St Thomas's Hospital bombed

St Thomas's Hospital, across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament, was bombed for the first time on 8th September 1940.

On the 10th September 1940 Dr Frank Crockett writes to his family in Australia describing the previous two nights at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London:

I did my night rounds, and watched the bombs dropping for a bit, then wandered about having tea here, and ovaltine somewhere else, as nearly everybody else was also doing, and then about 2 am went to bed in my basement and got to sleep. The next thing was I found myself sitting up in bed – chaps were rushing here and there. St Thomas’s has been hit by a bomb.

I donned my dressing gown and slippers and went out into the corridor and was met by a pall of dust. I asked a few questions and found that the wing opposite Westminster Bridge – the nurses’ home – had been hit. I went along and joined a party which was hunting for people who were trapped. Then from 2.30 to 3.30 am we climbed about in the ruins calling out and searching for people. The nurses’ home had been demolished – was just a heap of ruins.

Everybody who was near when the bomb exploded was absolutely covered in black dust – was quite unrecognisable. We found five nurses who were trapped and let them out by shifting some enormous piece of furniture and thus allowing a piece of wall to fall down. They seemed quite cheery.

All the while the bombs were falling round about – but we did not take much notice of them then. The amazing thing was that only five nurses were killed, and a lot of them had cuts and bruises but nothing serious. One was pinned under the ruins for hours before she died.

In the morning what a spectacle! I can’t describe it but it must have been a high explosive bomb to do all that damage. Then last night the whole hospital, doctors, nurses, maids, pundits and pinkies all slept together in the basement! A most incredible sight – one could hardly move without stumbling over a sleeping form. We all slept very well, partly because we were so tired and partly because we were now getting used to bombs….

This was just one of a dozen occasion when the hospital was hit by bombs during the war, see British Medical Journal 22nd December 1990: ‘The bombing of St Thomas’s’.

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