Jane Pugh born 1915

in Alexandria 1942 In Naples in 1944 Ireland 1985

I started of this biography knowing very little about my mother's life before about 1940. As events unfolded I got to know more about her than I had expected or intended. The first basic when researching someone's life is to get the appropriate birth, marriage and death certificates. Today online ordering on the Internet has make this very easy. I soon discovered that my mother's birth certificate shows she was born on 26th June 1915, but her parents were not actually married until 1919

In addition, very strangely, the birth was being shown as registered by Evan Pugh in 1935, that is when Jane Pugh was 20 years old. This certificate states her to be the daughter of Evan Pugh and Cissie Ann Pugh.

Current law states that if the baby’s parents were not married to each other at the time of the birth then only the mother is the qualified informant. The father will not be able to register the birth on his own. If the mother is not married to the baby’s father, then the father’s details are not included in the register, unless the child's father is both present at the registration, and consents to his being named on the child's birth certificate.

During the early years of registration many births were not registered because it was not compulsory and there was no penalty for failure to comply. This was especially true for children of illegitimate birth. In 1875, it became compulsory. There was a six-week (42 days) time limit in which to register a birth. After six weeks and up to six months the birth could be registered on payment of a fine. After that time, with very few exceptions, a birth could not be registered. It was fairly common for parents to adjust the birth date to within 42 days. Also, as part of the 1875 changes, a mother, when reporting an illegitimate birth, could not name the father; he had to be present and consent to his name being entered.

Change of name - A child may have been illegitimate and registered under his mother's maiden name but changed this upon her subsequent marriage. Changing a child's surname from the mother's surname to the father's surname (if the parents have married since the birth of the child) can be done. The birth can be re-registered to show the child as a child of the parents' marriage. Upon re-registration, the child's surname can be changed to that of the father and a new birth certificate can be purchased.

I assumed that this is what happened in mother's case, so my hunch was to look at all children born in mid 1915 with mother's name Evans. There is one Jane P Evans listed with mother as Evans. I sent off for that birth certificate. My request was queried by the National Statistical Office, who wanted to know why I wanted it and required I prove my credentials. Eventually they responded saying that they would let me have the the original certificate.

The original duly arrived. The place of birth is the same as the reissued certificate from 1935, but the name of the father is left blank, her mother is Cissie Ann Evans a General Servant (Domestic) but interestingly she was named as "Jane Pugh Evans", so Cissie Ann obviously knew that the father was a Pugh. One is still left to speculate as to what happened to delay a wedding until 1919. Was Evan Pugh dragging his feet on getting involved in married life, or did he just not know that he had fathered a child, as he was working in the mines in South Wales during the war. Could Evan Pugh's mother have put pressure on him, for whatever reason, to marry Cissie Evans. Could one of his brothers have been the father ?

Evan Pugh was born 1896, so was only 18 in 1914 when my mother was conceived. Cissey Evans was born 1892, so was 22 when my mother was conceived. Evan's brother Hugh was born 1890

The black sheep of the family was Hugh Silvannus Pugh, one of Evan Pugh's older brothers. He boarded the Hesperian in Liverpool on the 16th April 1915 bound for Canada. It seems to be a significant date just 2 months before Jane Pugh was born. Some months later on 4th September 1915 the Hesperian was torpedoed off Fastnet by the German submarine U.20, the same U-boat that sank the Lusitania. Hugh married Sarah Humphreys in 1929 and the 1942 WW11 draft record in California shows a Sally Pugh living at the same address. They had no children. My feeling is that he was the fathe of my mother, and that after the war Evan Pugh's parents put pressure on him to marry Cissy Evans and rear Jane - it can never be proven unless someone in the family can say what happened.

Jane went to school at Bangor County School for Girls (opened in 1897 with a number of scholarship places, and I assume she had one of these, as her father was a "general labourer" at that time). She remembered that the school took them up Mount Snowdon to see the 1927 solar eclipse. The path of totality passed from Penrhyn Llyn across to Colwyn Bay shortly after sunrise. The eclipse in North Wales, and especially Caernarvonshire, was a fiasco, rain and clouds in the majority of places blotting the spectacle from the view of many thousands of visitors.

A contemporary newspaper report states

" The much vaunted vantage points on mountain and hilltops were a complete failure, particularly so on the summit of Snowdon, where the cold was intensified by blinding rain, clammy mist, and biting wind. Many visitors, including a number of children suffered from exposure at these points. Disappointment was deepest among the school children, thousands of whom had travelled many miles by night. Tired, cold, and not a little fretful, the only compensation for their weary vigil was the sudden deepening of the gloom which heralded the period of totality, and this was gone almost as quickly as it came. In few places was the sun visible, and where observations were possible visibility only lasted a few minutes.

