Kathleen L Thomas (born 1916)

woman standing in a garden with a house in the background wearing a long dark overcoat and round hat

Kathleen in her nurse's uniform during the war

Volunteer nurse in the Second World War

Kathleen Thomas studied with the St John's Ambulance Brigade and received her first aid certificate by the age of 19. She then joined the Liverpool South Nursing Division.

In the build up to the Second World War she used her two weeks holiday from her full time employment in a wholesale chemist to train as a volunteer nurse at Mill Road Hospital. During the war she was posted to Broadgreen Hospital and would take shifts there in her spare time, as well as keeping up her full time job and taking on duties as a firewatcher.

Kathleen remembers being on firewatch duty at her job in the Liverpool Co-Operative Drug Department in Peel Road one night during the May Blitz and said:

"I can only describe it as the worst night of my life. Fires, bomb craters, unexploded bombs everywhere, with the Fire, Ambulance, Police, Wardens and civilians all doing their best to cope."

The whole area was devastated and shops were all either burnt out or badly damaged. The Co-Operative stores had to be evacuated and everything was moved to the nearby Young Men's Christian Association.

At the end of that long night they made tea in a bucket over a brazier in the middle of Peel Road, using water from a water cart and tea donated by a lady called Ada who owned the little general shop in the street. The tea was tied up in a square of gauze from their first aid kit. A passing milkman supplied milk and the brew proved very welcome.

Fortified by her cuppa, Kathleen went straight to the hospital where she managed to complete a day shift before she finally went home nearly 24 hours later.

Kathleen was generally on night shifts at the hospital and was there the night that Mill Road Hospital was bombed and the patients and injured were brought to Broadgreen. This included one seaman who was being operated on at the time of the bombing. He was transferred to Broadgreen where the operation was finished.

During the war Kathleen recalls a great sense of sharing and comradeship, everyone had loved ones in the forces and feared for their safety. People would try to carry on as best they could without worrying too much about the future. It was felt that if a bomb 'had your name on it' there was nothing you could do about it and you thanked God for each day you were spared.

After 1945 the War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society and order of St John's of Jerusalem, presented Kathleen with a certificate:

"In recognition of devoted service to the Cause of Humanity during the Second World War 1931-1945"

She has continued to work with the St John's Ambulance Brigade and helped to form the Nursing Cadet Division of Liverpool South. She is still a member of the St John's Fellowship for retired members.

Her certificate is now part of National Museums Liverpool's collection.

Woman wearing a nurse's uniform, with a white hat and apron, standing in front of a hedge

Kathleen in her nurse's uniforms during the war