Nursing in Time of War

As reported in the December, 1942, Boulder Canon Sentinel, newssheet of the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium Nurses' Alumni Association. Mrs. Lar­sen was formerly Maybelle Lippincott

By MRS. CHARLES LARSEN, R. N., Former Missionary to China Division

Many and varied have been my experiences since leaving the Boulder Colorado Sani­tarium and Hospital. After having worked for several years I decided to go to Union College for further schoolwork. Then came World War I. With a desire to help alleviate the suffering war brings, I entered the American Red Cross Nursing service and served both in the homeland and in France. At the close of this war I again studied at Union College and did some private nursing. After my marriage I was associated with my husband in schoolwork. In 1926 we were sent to China. The first eight years were spent in schoolwork in the city of Shanghai. Here we went through a civil war as well as an attack on Shanghai in 1932.

After a few months in the homeland we re­turned to China in 1935, where Mr. Larsen was pastor of the China Memorial church in Hong Kong. As you may well imagine, I had many duties as the wife of a pastor. Our work grew heavier as time passed. From 5937 on, we cared for many refugees as a result of the war Japan was waging on China. I worked with the Chi­nese Red Cross during this time. Then came that sad day of Pearl Harbor, in December, 1941, when Great Britain and the United States of America became allies of China. I had al­ready registered with the British Red Cross in Hong Kong, and had been assigned a post should trouble arise ; so I immediately went to work at the Happy Valley Hospital in Hong Kong.

During the first two weeks of the war I was assigned to the task of night supervisor. The first week found us with eighty patients to care for and the work of getting organized. Our patients were for the most part convalescents from other hospitals who had been sent to us to make room for the patients who were in­jured during the bombing. In two days, how­ever, these patients were sent to other medical institutions, and the Happy Valley Hospital was filled with over two hundred seriously wounded patients.

The other members of the night nursing staff were five Chinese graduates, five undergradu­ates, and a number of British, Irish, and Portu­guese women who were acting as nurses' aides. However, after two or three nights, I was left with only the Chinese staff and an Irish girl. Two girls for telephone service also stayed by.

Every night we were subjected to very severe shelling during the first half of the time and again in the early hours of the morning. It was difficult to work under these conditions, with only a shaded candle for light. The Chinese girls were nervous, but stayed by their work.

After we had worked together several nights, one of the girls asked me how I could remain so calm under such conditions. I hardly knew how to answer, and before I could speak a Mrs. Lee answered for me. She told them some of the things of which I had told her in months past regarding the prophecies, and said that if I would tell them of these things, they also would know where to look in time of trouble and would understand the meaning of the things that were coming on the earth. This gave me the oppor­tunity to tell the story of salvation to the night staff. Night after night as the shells were bursting outside the building, these girls drank in the gospel story.

After a while I was changed to day duty. Then the water supply was cut off, and there was little food. Just picture caring for over two hundred infected patients with no food or water. Finally, at the risk of shellfire, a little water was secured from two storage tanks in front of the building. This was not of much help, however, for we did not know how long these tanks would stand the gunfire, nor into how many days' provision to divide the water.

Then came Christmas Eve. We felt that we could no longer stand the sight and stench of the wards. For several days it had been im­possible to go to our hotel for rest and food, and we had had to be housed with the patients all this time. We now decided to ri§k the rooms on an upper floor for sleeping and dining.

Just as we were finishing a light supper one evening and were leaving the room, a volley of gunfire was showered upon us. We all dropped with our faces to the floor, and some of us crawled to the little rooms in the rear of the building. The shelling continued for five hours. Some of us prayed and then sang the hymn, "The Angel of the Lord Encampeth Round About Us." At the end of the shelling we found that no one had been injured. A shell came so close to my face, however, that it burned off my eyebrows.

This was the last time we were shelled, and at dawn on Christmas morning we met the Japa­nese face to face as they came in, taking pos­session of the building. We were now prisoners of war. Many of the women were molested, and it was a terrifying Christmas Day. To tell you all the story would take too long, but I am glad to testify to the protecting hand of God and to His mercy. I am thankful that I was able to be of service to my fellow women and the pa­tients during those trying hours.

The colony surrendered on Christmas after­noon at four o'clock, but we knew nothing of that. Only after one of our number had escaped through enemy lines and found her way to the medical headquarters with the story of our situ­ation, did relief come the following day. Happy Valley Hospital was evacuated, and the staff was taken to the Queen Mary Hospital. I worked there for nearly a month before the staff was interned.

The months we spent in a Japanese intern­ment camp make another story. God continued to be very near to us throughout those trying times. Later we were chosen to be among the group of those who were repatriated to the United States in exchange for an equal number of Japanese prisoners of war.


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By MRS. CHARLES LARSEN, R. N., Former Missionary to China Division

May 1943

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