Hundreds of people from all parts of England and Wales made their way to Llanberis on Tuesday, and throughout the day, especially in the evening, traffic was very heavy. All the hotels and boarding houses were full of visitors eager to go up Snowdon by foot and by train.

However, the weather conditions were bad and consequently there were fewer people on the mountain than there would have been had it been fine. The railway ran some two hundred people comprising villagers and visitors. A large party braved the elements on foot, and when they reached the summit they were drenched to the skin. The two wooden huts which constitute the Summit Hotel were overcrowded, and some had to stay outside the whole time. Many did not go beyond the half way.

The summit, however, was enveloped in fog, and nothing was seen except the dark shadow: "Although everywhere was covered by fog," said Mr. Owens, "it was a great sight to see the darkness coming gradually until the whole place was absolutely black."

Another villager, who was on the summit, said, "The summit was covered with mist, and some time before totality the mist was seen gradually to darken and its colour became heliotrope. It was an awe-inspiring sensation to see the mist becoming this colour, and I did not regret taking the long and tiresome journey to the summit." He added that the place was completely dark for some seconds and immediately after totality the mist suddenly changed colour to very pale yellow. " Jane Pugh, at the age of 12, was one of those that walked to the summit, and came away without seeing the eclipse.

Then she went on to Normal College Bangor for teacher training. Bangor Normal College was a teacher training college founded in 1858, and located in Bangor, Caernarvonshire. It developed in response to a shortage of trained teachers in Wales in the 1840s. It was created through the efforts of the British and Foreign Schools Society and Sir Hugh Owen. From 1908, it was administered by the North Wales Counties Training College Committee, with representatives of the north Wales County Councils. At the same time, the College expanded and started to admit women. After the First World War, the College expanded through the purchase of the former George Hotel. The College was later run by Coleg Normal Bangor Higher Education Corporation. This was dissolved in 1996, when the College became part of University of Wales Bangor.

She then taught in Aberystwyth as the family had moved to there by the time she qualified. It is believed that she found that she did not like teaching, and switched to train as a nurse.

With friends in Snowdonia in 1939

She started her nursing training on 24 March 1934, when she was 19. Nursing was a 4 year training period. She was attached to a school of nursing (Walton Hospital Liverpool), lived in a nurses home and nearly all her training would have been on the wards. They would have been overseen by SRN's, the ward Sister and good old Matron. Her nursing registration is dated 26th December 1937 (Reg no. 91026) at Walton Hospital Liverpool, which means that this was when she finished her training and passed her final exams. Certificate of membership to RCN 21st April 1938 (Membership number 35775), was the point that she was officially a SRN. Walton Hospital M614 WAL/15/1 has the nursing records, but I have been unable to get there to access them.

When she joined Territorial Army Nursing Service on 7 October 1938, her matron is given as Miss Paton, 12 Preston Road, Southport. Her army record number is P/215179X. Her official date of enrolment was 4 April 1939. The 1939 Register gives her as a Private Nurse living at 12 Preston Rd, Southport with a number of nurses and Miss Paton

A last visit home in 1940

She recalled having to nurse Sir Oswald Mosley there, and that he was a particularly unpleasant man. A witness recalls “I can remember Oswald Mosley coming to Liverpool at the height of the Blackshirts scare but all he ended up getting was a brick thrown at his head as he stood by Walton Hospital." And Mosley's wife writes "He spent a week in hospital in Liverpool when he was knocked unconscious by a brick hurled at him at an open-air meeting." Another report reads "The Public Order Act did not bring about the end of the BUF, although it made it much more difficult to defend its outdoor meetings and demonstrations against left-wing attacks, which became increasingly violent: in 1937, Mosley himself needed hospital treatment when he was hit on the head with a brick while giving a speech in Liverpool.".

And she joined a unit on 26 Feb 1940. She was later granted a commission in TANS on 30 May 1941, and that appeared in the London Gazette on 13 Feb 1942 She was in the TANS (Territorial Army Nursing Service) during the war and served as a Lieutenant . Her various postings are given in her army record. Initially each QA had an officer status with equivalent rank but no actual commission status. This changed in 1941 when emergency commissions and rank structure were formulated to bring the QAs into line with the rest of the British Army. For the first time QAs wore rank badges and were able to be promoted and receive financial benefits along with ranks from Lieutenant through to Brigadier.

Interestingly just about the first thing she had to do on joining the army was to be taught to be an officer and a lady. There was a posting to Oxford for around 3 months, living in the Mitre Hotel, learning how to eat in the Mess, wear dress uniform, and so on. Standards were apparently kept up in the army in the early days of the war.

