Imagine a time when it was so dangerous, you couldn’t sleep near a hospital window for fear of bomb blasts.
It was not so long ago that this was the reality in Hartlepool.
It happened during the Second World War when Joe Richmond spent three months in Cameron Hospital with a broken right hip at just six-years-old.
It was 1942 and Joe said: “I spent three months on my back, with both legs in the air, and in those days even parents could not come onto the wards to visit, so my mam and dad used to wave to me from the window in the ward entry door.”
But if that was bad, the hospital at night-time was an altogether more frightening time, as Joe explained.
“The nurses used to move the 20 beds away from the windows at night in case the hospital was hit by German bombers and we were all covered in shattered glass.”
The nurses used to move the 20 beds away from the windows at night in case the hospital was hit by German bombers and we were all covered in shattered glassJoe Richmond
Thankfully, it didn’t happen and neither did the medical problems that the experts predicted Joe would have.
“The surgeon who mended my hip told my parents I would have a limp for life. This did not happen so I was able to go back to Brougham School, then to Dyke House Secondary Modern, where we as kids used to swap pieces of shrapnel in the school playground.”
It was a childhood with a difference for Joe, who joined the military himself at 18.
“I was called up for National Service and pronounced A1 by an army doctor.
“So I then spent two years in Malaya, earning 25 bob a week, guarding rubber trees and tin mines. Then home again, back to Grays Shipyard.”
Even that didn’t go smoothly.
“Just as I was about to start earning good money,” said Joe, “and the Prime Minister of that time, Harold Macmillan was telling us all we had ‘never had it so good’, they closed both the shipyards, and most other things.”
“So we had to travel all over the UK for work, and I also worked in Holland and Germany, before even these jobs disappeared.”
That’s when Joe took the decision to leave the UK for good and head for Australia.
“After 36 years here, I still never regretted it,” he said.
As he wrote his email to the Hartlepool Mail – from his home in Perth, Western Australia – it was the middle of autumn “with a very pleasant temperature of about 25 degrees”.
He added: “But if you like the heat, you can get a job up north, (five hours flying time from Perth), and it will be over a 100 degrees up there.
“They even let us work 12-hour day and night shifts up there, but the money’s very, very good.”
Joe, now in his 80s and long retired, got a job as a welding instructor in his new hometown.
Now he’s loving a life of relaxation.
Joe was one of many people to react to our recent feature on Cameron Hospital, but we would love to hear from more former patients.
Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s share the memories.