I was born in January 1932 in North
London and from 1933 I was brought up in Kingsbury, Middlesex just a few miles from Wembley.
From November 1942 to March 1943 I was in Redhill Hospital, Edgware, Middlesex being
treated for pleurisy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. After a short while recuperating at home I was then sent to convalesce
at a sanatorium. To the best of my understanding, the usual sanatorium for cases at Redhill Hospital was at South Mimms
in Hertfordshire but, whether because I was a child or whether wartime measures had merged hospital services I do not
know, I was sent instead to Langdon Hills Sanatorium in Essex.
Another thing I am not clear about is the nature of arrangements before the NHS came into
being - I know that my parents paid into some kind of medical club but I don't know how this would have been run and
whether it would have played any part in where I was treated.
Anyway, this was a sanatorium for boys and girls which was also known as West Ham
Sanatorium; most of the children there came from the East End - areas I had never really heard of before, such as Plaistow,
Canning Town, Forest Gate and Stratford. Of course, I had heard of Stratford - it was where Shakespeare was born, but
fortunately I kept my mouth shut long enough to learn that this was a very different Stratford.
The buildings were, I think, typical of sanatoria built when rest
and fresh air were the main curative treatments for TB. There was a small central admin area flanked by boys’
accommodation on one side and a mirror image girls’ area on the other. Both wards faced more or less due south and
had folding glazed doors along the south giving onto a glazed verandah. These were opened as often as the weather allowed
and in good spells the beds nearest to the doors were moved onto the verandah, while those behind were moved across the
ward as far as possible. Most of us were supposed to be confined to bed rest for most or all of the time but I don’t
remember that we were especially obedient just because we were unwell.
In addition to the main wards there were several single-bedded side wards and bath and
toilet facilities were placed behind the accommodation areas. The whole block, I believe, was built as a single storey. In
front of the site there was an area of asphalt on which was built a schoolroom and beyond that the land rose in a slight
hill at the top of which stood the Nurses’ Home.
Out in the grounds
To the left of the asphalt and in clear view of the
boys’ ward was an orchard - or at least some dwarf wooded area - enclosed within a wire fence.
There were two fine trees along this boundary, an elm and a Lombardy poplar which had
been named by one of the lads - goodness knows why - as the ‘O’Gladys’ and the ‘Straight Jane’
respectively. This threw me completely; I had never thought of giving a personal name to a tree and I asked the boy why he
had done this. Alas, he seemed as unable to explain it as I was to understand it.