The left hand photo was annotaed that it was training in the garden of 13 Merton St, Oxford

Training in Oxford finished, she was ready for war.

The card below records in her own hand her war travels

"Left Grenock in Scotland, June 1940 on the Queen Mary, before she had been adapted as a troop ship. Had a lovely state cabin. Went via the Azores and Freetown in N. Africa, went ashore in Capetown, then on to Celon. Left Q. Mary there. That was the end of luxury for many years! Went on from there in awful little ship. Went ashore in Bombay, then on up Red Sea to Suez. Then by train to Palestine, where I stayed till Nov 1940. In November, back by train to Egypt. Joined ship in Alexandria for Greece. Many, many bombings followed. In Kiffisia from November to end of April 1941. Germans arrived. Left by rowing boat to find British warship. Eventually arrived in Crete. Slept out in the open. Tended hundreds of wounded in tents and on the fields. Germans arrived there too - by parachute. Left and went to Cairo with absolutely nothing! Rekitted and posted to Alex. There for two years through Alamein Then Tripoli, Naples. In 1944 back via Gibraltar."

A postcard on which Jane Pugh wrote about her war experiences

She had joined the Territorial Army Nursing Service, which later became amalgamated with the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (Q.A.R.A.N.C). Both of these units provided qualified nursing support at all levels. During the war their personnel could be found anywhere in the world where Army medical Services were required. Jane was appointed to the 26th British Southern General Hospital. The ‘sisters,’ as they were called, had officer status and at first were very self-conscious about being saluted.

She left Oxford by train to join the Middle East Liberation Force. When she received orders to entrain, she was not allowed to tell anyone that she was leaving because of wartime censorship. She wrote a letter to her parents, telling them she would be away for a long time, put a stamp on the envelope, and a note asking any finder to post it. The letter was thrown out as the train passed Crewe Station, and remarkably reached her parents. The unit travelled by overnight train to Gourock, in Scotland, where they went on board the Queen Mary ready to embark at mid-day. Accommodation was four to a cabin. On board they shared duties in the ‘ship’s hospital’ and had to take part in further training ready for the desert operations. There was very little free time.

Queen Mary in wartime colours

On 21 March 1940 the Queen Mary had received orders to sail for Sydney from her temporary home in New York harbour, to be outfitted for trooping duties. In preparation for the voyage, many of the ornate fixtures aboard were removed and armaments were added. Among the armaments added were “20mm Oerlikon antiaircraft cannons, 12 rocket launchers, range finders, and a central gun-control house.” At Sydney the remainder of her luxury fittings were removed and she was fitted with berths to accommodate 5,500 troops. Later years would see this number nearly triple to 16,000. Hitler placed a bounty on the Queen Mary, promising to pay $250,000 and award the Iron Cross with Oak Cluster to any U-boat captain that could sink her

Leaving Sydney on 5 May 1940, Queen Mary was part of a convoy responsible for transporting Australian troops from Sydney to Gourock, her Scottish port during the war. She arrived without incident at Gourock on June 16 1940. Jane had an officers menu cards from the Queen Mary dated Wednesday June 26 1940, which was her 25th birthday.

Troops, including Jane Pugh's group of nursing sisters, embarked on the Queen Mary by tender - there were 35 ships in the convoy, the Queen Mary was the fastest. The convoy was to travel in a zigzag, heading for South Africa. She left Gourock on 29 June 1940 under the command of Capt. Irving, and sailed for Singapore carrying troops to bolster its defence in view of Japan's increasing threat. She reached Freetown 9 July 1940, Capetown on 17th July Table Mountain - a winderful sight, most impressed", Simonstown on 19th July, where she spent 10 days before departing for Trincomalee. The Queen Mary had to moor at Simonstown. The passengers were allowed to go ashore in Cape Town for a day. When they returned to the ship, they found that the Queen Mary had been moved in to deeper water. They had to be ferried out to the liner, where they then had to scramble up the sides on ropes; a nerve racking experience. The officers' " Farewell Dinner" was held on H.T Queen Mary Sunday July 28 1940.

Trincomalee was reached on 1st August 1940. The journey had taken some 33 days, and while at sea the Queen Mary had averaged just over 20 knots. They were allowed to go on shore and had the luxury of going to the Grand Orient Hotel for dinner. On their return the liner sailed into mid-ocean, so that the troops and nurses could be transshipped to the Karagola, to take them to Egypt.

Contemporary photo of Karapara, a sister ship of Karagola, and the same tonnage.

The Karagola sailed up the west coast of India to Bombay, where they all transshipped again, this time to the Khedive Ismail, described by Jane as "an awful little ship".

