer in Scotland of FAP.
Richard Harmer London Regional Secretary stated in the Times 28th August 1969 "Up to now we have been keeping our consciences clear while making our protest"..."If the GLC sent home men who were voluntarily operating emergency services ambulance stations would close and life could be most certainly endangered"
Alan Fisher NUPE General Secretary stated that their action was "a deliberate and desperate attempt by a minority group to wreck the established negotiating machinery"
In 1973 FAP took part in industrial action over pay, and as part of COHSE in 1979 , 1980 and 1989-1990 led by COHSE ambulance activists such as the late great Bill Dunn of Hanwell, West London who always fought for the maintenance of "Emergency Cover" during industrial action.
FAP's union journal was called "Knight of the road"
Breakaway, often no strike, ambulance unions have always been problematic in the NHS the biggest being the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel (APAP) formed in the 1980's allegedly to promote professionalism but who were famously duped into agreeing an inferior pay deal with the Conservative government 1989-1990 Ambulance dispute. A position it never recovered from. Another breakaway union was the Ambulance Services Union (ASU) was formed in Liverpool in the late 1999 but in 2008 joined the GMB general union.
All attempts to form separate Ambulance unions failed because they could never secure a majority and the resources required to truly represent ambulance staff legally and professionally as well as skilled negotiators requires immense resources only available from a general union.
COHSE London Ambulance Service branch (699) established November 1964
Branch Chairman Bert Conaway, 10 Silver Walk, Rotherhithe (ex docker for 15 years) Ted King (Secretary) 16 St Stephen's, Bow (ex bus driver) both worked at West Smithfield Ambulance Station (known as Whisky Station - from their radio call signal) since 1962.
First COHSE LAS branch meeting held at Hop Pole Pub, Gambia Street, London S1 on 17th December 1964 (with 80 members)
Eric Roberts (ex NUPE) is now Branch Secretary of the powerful UNISON London Ambulance Service Branch
Friday, July 11, 2008
Dr Hyacinth Bernard Wenceslaus Morgan was born 11th September 1885 to "poor Irish" parents in the West Indies (Grenada). He worked in the islands Civil service until, when aged 20 with just a few pounds in his pocket went t0 Scotland in 1904 to study medicine at Glasgow University, winning bursaries and scholarships along the way.
While at University he was active in the Fabian Society and founded a students Irish Nationalist Club.
Upon graduating in 1909, his medical experience included clinical work at Glagow mental hospitals.
After service in France as a RAMC doctor in World War One, he sacrificed prospects of a fine medical career to become a Labour member of parliament
After demobilisation he established a GP practice at Greenwich.
He stood as a Labour candidate in Greenwich for the London County Council, but after moving to Camberwell contested the North Camberwell constituency in 1922, where Dr Macnamara (Liberal) was the sitting MP for the previous 20 years. Morgan contested the seat again in 1923 (lost by 88 votes) and 1924 before being elected in 1929 with a 2,500 majority.
He did not contest the 1931 general election instead he devoted himself to to the cause of Industrial Medicine and was acknowledged as a pioneer in Industrial Medicine.
He was appointed Medical Adviser to the Trades Union Congress, Post office workers Union and numerous British Medical Association committees.
In 1936 Dr Hyacinth Morgan (especially as a Roman Catholic) was central (along with Dr Charles Brook)in the establishment of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee (SMAC) in August 1936 to provide medical aid to the Republican cause in Spain. SMAC's headquarters were at the National Trade Union Club, 24 New Oxford Street, London.
He was re-elected to Parliament in a by-election in 1940 for the constituency of Rochdale. In 1950 he switched to Warrington, where he was relected in 1951 but did not seek re-election at the next general election.
He served as a member of the Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE) National Executive Committee and COHSE's Medical Guild from 1946-1951.
