Carry on Bartlet nurses' reunion

CRAWLING out of bedroom windows at midnight, sticking flowers back together with sticky tape and blocking pipes with candlewax.For one group of nurses, training at the Felixstowe Bartlet was more like a scene from Carry on Matron than the environment of stern discipline it was supposed to be.

CRAWLING out of bedroom windows at midnight, sticking flowers back together with sticky tape and blocking pipes with candlewax.

For one group of nurses, training at the Felixstowe Bartlet was more like a scene from Carry on Matron than the environment of stern discipline it was supposed to be.

And 45 years later the friendships that were formed are still going strong as four nurses this week made their return to the place where their careers began for a reunion.

For Carol Robinson, Anne Lott, Heather Gosling and Sue Eaves, it was the place they laughed and cried - and got hauled before matron more times than was good for them.


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The group were just 16 and 17 when they were sent to the Bartlet for their pre-nursing training in 1960-61 and the mischievousness was going strong.

The nurses slept in the annexe, the remaining part of the Bath Hotel burned down by suffragettes - and the youngsters were just as rebellious.

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Mrs Gosling, of Trimley, recalled the group climbing out of a window to attend a midnight party on the beach and breaking one of the assistant matron's prized geraniums and sticking it back together - only to be hauled into her office the next day with the offending flower set before her.

Mrs Eaves remembered a secret midnight feast, where they had had to use candles for light. To hide the evidence they poured the warm grease from a melted candle down the sink. The next morning they were summoned to matron - and on the table was the congealed candle grease which had turned solid and blocked the pipes.

They were too young to start full nursing training - which happened at 18 - and pre-nursing was a way of the NHS hanging on to them so they didn't disappear into other careers and for them to find out if nursing was right for them.

Miss Lott said: “It was a very good introduction to nursing and got us used to the discipline.”

Work involved cleaning taps, serving meals, shining bedpans, but there were also blanket baths to be given, temperatures taken - the sort of tasks health care assistants do today.

Mrs Robinson said: “It was very different in those days - very strict, too. If you broke a thermometer, you paid for a new one from your wages.

“The food was rationed, too. I remember everyone having their own pat of butter and if it ran out before the end of the week, that was it!”

The Bartlet was - as today - a convalescent and rehabilitation unit at a time when virtually everyone who went to Ipswich Hospital for an operation was sent to convalesce before returning home, even if they had family at home to look after them.

Were you a trainee at the Bartlet? Let us have your memories. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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