Khedive Ismail was later sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1944 with 1300 British deaths

The 7,513 ton steamship Khedive Ismail was launched as the Aconcagua by Scotts of Greenock in 1922. The Aconcagua passed into Egyptian ownership and was renamed after Khedive Ismail, a previous ruler of Egypt. In 1940 the Khedive Ismail was requisitioned as a British troopship. This was not a luxurious voyage, as the ship was overcrowded with troops and equipment. They crossed the Arabian Sea in convoy. The ship ran short of drinking water, so it left the convoy with one destroyer as escort and called at Port Sudan. Arriving there at 7 am in the morning, on August 20 1940, the nurses were allowed on shore on the promise that they would buy toupees to protect themselves from the sun. They embarked again in the afternoon, when their ship had taken onboard sufficient water and re-joined the convoy. Their sea journey came to an end on August 23, when they disembarked at Port Taufiq on the Suez Canal. By now they had been at sea for two months.

They crossed the Suez Canal at midnight 23 Aug 1940and had supper on the edge of the Sinai Desert under canvas at Kantara. They left at 3am

The next part of the journey was by train from Port Said to Gaza, in Palestine. The unit was taken to an army camp at Sarafand. The village of Sarafand, or Sarepta, is located 15 km south of Sidon. In the Old Testament, it is stated that the Prophet Elijah visited Sarafand. Sarafand is also known for being the site of two of the miracles of Jesus Christ.

It was a tented hospital built by the Arabs. It was so hot that the tents would sometimes spontaneously burst into flames in the intense heat. The nurses lived in tents while huts were built for their accommodation. The Arabs slept in the bungalows while they were under construction. Their mattresses would be ‘alive’ with vermin and so a routine was established to de-bug the beds; every Monday the mattresses would be put outside the building, the ants would then arrive and devour the bugs. Everyone slept under mosquito nets but they were no defence against bed bugs. The Arabs had to be watched too as they would steal anything; patients’ pay books and valuables placed under their pillows would still disappear while they were sleeping. Concrete baths were built (but no showers), if you were lucky you had a sheet to put in the bath to make it more comfortable. Strangely, there was never any shortage of water and this despite having four or five baths a day when the weather was at it’s hottest. The patients, at this time, were mostly Australian soldiers; at first malaria was rife but later diphtheria and skin conditions (aggravated by the sun and sand) needed to be treated.

On 10 November 1940 the 26th General Hospital was posted to Greece, and went by train to Alexandria in Egypt, and hence by troopship to Athens in Greece Where "after a series of noisy and unpleasant episodes in poert" arrived in Athens in the early hours of 17 November 1940. The hospital was opened on 26 November 1940 with 110 beds and was at Kiffisia is on the northern outskirts of Athens. Initially life was very pleasant. The Greeks were pleased to see the Sisters and they were received cordially everywhere. Here Jane developed a taste for Mavrodaphne wine, a sweet fortified wine produced from a grape of the same name. She also became engaged to a British officer. He was later killed in the retreat from Greece. For fairly obvious reasons, little was told about this in the family as she later married another RAMC officer, Alan Grant, and I cannot substantiate any details. The nursing staff were housed in three private hotels, which were very comfortable, except in the early days when there was a bitterly cold winter and no heating. As the weather got warmer, water supply and drainage became a problem, "it was nothing to meet a cesspool in the kitchen".

The brief of 26 British General Hospital is detailed in the Matron's report was to set up a hospital to treat the Greek casualties from the guerrilla war that they were fighting against the Italians. The Matron was Phyllis Elsie Chretina Sharpe of Territorial Army Nursing Service, who was awarded a 1sr Class Royal Red Cross Medal for the evacuation. The British were given the use of three hotels for their hospital, Cecil (surgical cases), Olympus (dental, ent), and Aphergis (medical cases). The hotels were emptied of furniture, and the large rooms made suitable wards. Jane Pugh was based in the Cecil Hotel caring for the surgical cases.

Princess Marina of Greece visited the hospital on 10th December 1940. Christmas 1940 was a time for celebration and rejoicing. They had 105 patients up to the dining hall for lunch, which "went with a swing". Air Vice Marshall d'Albiac visited the hospital on Christmas morning (with the Italian attack on Greece in 1940 D'Albiac had been promoted to Air Vice Marshal and appointed commander of the meagre air forces in Greece). The Greek Girls Youth Movement sang songs to the patients and brought a present for each one in the evening. They listened to King George VI's speech at 4pm.

