Diana UCH.jpg

Mon, 04/05/2021 - 23:31

This battered photo shows Diana Warren in the middle row far right when she had just qualified to be a nurse at University College Hospital, London, in January 1945. I don't know what Set 84 means but it may be her particular group of newly qualified nurses. UCH seems to have been one of the reception hospitals for ex-POWs and ex-Stanley internees suffering from malnutrition, Beri-beri, TB and the like. Having spent her childhood in Hong Kong, left in 1938 and then lost her father in the war (although not in Hong Kong), Diana was deeply affected by seeing many patients die. She mentioned one particular doctor, whose name I shall try to find, who worked tirelessly to save those suffering from the various ailments caused by malnutrition in the camps. She corresponded with ex-POWs and POW groups for the rest of her life.

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I have now found the reference to the UCH doctor who treated many ex-POWs and internees when they returned after the war. Here is an extract from Diana Warren's post-war memories:

"One of my saddest and heartrending memories was the sight of the POWs from Hong Kong after V.J. Day. They began trickling in. I was on a Medical Ward and as they arrived I was transferred to a Surgical Ward. One of the surgeons from U.C.H. - Mr. Julian Taylor, who was a neuro-surgeon, was a prisoner in the Stanley Prison Camp in H.K.. He apparently performed some miraculous "Pen-Knife" surgery on some of the Boys. (...) Those few who I nursed were just stunned. They were mentally slow, unable to move much nor respond. Feeding them was agony. Such a long time to get them to swallow a mouthful and yet they were so starved."

Julian Taylor (later Professor) was actually in Changi, not Stanley. He was particularly known for his brilliance in improvising artificial limbs out of metal fan blades and other unlikely metal articles. Diana's own father was at the Fall of Singapore and in one of the stay-behind groups, later escaping to Ceylon in a fishing boat. He died in India in 1943.