Dr Morgan had GP practices at Greenwich, Camberwell and finally Paddington
He first meet his future wife, a nurse Mary Powell (from St Harmon's, Radnorshire, Wales) in 1912 when he was working at Park Hospital, Hither Green but political and religious objections from her parents delayed marriage for 18 years
He had two daughters
Dr H.W.B. Morgan died Monday 7th May 1956 aged 70
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Lily "Margaret" Powell (Picture above second left) was born the daughter of a farmer at Cym Farm, Llangenny, in the Welsh Black Mountains on 26th March 1913.
She qualified as a nurse in London (living in Southwark), She joined a nursing union (I believe Thora Silverthorne's Association of Nurses, which later joined NUPE.
later she undertook midwifery training, While undertaking her training, Margaret Powell volunteered to nurse in Spain as part of the British Medical Unit organised by the Spanish Medical Aid Committee (SMAC). Which supported the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil war.
However she was advised by Leah Manning (SMAC) to finish her training first, which she did, finally arriving in Spain in early 1937
She married International Brigadier Sam Lesser (known as Sam Russell when writting for the Daily Worker) who she meet when he was on leave in Barcelona from the front and she was recovering from a broken leg
Margaret Powell was the last British International Brigade nurse to leave Spain, in January 1939, losing her passport in the chaos of the retreat into France of thousands of Republican refuges from Franco’s fascist.
At the border she was arrested by French police and taken to the refugee camp at Argeles-sur-Mer, where 70,000 refugees lived on sand dunes with no shelter and in appalling conditions. she was finally rescued by Richard Rees from a Quaker Relief team
Margaret Powell was one of the most outstanding nurses who went to Spain and was later created a Dame of the Order of loyalty to the Spanish Republic "for her valiant action as a nurse...for her faith, self-sacrifice and devotion to our wounded and to our war victims" .
A plaque was unveiled in Southwark Councils, Mayor's Parlour on 6th November 1986 to commemorate those who fought or nursed in Spain for the International Brigade, this plaque included Margaret Powell.
Bill Alexander; Constantine Augherinos; Harry Bourne; Jock Cunningham; Dr Len Crome; Margaret Powell (Nurse); Heracles Augherinos; Paul Dewhurst;Dougal Eggar; Harry Evans; Joe Fuhr; Dave Gibbons; George Hardy; Jim Hoy; Jack L Jones; Lou Kenton; John Riordan; Ted Smith.
Ann Murray after Spain nursed at Dulwich Hospital and Halcrow Verstage a young architect who was the son of London County Council surveyor for Sydenham who had been educated at Alleyn's School, Dulwich
British Nursing Journal April 1938
NOTES FROM THE ARAGON FRONT
"After spending several months in a small village on the Aragon front serving at an urgent surgical centre, the division to which we' were attached became a " shock division " moving from place to place, we, as the mobile surgical team moving with it. "We reached the end of our journey, which was high up in the Pyrenees, at midnight, and for the rest of the night we heard mules and trucks go by towards the front line—in some places less than four miles away.
Early next day we commenced making our preparations, selecting for the theatre a shed which had been used as a slaughter house (there was no other choice). At least it had the virtue of a roof, even if some of the walls were missing. Blankets were hung where the walls should have been, whilst the remaining walls were white washed and the mud scraped off the floor.
"Whilst this was in progress we sat on mattresses by the roadside and repacked our few, but so precious, drums, and some men cleared a pumpkin patch and erected two fairly large tents, cleaned a couple of sheds, and put up beds for the wounded on the uneven mud floors. So hard did we. work that by nightfall everything was ready. The theatre was as clean as it could be made, furnished with an operating table, the handbowl from the operating ambulance, to which water ran through a hosepipe from. a hand-filled tank outside the door—a small square wooden table complete with drawer; that useful drawer! A large packing case contained all- the theatre linen and spare drums (one of each) with the other drums on top.
A wooden box containing our treasured English soap serving as a stand for the lotion bowl, an old box containing all our anaesthetics, and a stool. Mails were driven into the walls to accommodate the rubber aprons, rain-coats, etc. The " wards " were fitted with a couple of boxes to serve as tables, the beds being made up only with blankets, for we had no sheets, and not many pillows.
