Structure and training ashore 1 - Training SBAs in the 1940s

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Cynthia CookeCynthia Cooke

Service: 1943 - 1976

Rate: Matron-in-Chief QARNNS

Cynthia joined the QARNNS in 1943 as a Registered General Nurse. During the Second World War she worked at RNH Haslar and HMS Collingwood, the latter during D-Day preparations. After the war she served on HMS Formidable and was involved in collecting ex-POWs from Japenese prison camps. She later became a Nurse Tutor teaching at RNH's Plymouth, Hong Kong and Malta. From 1973 until her retirement in 1976 she was Matron-in-Chief QARNNS.

Listen to the clip to find out what Sick Berth Attendents got up to during their training sessions.

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Extract Text (Duration 1.59)

They had about ten weeks then they went off to ships and they mostly did first aid, which nurses on the whole don't do much of, because the nurses takeover where the first aiders leave off, as a rule. But they had to do it all, I mean they were doc on a ship that hadn't got a doctor. They were, you know, we had to pretty... teach them pretty intensely. And I wasn't used to this at first, they were sort of 18 year olds and they... they'd, hmmm, have one over on you if they could, kind of thing. Well, this particular time, every Thursday was payday and Thursday morning at Stand Easy, after the first lecture they had a Stand Easy, they would go and get their pay, and they had to... of course they had it in their hat you see, and they had to show their respirators, they still had respirators, and each one had to show it and show it was in working order when he went up to get his pay. Well, they came straight back to the next lecture, they had no time to go and get rid of these, so they put their respirators under their desks and, hmmm, listened or tried to listen, and halfway through, I must have been pretty boring, I was talking about something and halfway through one of them in the front row, was a big fat boy called Lewis, suddenly got his respirator out and put it on, you know. I thought ‘what am I going to do about this?' So I didn't take any notice of it and the others were getting agitated, and in the end one of them said [whispers], "Sister, Sister, Lewis has got his gasmask on." So I said, "What?" He said, "Lewis has got his gas mask on." So I looked at Lewis hard, I thought ‘what do I do?', so I said, "So he has, well keep it on Lewis, it's an improvement.". Well, Lewis came out of that puce in the face, I never had any more trouble with that class.

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