By October 1, 2014 Read More →

A Very Private Diary: An Irish Nurse in Wartime from Galway to D-Day by Mary Morris

A very private diary An irish nurse in wartime from galway to D-Day by mary MorrisWe’ve had lots of interest in A Very Private Diary: An Irish Nurse in Wartime from Galway to D-Day and have already sold out three times. This newly discovered diary tells the fascinating story of Mary Morris’ (nee Mulry) journey from Caltra, Co. Galway to the the second World War.

The large format paperback costs €15.99. Get in touch to reserve a copy or have one shipped directly to you!

About the book:

Mary Mulry was eighteen years old when she arrived in London from Ireland to begin training as a nurse. The year was 1939. She had hoped for an adventure and a new start; she could not have predicted what the next seven years would bring.

In this extraordinary diary Mary recorded in intimate detail her experiences as a nurse on the Home Front and later working on the frontline in Europe. In London, she nursed critically ill children during bombing raids and narrowly escaped with her life in one the worst nights of the Blitz. In Normandy, arriving on the heels of the D-Day invasion, she tended to Allied soldiers and German prisoners of war.

In war-torn Belgium, she witnessed harrowing casualties from the Battle of Arnhem. Yet romance, glamour and adventure were never far away for Mary, even if her relationships often had to be cut short. ‘I always seem to be saying good-bye to men whom I might have loved had there been enough time,’ she writes. Nurses were not allowed to keep diaries on active service, but Mary – fortunately for us – was not one for following rules.

About Mary Morris:

Mary Morris (nee Mulry) was born in County Galway in 1921. After completing her nursing training in London from 1939, she joined the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service Reserve in 1944. She married Captain Malcolm Morris in London in 1946, and they settled in Britain after the war. Mary later returned to nursing and never stopped writing. She died in 1997, and is survived by four children and eight grandchildren.

Irish Times review:

Nurses-second-world-warThe Russian troops who liberated Auschwitz in January 1945 were embarrassed, even revolted, by what they saw. The Jews before them were casualties of starvation and had the furtiveness of hunted animals.
Primo Levi was one of hundreds of Jews rescued that day. Friends hurried to embrace him when, nine months later, he reached his home in northern Italy. Yet within days the exhilaration of his homecoming had evaporated. Levi feared death in a way he had not done in Auschwitz. Was this the collapse that follows a “great relief”?
Levi’s insight into his psychological state seemed to be rare among survivors. He became aware of the disturbance – the neurotic aftermath – that lay ahead so soon after the war’s end.
Mary Morris, who was a volunteer Irish nurse during the second World War, understood something of the paradoxical joys and miseries attendant on Hitler’s defeat. “The awful thing is that the after-effects of war go on for years after the war is ended,” she wrote in her diary, in December 1945. She added that the aftermath can be “excruciating” for Jews and others whose “minds have been wounded” in the conflict.
Her insight into the disturbance was all the more remarkable as the effect on the psyche of those who had survived the Hitlerite terror was little known about in 1945. Yet this young Irishwoman seems to have intuited something: that the liberation of Europe was not always a heroic prelude to healing and suffering.
Born Mary Mulry, in rural Co Galway, in 1921, she had seen enough horrors for a lifetime. Having trained as a nurse in London, in 1939, she tended critically wounded children during the Nazi bombing raids and narrowly escaped death herself.
Searchlights were seen to rake across the sky as tracer bullets slashed through the darkness; clouds of cinders, lit red by the blaze, floated down over St Paul’s Cathedral. “It was almost more than nerves could stand after a hard night’s work on duty,” Morris writes. To top it all there is a constant danger of being hit by flak splinters whirring through the night; at least once Morris is operated on.
She went out to inspect the damage at dusk before her ward rounds. The stench of the burnt London streets, compact of charred flesh, dust and pitch, was overwhelming. The imperial city was a vision of rubble and fear such as Morris had never seen: bombs had ploughed up the London streets like a field. Amid the “constant rumours” of a German invasion, she can scarcely believe she is still alive.
Scenes of horror
Very few nurses’ diaries survived the second World War; the Morris typescript was discovered by Carol Acton, a Canadian academic, in the Imperial War Museum archives

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In pithy, occasionally sardonic entries, Morris builds a picture of the pity of war and, above all, the moral and material ruins of post-Hitler Germany, where she danced the nights away in Allied officers clubs but also got to know the stench of diphtheria (“so foul and sickly”) and gangrene. The scenes of horror and distress she recorded are leavened by childhood reminiscences of the Connemara coast and the glories of whiskey fruit cake.

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