All the afternoon and evening we heard the sound of battle, and we knew that soon our period of "idleness" would cease. The wounded began to arrive at about six o'clock in the morning, a grim contrast to the loveliness of the
In addition to being surgically responsible for our own division of over ten thousand soldiers, we were also detailed off to attend another three thousand men because their division had no surgeon.
All the wounded, many of whom had to be brought down from the mountains on mules, were first treated at the First Aid Stations, and then came on to us. Ambulance after ambulance "six abdominals and a couple of heads—all for operation." Next one : more abdominals, more heads,' compound fractures, " all for operation." And for all this, only one surgeon—Spanish—who just goes on and on, speaking only to enquire what is next;' making anxious enquiries about the state of the last case ; asking about the stock of sterile material, and above all passing never-failing words of encouragement to the wounded, even after twenty-four hours of constant work!
We had no electricity, but worked with primus lamps and candles and when all the mantles broke, just candles. Imagine if you can, a surgeon performing a laparotomy, finding and suturing a liver wound, or maybe 24 or more intestinal perforations, performing a nephrectomy, removing a spleen, all by candlelight. Meanwhile we grope around the table for instruments, thread needles, break catgut capsule all in the flickering light.
The lighting question was still more acute in the "wards." We had to strike matches to look at the patients whilst blood transfusions had to be given with the aid of a cigarette lighter. One nurse looked after the wards and we were so overcrowded that very often both tents (our offices and sleeping quarters) were filled with -wounded, either waiting for operation or evacuation.
For obvious reasons we were never able to "scrub up," nor had we enough gowns for the surgeon let alone for ourselves. The two of us who worked in the theatre looked after everything. We looked after the surgeon, threaded needles, broke catgut capsules with forceps, washed instruments, towels, etc.; packed drums and sterilised them on primus stoves—inside if it was windy, and by the road-side if it was fine. We only had two drums of everything so we were constantly sterilising. The folding of gauze was perhaps our greatest worry, but we always just managed it, folding some ourselves at odd minutes, seizing on every other person with empty hands.
During the few and far between periods when we were not operating, we cleaned the instruments and needles—in instalments because we kept them always sterile in alcohol—boiling water on a primus stove being a much too lengthy affair. We mended our too few gloves, some of them have as many as 36 patches, whilst there was the linen to be darned and rubber aprons to be patched.
We endeavoured to keep all the severe abdominal cases for at least 48 hours, but often they had to be evacuated before they were properly round from the anaesthetic to a hospital about 40 miles further down, by a road which was like a spiral staircase without walls. The conditions in which the wounded were nursed were the best we could make them. Taking into consideration the coldness of the weather, the many hours before we got them for operation and the lack of competent staff to care for them as well as the lack of means of supplying warmth such as blankets, hot-water bottles, etc., the results were very good.
Blood transfusions were given whenever possible, but we could not employ the tubes of blood because we had no refrigerator in which to store them, so the direct method was always used. There were times when it was impossible to find a donor, for everyone within reach had given as much as they could.
We were. I suppose, always in some sort of danger, but somehow when one is surrounded by danger one does not think of it, and in any case we did not have the time to worry. The only fear which haunted us was the fear that we should not have enough material with which to work. There are things which the Spanish people are able to supply us with, but there are many necessities they cannot provide. We depend on our Committee for these, and so far they have not failed us. The thought that some day they might have to stop supplies through lack of funds is too terrible to contemplate.
I can hardly say how urgently nurses are needed. When one has had to see men, young, strong and brave, a" because nobody had time to give a blood transfusion, salines, or some sort of attention which in many cases would have made all the difference, it is difficult to or rational about it. We do all that is humanly possible, more indeed than I once thought possible, but there is so very much more that could be done if only there were more of us. If you could know the Spanish people as I have come to know them, you would find the ordinary people brave and kind, fighting not because they love bloodshed as many people would have you believe, but bloodshed know that they MUST fight to save their homes and for the right to live peacefully and decently. They feel and indeed they know that the victory of the Fascist force would mean tyranny and oppression for them and for
MARGARET POWELL, S.R.N., S.CM.