On 2nd January 1941 they heard they were to take Greek wounded. Medical care for the Greek fighters in the mountains had been virtually non-existent. It took a week to get the wounded down from the mountains, where often snow was starting to fall. Their wounds were often septic, their bodies crawled with lice and fleas, and many suffered from frostbite as well. The men had to be shaved, washed, disinfested, and dirty bandages replaced by clean, before they could be taken into the wards. 16 January 1941, General Wavell inspected the hospital. 18 January 1941 Air Chief Marshall Longmore, AOC in C, Air HQ Middle East/Middle East Command inspects it.

Air raids started on 19 January 1941. Greek wounded first arrived on 24 January. At first the atmosphere was rather strained, the Greeks not knowing what to make of their British nurses. Feeding them was a problem, quantities of bread and food soaked in oil was all that was required. But after a week there was an extraordinary change in the patients' attitudes. Washing was not popular with the Greeks, but the Sisters persevered. Matron reports going into one ward and finding a whole row of patients stripped to the waist. One was having a shampoo and he appeared to be enjoying it!. Their wounds were very grim and they were "fortunate to lose only one patient". The Aphergis was used for the Greeks and the Cecil for the British. The nurses found the language difficult, "but it was wonderful how soon we made ourselves understood".

11 February 1941 saw a visit from Princess Fredrika, wife of Crown Prince. There was an air raid in the middle of her visit. Then on 15 February a visit by Princess Nicholas and Princess Katrine. The former is said to have had a wonderful sense of humour. She tasted a meat pie in the kitchen, and pronounced it "very good". On 1 March there was an earthquake further north in Greece, but the hospital was not effected by it. And in March 1941 German troops crossed into Bulgaria, and took up ominous positions along the Yugoslav and Greek borders.

On 3 April, 3 days before Germany declared war on Greece, there were over 600 patients in the hospital. The anticipated German attack (Unternehmen Marita) began on April 6 1941, against both Greece and Yugoslavia. The resulting "Battle of Greece" resulted in the fall of Athens on April 27 and ended with the fall of Kalamata in the Peloponnese on April 30, the evacuation of the Commonwealth Expeditionary Force and the complete occupation of the Greek mainland by the Axis. By 7 April there were 709 patients, which stretched this 600 bed hospital. Miss Sharpe, the Matron, reported "we had patients lying everywhere - on mattresses on the floor, on stretchers, in any odd corner. In one ward whose usual compliment was 46, we had 92 patients" A lack of proper laundry services and the paucity of army transport compounded their difficulties. In one period of 3 days they had 700 patients in, and 400 evacuated.

Within days of the German invasion 26 General Hospital was the only functioning military hospital in Greece. Soon bed space was scarce, tents were erected in the grounds as extra wards, and these had neither water supply nor sluices. The nurses worked like machines, admitting patients, preparing them for surgery, washing, feeding them then evacuating them. German air attacks on the Thessalonica to Athens road increased, and the sound of guns could be heard at Kiffisia. In addition to wounded allied soldiers, wounded German soldiers were being nursed. Doctors operated day and night and wore revolvers all the time. There were air raids, but the hospital itself was never bombed, although being close to Menidi Airfield, bombs fell close by.

On 24th April Greece surrendered. Matron reports that on April 24th Deputy Director of Medical Services (DDMS) told her that it was wiser that they remained in Greece, than risk getting away - "Personally I was far too busy to worry about it, and accepted it quite calmly". Later that day the local cook attempted suicide with quinine and aspirin, which had to be treated by stomach pump.

Σᾶς εὐχαριστῶ πολύ διὰ τὴν περιποίησιν ποὺ μοῦ κάματε.
τραυματίας Γεώργιος Ξυδιάς
Σωληνάριον - Μεσσηνίας.

Sisters! I thank you very much for the care you gave me. A memento [of] casualty Georgios Xydias [from] Solinarion [now called Soulinari], Messinia.

Finally on 25th April the hospital was evacuated. DDMS rang at 10am to say a destroyer might be available later in the day. Any wounded who could be moved, were taken under air attack to the coast. There remained about 40 nursing sisters. A silence fell as the allied guns had now all gone, and little stood between the advancing Germans and the hospital. At 7.30pm an order came through for the sisters themselves to evacuate. They climbed into trucks and drove for 5 hours, lit only by the thin beams of blacked-out headlights over very bad roads, for a rendezvous with a ship at Megara Bay, some 25 miles west of the hospital. They arrived at the beach at 12.50 am

At 10 pm on 25 April 1941, the destroyers HMAS Vendettaand Waterhen approached Megara beach in southern Greece. There they joined the Royal Navy troopship SS Thurland Castle (6700 tons), the cruiser HMS Coventry, and the destroyer HMS Wryneck, which were waiting to embark the 5,000 assembled British and Commonwealth troops. During the nightlhours the ship Thurland Castle took 3,500 troops onboard, of whom 1,000 wounded and 100 nurses. The nurses waited in a ditch in total silence, until it was their turn to board. They scrambled out of the ditch and walked along the beach to a tiny jetty, and from there by small boat to the freighter (the destroyer did not materialise). It sailed at 3am with a Royal Navy escort.

