Print

Dr Bobby Headley interview: Anaesthetics in war time London

What were the conditions like in wartime London for applying anaesthetics?

The West Middlesex Hospital up the road, a lot of St George’s staff were there. That’s still running. South Middlesex Hospital ... they don’t have fever hospitals any more. They have built lots of nice areas with open space. In those days we had a little theatre on a bank at the back in a separate little area. Patients had to be taken on in the open air. We had a sort of great big half cylinder can which was placed on the patients. If they had to be brought up during an air raid the shrapnel and stuff wouldn’t do them any harm. In an air raid all this anti-aircraft fire – you may not realise this – there were a lot of falling bits and even if they didn’t hit they would fall back and this could be fatal. It wasn’t very nice for the patients to be taken there but they needed to be taken and all the porters wore tin hats. We had to give the anaesthetic hopefully and the theatres didn’t get hit. We were slightly to the west of London. Most of the heavy bombing occurred from the east up the river in the docklands area and in the middle of London stuff was very bad. West of London it wasn’t really…we had a stick of bombs right across our garage where we kept our car. The cat was sitting on the car and wasn’t very pleased. It was quite an impressive sight.