A GREAT grandmother has told how she survived the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 which killed her mother, father and brother.
Widow Ada Darwin, 98, of Vicars Cross, Chester, was nearly eight years old and living in Manchester with her five siblings when the virulent strain struck.
“I was ill myself. I was the first to be put to bed. I think perhaps I didn’t have the lung effect. If it attacked your lungs you had had it.”
Unfortunately, Mrs Darwin’s mother Jane Berry, 34, died followed by her brother Noel, aged four, three days later and two days after that by her father Frederick, 37, a volunteer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, who’d caught the flu while nursing soldiers at Salford Military Hospital.
Mrs Darwin, who has appeared on BBC1’s The One Show, was brought up by her grandmother and recalls the sadness and confusion she felt during this period of her life.
“I was just aware of a lot of dying and lots of funerals,” said Mrs Darwin, who has three children, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
She says medical know-how was limited 90 years-ago compared with today’s drugs which can be used to tackle swine flu.
“The doctors did their best. I should think a lot of the doctors died themselves,” said Mrs Darwin who does not appear unduly worried about the H1N1 virus.
“I think people should take it seriously and go for an inoculation. There was nothing at all in 1919.”
Mrs Darwin, who has a flu injection every year, added: “They played the flu down. I think it was only afterwards they realised how terrible it had been.”
Spanish flu claimed 228,000 British lives and 50 million worldwide – 10 times as many as died in the First World War.