The Bombing of St. Lawrence's Hospital - 6th November, 1940

The grave of Susan Jane Brush in Caterham and Warlingham Burial Ground.
Bruce Fisher (findagrave)

Only two days after the terror of the daylight raid on Chaldon Rd, the area was hit again, this time taking the lives of two women at the opposite ends of life…

Don Howard remembered that there was precious little warning of the approaching onslaught:

The air raid warning had only just sounded. I remember I did not have time to dress, before the stick of three bombs came down. It made the area seem like daylight when they exploded. If you turn into London Road from Chaldon Road near the Clifton Arms – the first bomb, if I remember correctly, hit houses half way down the street on the right-hand side. The second hit a house on the left-hand side, just as London Road turns left towards Coulsdon Road. The third bomb fell on St. Lawrence’s Hospital building opposite the greengrocer’s on the corner of Coulsdon Road and London Road. The vegetable shop was called Dullaway and Daughters.

The tragedy of the hospital bomb was that a female nurse was trapped in the rubble, and the rescue team could not get her out before the hot water tank above her emptied its contents over her and she was burnt to death.

The poor young lady who suffered this terrible fate was Pauline Mavis Lewis, a 17-year-old nurse from Hounslow.

She was born in Luton, in the last months of 1922, the daughter of George Lewis, an automobile upholsterer and coach trimmer, from Battersea, and Sarah Ellen Lewis (nee Dean).

In September 1930, little Pauline and her parents travelled to Canada to visit Sarah’s brother, James Dean, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, returning home in December. The long sea voyages and vastness of  Canada must have left an indelible impression on her.

Pauline was educated at The Green School for Girls, Isleworth, where she was a “very responsible prefect,” according to the Headmistress. She loved sport and endeared herself to all who knew her. It seems that she went into nursing as soon as she left school, and may have done her preliminary training at St. Charles Hospital, Ladbroke Grove, before taking up residency at Caterham Emergency Hospital.

In March 1937, Pauline lost her father, George, “through the effects of the last war,” so her mother, Sarah, was already widowed when Pauline was killed. Her brother, Bernard, was too shocked by the bereavement to go to Pauline’s funeral, which took place at Hounslow Cemetery on 12th November, 1940, according to a newspaper report, (though the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record that she is commemorated at Caterham and Warlingham Burial Ground).

The other casualty from this stick of bombs was a lady who had led a very different life – 86-year-old Susan Jane Brush, who had already survived one World War, been married for more than 50 years and had six children.

Susan was born in Hambrook, on the outskirts of Bristol, in 1855. Her Father, Richard Tatam, was a Draper’s Salesman, married to Eliza. By 1861, the couple were living in St. Mary’s, Southampton, with their five children – three girls and two boys.

Like many women of her generation, Susan went into domestic service. By 1871, she was one of two general servants living in with the Buxbaum family at 3 Upper Clapton Place, Hackney. Ten years later, she had worked her way up to a position as a cook with the family of Thomas Orfre, a dentist, in Keswick Rd, Wandsworth.

In September 1886, she married Thomas Brush, at St. Mary’s, Caterham, and they settled in the area and raised a large family, four sons and two daughters. Thomas made his living as a coal merchant. In 1940, they were living at 2 London Rd, Caterham, the address where Susan lost her life on 6th November.

She was laid to rest in Caterham and Warlingham Burial Ground, where Thomas joined her in 1949, aged 91.

The inscription on her grave reads:

A devoted wife and loving mother. God Bless Her

Two women of different generations, whose deaths amply demonstrate the arbitrary nature of war – united in death by the love and loss of their respective families.

Rest in peace Susan and Pauline.

Sources:

Quote from Don Howard, Burgess Hill, West Sussex. (Contributed by Derek Neal)
©️The Bourne Society (Bulletin 201 – August 2005)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Findagrave
The Middlesex Chronicle 9/11/1940 and 16/11/1940
UK WWII Civilian Deaths 1939-45
Birth, Marriage and Death Records
Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960
1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 England Census

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