Over the weekend I finished re-reading Robert Graves’s “Good-bye To All That,” his seminal autobiography about soldiering in the trenches during World War I.
My mother met Graves later on in his life when he was a patient at St. Thomas’ hospital in London and she was training to be a nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.
She recalled how he insisted on not having a private room and instead being in a ward with other patients. She remembers his physical size—he’d boxed in the army—and his striking face, and she fielded telephone calls from his wife, Nancy Nicholson.
Another interesting character my mother came across indirectly through her nursing was Rudolph Hess, the prominent politician in Nazi Germany who survived the war.
He was a patient in the ward above the one in which my mother worked at the British Military Hospital when she was stationed in Berlin.
One of my mother’s nurse friends tended to Hess and told my mother he spoke excellent English and was very charming.
He had a military police guard outside his room. Other than spells in the hospital, he spent the rest of his life in Berlin’s Spandau Prison serving the life sentence awarded at the Nuremberg Trials.