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Institutional Archives

Cardiff Medical Students’ Contribution to D-Day

23 September 2015
We recently came across some interesting records in the Archive which can tell us something about Cardiff students’ contribution to the Normandy Landings.

On February 22nd 1944, the Ministry of Health sent a letter to “All Deans of Medical Faculties and Schools in England and Wales,” a copy of which has been preserved in the Senate Minutes of the Welsh National School of Medicine, Oct 1943 – Sep 1944 [Ref.: UWCM/CM/1/3/12]. This letter indicates that the country would shortly be facing a heightened state of emergency, explaining that it would be “necessary in the near future” for medical services to limit the number of civilian patients – a step that was taken to “free gradually a considerable number of beds for the admission of casualties”.

The letter expresses the Minister of Health’s wish that the disturbance to the education of medical students will be “as slight as possible”, but asks that “suitable students be released, when the time comes, from their normal duties to help with the reception and care of casualties, to join mobile surgical teams or to act as reinforcements to other hospitals.” Students posted to other hospitals would be given board and lodging and would be paid £1 a week “during this exceptional period.”

The Annual Report of the Welsh National School of Medicine, July 31st 1943 – June 30th 1944 [Ref.: UWCM/ER/1/1/13] reports that these measures prescribed by the Ministry of Health of mobilising medical students were directly related to the plans for the Normandy Landings. It reports that, “At the request of the Ministry of Health, in connection with “D” Day, students were posted to various emergency hospitals throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire for emergency duty.”

Cardiff’s medical students, along with so many others, were clearly expected to play an active role in the emergency response to D-Day. The Annual Report concludes that the roles they took on in the immediate aftermath were of “value both to the hospitals concerned, and their own instruction.”