The ship was packed and the nurses had to climb over sleeping men. The ships officers gave up their cabins to the nurses, and they slept 8 to a cabin for 4.

Taken on Thurland Castle en route to Crete

The diary of a New Zealand officer of that night reads " Thurland Castle. Safe or comparatively safe on board. Considerable muddle, waiting etc last night but by 1.30 we were swarming, creeping, crawling and stumbling up rope-ladders. All the officers crowded into the small lounge and after some gossip bedded down on the floor. Slept very well and woke up in fine fettle. Got early shave before queue formed: hungry but couldn t be bothered eating bully. About 0800 severe bombing; some very close misses. Felt quite scared: fear manifested itself in yawns and flippancy. Heavy AkAk fire finally drove bombers off: now 1100 hrs and they have just begun again. Sitting in lounge talking to somewhat homely nurses: have had a talk in German with a Greek nurse who has come along with the others. Now to see whether we get hit or not. April Wednesday. Crete. We were bombed all day Saturday until we reached the port of Crete: one 1000 lb bomb missed us by ten feet and sprung all the plates. We were held up in harbour till close on midnight.

However as dawn broke the ship was attacked by German dive-bombers, and the raids were virtually continuous for the voyage to Crete. "The noise was terrific, and it was not very pleasant". Although there were casualties among the men on the open decks, the vessel itself was undamaged, and was able to make a safe anchorage at Suda Bay in Crete at 5.30pm on 26 April 1941. With an irony that only the British Government can accomplish, her service records states that she had a temporary posting to 7 General Hospital, Crete (the nurses were in Crete 3 days!). The nurses went straight back to duty at British General Hospital 7 there, which had been run entirely by male staff up till then, and lacked, according to matron, the "female element". When the tented wards in the hospital filled with new casualties, the nurses gave up their own accommodation and slept in the open. There was a service of thanksgiving for their deliverance from Greece, held in front of a rock draped with the Union Jack as the altar with a simple cross and two jam jars with wild flowers. Nurses, doctors, patients (some wheeled out in their hospital beds) all joined together to sing "Oh God our help in ages past".

By now the only Greek territory remaining free was the large and strategically important island of Crete, which was held by a strong Allied garrison. To conquer it, the German High Command prepared "Unternehmen Merkur", the largest airborne attack seen to date. It was decided to evacuate the Sisters from Crete.

General Hospital, Crete, May 1941

The Sisters were awakened at night and told to prepare for evacuation at dawn on 29th April 1941. They prepared the walking wounded and made their way to the harbour. There an old Greek freighter, the Ionic, with a solitary Greek captain and no crew awaited. Two Australian soldiers volunteered to do the stoking, and it sailed for Alexandria with 160 women on board. The sisters were given the few available cabins. They were resting places but proved very hot and stuffy under blackout conditions at night. The voyage was a slow one. There was one air raid at the dockside before they left Crete. The first night was one of apprehension for there was an encounter in the middle of the night with an enemy e-boat, but later a strong naval escort was provided and the rest of the voyage was calm and quiet. They lived on tins of bully beef and biscuits. There was no water for washing, and tea was made in kerosene drums. Amazingly all the nurses who served in Greece were successfully evacuated. They reached Alexandria on May 1st.

From Alexandria Jane went to Cairo, was re-kitted and posted to 63th General Hospital, where everyone was "very kind" to them, then straight back to 8 General Hospital on 1 July 1941 in Alexandria. She remained there for the next two years.

Victoria College cum 64 General Hospital Alexandria

At Victoria College School in Alexandria had been requisitioned by the British authorities, and this became 64 General Field Hospital with 1200 beds initially. Under the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, Britain still enjoyed strategic and logistical privileges in its former protectorate. Thus the school was turned into a naval and military hospital (64th General Hospital), remaining off-limits to civilians for the next four school years. Henceforth, the students would do without their imposing buildings, the large classrooms, the great dining hall, the incomparable grounds and the recently constructed Birley Hall (1937) with its imposing stage and cinema. 8 General Hospital was the smaller of the two British Hospitals in Alexandria, with 700 beds, and was just east of Alexandria, in a building which originally had been the Italian School. The Sisters were quartered in the English Girls College just outside the hospital gates. The building lent itself quite well to becoming a General Hospital, as just short of 700 beds could be accommodated in the building itself without gross overcrowding. There was a tented wing of bell tents for Indian patients, with a second tented wing for South African coloured patients, this being before the days of Political Correctness!


