David Weekes,

now living in Downend, Bristol, was admitted to Frenchay Children's Sanatorium in January 1943

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This is David's own story of his time spent there...


The Records of Two Mile Mile Infants School state that having begun my schooling there in February 1940, when I was nearly five years old, I left the school on 19th January 1943 (a Tuesday) to go to Frenchay. I had been attending the Children’s Hospital, seeing Dr Faill and receiving sunray treatment. I was not aware of being ill, but I do remember my mother saying that I had a collapsed lung.


Of my arrival at Frenchay I remember little except being put in a single room on the westerly wing of Ward 1. My first meal included soup which I found revolting and as I was on my own I poured it out of the window. How long I was in Ward 1 I don’t know, but I remember that facing the ward was a hut where some times we went for lessons and for play. For some meals, I think it was supper, we went to the Big House. As we often had lentil soup, and always sang the grace ‘All people that on earth do dwell’, for years afterwards the two were so closely associated in my mind that to sing the hymn was to bring the smell of lentil soup to my nostrils.


After a while I was moved to Ward 2, one of the open-fronted wards behind Ward 1. To the right was Ward 2 and to the left Ward 3. Ward 3 was off limits and we never ventured there.


My stay in Ward 2 brings a number of pictures to mind. The first is the openness of the ward to the elements and having tarpaulins on the bottoms of the beds to protect them from the rain and snow that might blow in. On fine days those who were still in bed were pushed into the open air, they may have done this for me when I first went there.


Another picture is a great fallen tree near the ward but to the east. Over the years the core had rotted and the children had cut deep into it so as to create a room with benches and shelves along the sides. When I was well enough to be allowed to wander, I begged my parents to bring me a penknife that I might help in the excavations. We also used to go across to the farm yard in front of Ward 1 to have battles with lumps of bark pulled from the great piles of logs in the yard.


I have no recollection of having lessons at Frenchay except in the hut by Ward 1. I cannot remember the open sided classroom near Ward 2, though I must have gone there as I was at the sanatorium until well on into the summer of ’43.


I can only remember visits on the weekend. My parents always came in. I was told that my mother’s father came once and refused ever to come again it so upset him. As we got better we were allowed to go down to the gate (I think it was the one on Beckspool Road) to see them off. By 1943 the Americans were there and we used to go down to the gate of the hospital to beg candy. They were always very friendly.


I was discharged in July/August 1943. It was a very warm day and when I got home the raspberries were ripe in the garden. Our house seemed very small after the large wards and open spaces of Frenchay, but at least I was reunited with my Hornby train.


My memories of Frenchay Sanatorium are all good. I do not remember feeling sad about being away from home or worried because of my illness. Life was very good and being at that time an only child, I enjoyed having lots of others to play with. It was not until I returned to Bristol in 2000, and happened to visit the Frenchay museum, it dawned on me that it is likely that I had been suffering from TB.

David Weekes, February 2006