A NURSE dubbed Sister Spitfire in the Second World War has spoken of her experiences for the first time and how in the carnage of northern France 70 years ago she also found romance.
Mrs Margaret Ellis, 93, experienced the horrors of a military field hospital a few miles south of Dieppe, but she also found love because she met and later married her husband, Geoffrey.
The bitter sweet memories are still vivid for Mrs Ellis, now a resident of the Gwern Alyn Care Home, part of the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham.
Nicknamed Sister Spitfire by a group of German prisoners she looked after, “Peggy” Ellis had a difficult start in life, brought up in an orphanage in Caego after her mother died when she was just five years of age.
She left at 17 when she followed her dream to become a nurse.
“When I was 17 I went to Bury General Hospital, it was the finest training school in the North of England.”
After three years of training, she was appointed as a young Sister in a women’s surgical ward. But in 1939 she volunteered to be a nurse on the frontline in France with Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps.
“I was based in a field hospital with 1,200 beds and on night duty I had six tents with 20 beds in each tent. That took some coping with.”
It was there she met her late husband.
Geoffrey Ellis came to the field hospital as a patient, having suffered an injury during the fighting – and he was an ardent, determined suitor.
After being evacuated back to Britain, Mrs Ellis worked at a military hospital on the outskirts of London where German prisoners were also patients.
Mrs Ellis said: “We accepted them as patients and as human beings. I’m not very big and I was very young in those days but I was quite strict and they called me Sister Spitfire.”
After the war, Mrs Ellis and her husband Geoffrey, returned to the Wrexham area and lived in Gwersyllt where they raised two sons and a daughter.
Mrs Ellis worked in the War Memorial and Wrexham Maelor Hospitals until her retirement more than 30 years ago – but the experiences of World War Two are never far away from her mind.