Shropshire Star

D-Day's injured soldiers – and their gratitude to the kindness of people from the West Midlands

They had so little. But what they had, they gave in gratitude.

Doreen Carr with injured servicemen at the hospital

Doreen Carr will never forget the generosity of people in Wolverhampton who greeted stretchers of wounded soldiers and sailors as they arrived for urgent treatment following the D-Day landings.

Hundreds came to the city’s Royal Hospital, which in the days before the NHS was one of the wealthiest and best funded in the country, after being wounded in Normandy.

Wounded soldiers arriving at Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton, June 1944

And as they arrived, clutching X-rays and documents, they found themselves welcomed with open arms by a grateful town as people flocked to give them cigarettes, chocolate, eggs and soap that they had had to use sparingly on the ration or do without as the Second World War took its toll.

Mrs Carr was just 20 years old when she worked as an £18-a-year nurse at the Royal Hospital, which today stands empty and awaiting re-development as a Tesco superstore.

Nurse Boddy, her maiden name, had worked with her colleagues to clear the hospital, sending home any civilian patient well enough to go and transferring those who were not to nearby New Cross.

Along with her colleagues she was among the first medical professionals to use penicillin to treat the wounded after the drug had become available during the war.

The top floor of the hospital was out of bounds in case of any bombing by German planes.

“All the beds were cleaned and made ready for an intake of wounded soldiers and naval personnel who had come direct from the beaches of Normandy via a hospital in Guildford, Surrey,” Mrs Carr said during an interview in 2014 when she was 90.

“The approach taken with administering penicillin was critical, particularly when it came to the correct timing between injecting doses.

“We had to go around the beds in exactly the same order injecting the men at exact regular intervals. It was rather different from what happens today.”

The D-Day aftermath was also responsible for Nurse Boddy meeting her future husband, to whom she was married almost 65 years.

Trooper George Carr was one of the men brought to Wolverhampton for treatment.

He was with the Inns of Court Regiment and had been one of the first off the beach just west of Graye-sur-Mer, only to be injured when a 88mm gun opened up hitting the Daimler armoured car he was in.

The driver was killed instantly. The lieutenant in the vehicle lost a leg and died shortly afterwards on the beach. Trooper Carr suffered leg and arm injuries.

Mayoress of Wolverhampton Mrs A. Byrne-Quinn giving a pint of blood at The Royal Hospital as part of the war effort

And when he arrived in Wolverhampton it was Nurse Boddy who recorded his details.

But it was not love at first sight.

“Five and a half years later, we were married,” Mrs Carr says. “But when we first met he was a damn nuisance. He wouldn’t eat anything and he was very ill. And then he kept asking for impossible things.”

On D-Day alone, up to 3,000 Allied troops died. Some 9,000 were wounded or missing.

By the end of the Normandy campaign in August 1944, Britain, America and their allies had sent more than two million troops into France and suffered around 200,000 casualties, including 37,000 killed.

The Germans suffered far greater losses – 200,000 killed, wounded or missing and another 200,000 captured as prisoners-of-war.

Nurse Boddy, meanwhile, was tending to the sick and the injured.

Doreen had come to Wolverhampton from London in 1941 so that she could train as a nurse.

She had family connections to the city as her grandfather, William Boddy, had a shop in Queen Square where he designed furniture and did the refurbishment work for theatre seats.

It was midwifery training in particular that Nurse Boddy had been seeking when she came to the town but her role after D-Day was dealing with young men in need of care after their wounds in Normandy.

Wolverhampton wasn't the only town to take injured servicemen. This image was taken at Royal Salop Infirmary, Shrewsbury.

While it was Wolverhampton that changed the course of Nurse Boddy’s life, it was the people who turned out to thank the returning, wounded soldiers that she wishes to praise today.

“We had got the hospital ready for the soldiers who had been taken off the beach to Guildford,” Mrs Carr says.

“The ones who needed immediate operations to save their lives were treated in Guildford. Many others were sent up to Wolverhampton on the train on July 9, three days after D-Day.

“There were so many of them - all army and navy. I didn’t see anyone from the air force. There were so many regiments“There were regiments I had never even heard of.”

Word spread quickly throughout Wolverhampton that the town was about to do its bit to put these wounded Tommies back on their feet or try to ease their pain after they had fought with all their might to change the course of the war.

“Bush telegraph alerted the residents local to Wolverhampton to the fact that a train was due in about 6pm on the Friday after D-Day, bringing the first of the injured,” Mrs Carr recalls.

“At the time everything was in short supply – cigarettes, chocolates, eggs – even soap. Nevertheless people put these things onto the stretchers bringing in the patients.

“The love and kindness around was palpable, as was the distress felt by so many who had been on the beaches and seen so many others wounded and dead.”

The young nurse was astounded by the generosity.

“The things they gave were in such short supply because of rationing. People would queue for hours at a chemist for soap,” she says.

“We had been at war for so long. No-one had anything to spare. But they did not hesitate to give these things to these soldiers, none of whom they knew and many of whom would not have been from anywhere near Wolverhampton.

“On the egg shells, some people had written little messages saying thank you or wishing the soldiers and sailors to get well soon. They had so little. But what they had, they gave in gratitude to these brave men.

“They knew D-Day had created the possibility that the war might soon be over.”

Mother of three Mrs Carr was brought up in Finchley in London and now lives in Lewisham. But she was compelled to share her memories of the generosity of Wolverhampton folk towards the wounded soldiers.

“The kindness didn’t stop there,” Mrs Carr says when those who were fit enough to be given ‘blues’, the uniform to wear outside the hospital, went into town, no one would let them pay for anything. Food and drink had always been paid for when they went to pick up the tab.

“I did not matter whether they were going into a pub for a beer or into a cafe for a bun or a cup of tea.

“Whatever they wanted, someone else would insist on paying for it. The other servicemen who were too ill to leave the hospital were green with envy. I’m sure that men from all over the country will be remembering this episode in Wolverhampton’s history as I, one of the nurses at The Royal receiving those boys, do.”

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