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Phyllis Wyatt - The Bombing of Bristol

by ActionBristol

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Archive List > The Blitz

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People in story: 
Phyllis Wyatt
Location of story: 
Bristol / Somerset
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Contributed on: 
11 July 2005

I heard my first bomb of the war on a fine afternoon in the autumn. I was working in Highbridge, Somerset in the office of a subsidiary of C&T Harris (Caine) Ltd. I was 16. The bomb had landed on a bungalow off the Berrow Rd, Burnham on Sea, killing the lady occupant. It seemed to be a 'one off' by a lone German raider and was the subject of discussion for days locally.

However, my own thoughts were very much on a different subject, for I had been diagnosed as having a retinal detachment of the right eye and was admitted to the Eye Hospital for surgery.

No laser beams in those days, just stitches painstakingly placed by the eminent surgeon Mr Palin. This meant I was to lie flat on my back for the ensuing six weeks with no moving or sitting up.

One day, my grandmother at home in our garden at Edithmead, near to Highbridge, was amazed and startled to notice the sky overhead was black with German planes on their way to the City of Bristol. Her thoughts were of me, there in my hospital bed, unable to move.

It was a daring, surprise daylight raid by the Luftwaffe. Filton and its aircraft factories the main target. The death toll was terrific. Many of its victims were the young women who worked there

I lay in my hospital bed in the Eye Hosptial and listened to the bombs and the barrage of anti aircraft fire that ensued. All the patients who could walk were taken to the basement but they dare not move me - so my bed was gently moved away from the window to avoid the glass should the large windows be shattered. All the while the sirens of ambulances and fire engines added to the terror.

The windows overlooked Maudlin Street in Bristol and several of the young nurses were looking out and giving a running commentary on the scene below. They excitedly described the number of ambulances driving into the BRI (Bristol RoyalInfirmary) They were all about the same age as me and probably just as firghtened.
A ward sister arrived and gave them a telling off for not getting on with their work!

Nights in the hospital were often disturbed by the admission of new patients who had suffered eye injuries in the night bombings. Their moans were terrible.

After six weeks I was allowed home but had to return for regular check ups. The bombs still fell on Bristol and I used the office phone to check the hospital was still standing before I left. It was a long way to Bristol by bus and took me the whole day to go and come back. In those days the Bridgewter bus to Bristol ended its journey in Princes St - so I still had quite a long walk to get to the hospital.

I never knew from one visit to another as to what route I would have to take. Often my way was barred by fire engines, hoses and water. Rubble from the bombed buildings spilled onto the highway. Ambulances dashed hither and thither. Unexploded bombs lay hidden and smoke rose eerily from the debris.

I was glad when I reached the tranquillity of the Eye Hospital. Even though I had an appointment to see the doctors it was difficult to get seen in time for me to get back to the bus stop to get the last bus to Bridgewater at five o c'clock on the dot. One of the Sisters very kindly marked my appointment card with blue crayon which gave me priority

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