The main building for 8 General Hospital was two storied, with the west wing ground floor given over to Surgical, and east wing to Medical. West wing upper floor was for officers and sick Sisters. The East wing upper was for skin and venereal patients. Cases were admitted from the local camps and barracks, and from the forward area and battle zone of Western Desert by ambulance train, Hospital Ship or HM Destroyers. The hospital was also the parent unit for no1 Maxillo-Facial unit which had the use of 3 wards and 50 beds. They had a small staff, which included 1 Nursing Sister QAIMNS. From what my mother told me, I believe that this was her job at Alexandria. The maxillo-facial unit were reported to be working at high pressure. In the 12 months from Oct 1941 to Oct 1942 some 14,000 patients passed through this 700-bed hospital Air raids were a problem with tents, as splinters from anti-aircraft shells fell down on the tents and could kill patients.

The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a significant turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II. The battle lasted from October 23 to November 5, 1942. Following the First Battle of El Alamein, which had stalled the Axis advance, General Bernard Montgomery took command of the British Empire's Eighth Army from Claude Auchinleck in August 1942. Success in the battle turned the tide in the North African Campaign. Allied victory at El Alamein ended Axis hopes of occupying Egypt, controlling access to the Suez Canal, and gaining access to the Middle Eastern oil fields. The defeat at El Alamein marked the end of Axis expansion in Africa.

Jane Pugh then moved to 2 General Hospital Tripoli. 2 General Hospital was sited at Azizia Gate in Tripoli and was built from scratch by the REs. Personnel, less Sisters, arrived on 9th March 1943. 66 Sisters, which included Jane Pugh, embarked in Alexandria on 4 March 1943 and arrived in Tripoli on the Hospital Ship "Llandovery" on 22 March 1943. A report from Officer Commanding 2 General Hospital states that much of the equipment was broken or missing on arrival at Tripoli.

Hospital Ship "Llandovery

In Tripoli the nurses were allotted what had been an Italian barracks. Everything had been deliberately broken ~ and it was filthy. The King inspected the 48th General Hospital on 19 June 1943. However Tripoli was not that bad. It was an important Axis base until taken by Montgomery's forces on 23 January 1943. It then became a hospital centre, and the burials in the war cemetery were almost entirely from the hospitals, which included Nos. 2, 48 and 133 General Hospitals from March 1943, and No. 89 General Hospital from April 1944.

Except for sunken ships in the harbour, neat piles of rubble cleared from bombed out areas, the flow of military traffic, and men in uniform everywhere, Tripoli had the aspect of a seaside resort. Once the showpiece and centre of Italy's Libya colony, an impressive row of pompous blue-tinted Fascist-style buildings faced in sandstone and marble lined the curved highway that rimmed the protected harbour. There were similar large public and private buildings downtown. There were shops where traditional artisan products could be obtained. The Mediterranean littoral, west of Tripoli, and stretching for hundreds of miles to the east, was intensively farmed by the skilled Italian farmers and their families who had been encouraged to settle these lands. After the 8th Army had driven the Afrika Korps out of Tripoli (January 1943) these farms had been cultivated again, and a colourful open air-market displayed their goods. The army rations were readily supplemented by an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish. All along the coast were the most inviting beaches and waters for swimming and sunning that anyone could want. Within the spacious harbour itself, and at other choice locations, swimming establishments and clubs with bathhouses and restaurants had reopened.

Shortly after allied troops captured Naples on 1st October 1943 the hospital was again dismantled and they boarded a hospital ship, which sailed to Naples. This was a pleasant trip. The ship was brightly lit up so it would not be attacked and the accommodation was very comfortable. They disembarked by walking over the side of one of the wrecks lying in the harbour.

On 5 December 1943 2 British General Hospital took over the Caserta Palace, the place where Emma (Lady Hamilton) and Nelson would stay for the weekend with the King of the Two Sicilys. It had been a hotel for some years, and the waiters were kept on when the place was taken over to be used as a hospital. They wore penguin suits with the regulation napkin over their arm, and come round taking orders for the meals. The menu seemed extensive, but was in fact bully beef, done up in different ways.

2BGH remained at here at Caserta (north of Naples) from December 1943 until September 1945. 2BGH had been with the 8th Army throughout the desert campaign. They started of in Alexandria at the beginning of Wavel’s first show, Operation Compass. Then they moved to Benghazi, then to Tripoli and Tunisia and from there to Caserta.

