My particular interest in this old hospital is because I'm told my Dad
actually met my mother there, I guess about 1937 or so. Before his wartime call-up
he was a journeyman butcher for the larger outlets like Dewhurst (a kind
of sub-contractor of the day) who would act as a relief manager, or whatever, to suit
demand at the time.
Apparently he delivered the butcher's order to the hospital and that's
how it all happened. They married in 1940 in King's Lynn (his home town) and
where I still live.
In 1944 Dad was posted to the continent after the Normandy landings - he
followed up the invasion force areas with the RAF - an electrician on the
planes with ground crew. During this period mum was carrying me and
Dad didn't return from Germany until Nov 1945. She
became mentally ill, possibly with post-natal depression, or all the worry of
having a child with no husband around and also Dad being in war-torn Germany. She was taken away
when I was three months old.
Sadly, sometime after, may be a year or so, the psychiatric doctors at
Hellesdon Mental Hospital near Norwich considered the
illness and advised Dad a prefrontal leucotomy brain operation was the way
forward which resulted in her being left time-locked in the war years and
consequently lost to us all.
What a profound and historic mistake - as a result I had a mother that I never
really knew, indeed I had no idea of her origins, life or roots, just a limited
amount of knowledge because nobody ever talked or explained too much about
the subject. She remained in hospital all her life and dad 'lost' his wife.
I was raised jointly by my grandmother (father's), Dad and his brothers
and sisters. It's incredible to me that a psychiatric nurse should have such a destiny.
Its taken me a lifetime to realize what this is was all about, probably
because of the years of stigma which was attached to her illness. Now there's not
a living soul with first hand info who could tell me the
From my limited knowlegde I have now managed to trace Mum's Irish
roots and the residue of her family of thirteen. Of course they didn't know
too much about the happenings. In a further attempt to understand, I've
requested release of Mum's medical records (and so know of the 100 year rule) and also
my Dad's wartime record and postings so I may hopefully
have some idea or insight into how this tragic event occurred.
I can remember visiting the Brentwood Hospital with Dad in the early
50's to see Mum's old friends and also possibly a trip to his past memories I suppose.
From some of the info I have discovered I can recall my childhood memories which must
have been dormant but somehow and amazingly have been triggered back to
the present with some clarity..