2 General Hospital became partly a tented hospital and was called upon to work to capacity. Because of the limited number of buildings available (five wards of a total of 24 in the barracks), it was decided to place all administrative offices in tents, and to use the indoor space entirely for patients. All the staff were accommodated in tents. The inclement weather brought many hardships. It was cold, with heavy rain and wind, and snow lay on the nearby hills. Many of the tents were flooded out, but the staff cheerfully accepted their conditions and discounted their discomforts. Sisters and nurses showed a particularly admirable spirit. The QAs here did not wear battle dress but wore a proper uniform with the red cape and a natty pair of desert boots.

One afternoon, March 22nd 1944, there was a sound of a huge explosion, it was Vesuvius erupting with a huge plume of smoke. The eruption went on for days and at night glowing lava could be seen flowing down one side of the mountain while lightning played over the peak.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius on March 22nd, 1944

She married Alan Grant, a doctor in the RAMC in Naples. Marriage Certificate

“On the 27th April 1944 at Christ Church, Naples, Italy, Sister Jane Pugh T.A.N.S., the eldest daughter of Mr & Mrs Evan Pugh of Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent and Bangor, North Wales, was married to Captain Alan Proctor Grant R.A.M.C., the only son of Mr & Mrs Charles W Grant, Ardmore, Holywood Co Down. The service was conducted by Rev Senior Chaplain Cross. The bride was given away by Captain Lloyd Owen R.A.M.C. of North Wales. The best man was Captain J Gilmore R.A.M.C. of Northern Ireland. At the organ was Captain Vernon Rees R.A.M.C. of South Wales. After the reception at the Allied Officers Club, the young couple left for a short honeymoon at Amalfi and Capri before returning to their different units”

The marriage certificate shows Jane Pugh, Nursing Sister TANS of 2 British General Hospital CMF married Alan Proctor Grant, Capt RAMC of 2(UK) CCS

Naples 1944
Naples 1944

The Allied Officers Club was located on hill overlooking Naples. It was described as a beautiful club, finished in marble, with an all-around balcony upstairs with an extra bar. The orchestra was Italian and excellent. Every imaginable uniform present—American, British, French officers, nurses, WAC’s, ATS, Red Cross girls, Canadians, Scotsmen dancing in kilts. Drinks were apparently fairly good too.

Christ Church, Naples

Honeymoon was at Tramontano Hotel, Sorrento

Tramontano Hotel in 1952 and in 2019

Jane and her new husband were returned to their unts. She got to Sienna in Aug 1944

The conception of their first child, David Grant, must have been at a Christmas leave in 1944 (he was born Sept 1945). Jane's pregnancy resulted in her being transferred back to the England by ship, via Gibraltar in spring 1945, and subsequent demobilisation.There was a letter from the War Office 28th March 1945 sent to Mrs J Grant 50 Bailey Road, Fenton,Burton on Trent. dealing with her resignation.

Peggy, Emrys, Oswald and their mother Cissy in 1946

Adlington Hall in Cheshire
Jane with David, born 1945

Their eldest child, David Grant, was born in September 1945 at Adlington Hall in Cheshire, then used as a nursing home.

David was off to Ireland with his mother about 6 weeks after he was born

Within a few weeks the new family went straight to Belfast in Northern Ireland, where Alan Grant had been brought up and had qualified as a doctor before the war. Here they lived for a short and difficult period with her father-in-law-Charles Grant and her mother-in-law Elsie Proctor , before moving to a rented flat at Ardmore Terrace, Holywood, Co Down.

The family moved from there to Knockagh, High Street, Hollywood, and then to 28 Sans Souci Park, Belfast around 1950 (the house has since been pulled down by Queens University in order to develop student accommodation). They also had a small holiday cottage at Millquarter Bay, Killard, Strangford, Co. Down at this time.

John Evans with Fiona, Charlie and David Grant (Jane Pugh's children)

Charlie born 1949, Fiona born 1951, John Evans (Jane's uncle) with Fiona, Charlie and David Grant (Jane Pugh's children)

They moved from there to Cherryhill, Belfast after selling 28 Sans Souci Park to the university. There was some acrimony here as both Alan and Jane Grant felt that the university was forcing them out with the high rise developments that they were putting up behind the house.

After a stay in Cherryhill for around 5 years, they moved to Killenican Hill, Killinchy, Co Down around 1968, and Jane and Alan Grant lived there until there deaths in the early 2000s.

With their deaths the Grant family in Ireland drew to a close. Their three children have all left Ireland for lives abroad

Jane and Alan Grant on holiday in 1985

 Jane Pugh died in Co Down on 19th April 2005 (death cert)

Family fan chart