This is the documentary, I'm One for Marty in Ireland, and today's documentary is the story of a pioneering adventure in Irish overseas aid that happened at the end of World War Two, narrated by Aidan O'Donnell. This is the hospital the Irish shipped to France.
On the edge of a town called Sun Low in Normandy in northwestern France, a small but dignified ceremony is held every year to mark St. Patrick's Day.
I mean, this is a good sign. The speeches are delivered. Flags are run up. Flagpoles. Anthems are played, Normandy's weather is often wet, so the rain don gathering feels quite authentic for St. Patrick's Day, except the crowd is relatively small and everybody speaks French but backs on them.
I know many people who turn out I've never been to Ireland. They don't know that much about the country or about his patron saint. They come out every year because a group of Irish people came here right at the end of the Second World War and ran a hospital at the very spot where they're holding their ceremony. In 1944, towards the end of the war, this town, which is just a few dozen kilometers from the Normandy coast, was bombed almost out of existence.
They keep thinking positive, moving.
In response, the Irish Red Cross in Dublin prepared to do something it had never attempted before to gather the staff and contents needed for a hospital and to plant it in France.
So in the autumn of 1945, groups of Irish nurses and doctors and other workers began to make their way to what was left of the town of San Locarno.
I mean, this is a little known episode in Ireland's wartime history, but it gave rise to San Luis, Hopital Ireland, it's Irish Hospital.
And the hope this represented in the aftermath of World War Two is still remembered in Sando today.
Simple question. You do it for me.
I think you would say your name for Sadeh. I'm Phyllis Gaffney and I retired a couple of years ago from the French department in your city and I lectured in French for about 40 years.
Phyllis Gaffneys father, the Dublin pathologist, Dr. Jim Gaffney, was one of the medical workers involved in the Irish hospital in St. Louis.
He was born in 1913. Yes. He was just just in his early 30s when he was in Louis. He had studied medicine. He was Trinity graduate and had worked in Cambridgeshire for a number of years. So I think he was seconded to go to St. Louis. He was recruited in the autumn of 44, piecing together the story of the hospital.
And Sandalow became a project for Phyllis, a piece of historical research, but also a very personal one. Her father died before she was born. I never met him.
He was he was killed in an air crash before the first Stirling's air crash in North Wales, before I was born, three months before I was born. So obviously that was a big impetus to my doing this research.
During his time in France, Dr Jim Gafney regularly wrote home to his family in Dublin 31st of August 1945. Dearest mother, the only item of interest to record we are tripto.
That's his writing at the heading that the letter had is interesting.
The lads were all very pleasant and I'd enjoy it here, but it'll be more interesting when we get things going properly. Jocie, his younger sister, kept all of his letters.
That's what set me off on the story.
I'll just say before I stop here that there is literally nothing for us to do just now nor won't be for some time. So we're trying to get in on the language as far as we can.
In the late 1990s, Phyllis Gaffaney took time off from her job. She spoke to people in Normandy, dug into archives and pieced together the history of this one time Irish hospital in France was unusual as a piece of research because it told me something about my father.
So it served two purposes. Jim Gafney was just one worker in a group of around sixty Irish people who set up and ran the Irish hospital over a period of about a year and a half at the end of the Second World War.
They were doctors and nurses and general hospital staff from around 20 different counties.
It was one of the first Irish overseas humanitarian projects. Unlike some of the other stuff in the new hospital, he had lived abroad.
Many of them had never been abroad before, and it was an adventure for them.
Cheerio for now. When writing the Irish Red Cross Hospital, Santo France will get us all us affectionately yours, Jim. This is London. Under the command of General Eisenhower, allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing at 8:00 a.m. this morning on the northern coast of France. The Irish hospital was a response to the disaster that had occurred in San Low towards the end of World War Two, when mainly British and American forces launched their attack to retake Europe from the Germans in June 1944 with D-Day.
SUNO is a very ordinary, rather picturesque town. It was the capital of the Marsh region. Almost 12000 people lived in Sando at the time. It was the size of maybe Enniscorthy today or Malow. And what happened is on the evening of D-Day, 1944, that's the 6th of June 44 was extraordinary.
It was completely unexpected. It was bombed to the ground by the allies where the bombing took place over a series of nights in early June 44, ZANLA was held by the Germans. And so it stood in the way of British and American soldiers on their move into France. So the town became a target for the allies. Allied planes dropped waves of bombs on Sando and on many other towns in Normandy. Ultimately on the places and the people they were coming to liberate had been attempts to warn the people by the allies.
They had dropped loads of leaflets suggesting that the people should flee and evacuate the town. But what happened to those leaflets was that the wind blew them to the east. And in any case, people thought, well, the allies will be here in the morning, why should we leave? So they stayed and there were quite a lot of casualties. When the bombing stopped, there were hundreds of people dead in Sanlu and hundreds more died of their injuries in the hours and days that followed.
The town would become known as the capital of the ruins, one in 10 buildings remained standing and I say standing, you know, tottering, teetering. So it was really extraordinary. It looked like scenes from hell. The municipal hospital was destroyed. There were other hospitals suffering damage, too. There was no pharmacy left in the town. Complete destruction. Sandalow today is a pretty unremarkable town, about three hours drive west of Paris, but if you walk around the town, you see statues and monuments dedicated to American soldiers or to civilian victims.
The main church still has shells lodged in its walls, and parts of the church have been bricked up. I'm on the edge of the town square and I'm at the steps of what at one time was the town prison, but when you come down the steps and look back up, you can see that there's about six feet a wall on either side of the entrance, which is what this was. And then that's it, because this prison was destroyed when the allied bombs fell from D-Day onwards and dozens of people who had been locked up by the Germans, some of them resistance fighters, died buried in the rubble.
And so this fragments this little part of the prison has stood here since as a memorial with most homes destroyed.
The residents of Santillo, who'd survived, became refugees in the surrounding countryside. There was no shelter and little infrastructure. Nicole Harrisville, who lives in the town today, says her mother was one of these refugees, is decided to leave.
Do you see what my mother lost both her parents in the space of six months in 1944. I think that one of her brothers was missing for a long time because he'd been injured. He had shrapnel in his foot.
That was from when my maternal grandmother had been killed.
I a bomb, said the mom on the bus. It was horrific because the children had to bury their mother. You can film right there on the somebody's party and they took off down the road to get to the fence and close. But they isn't party donors.
Should they headed south and stayed. And the that's what people did, though.
Some refused to leave and some crept back when they shouldn't have into the salaries and lived in terrible conditions for months in Ireland.
At this time, with the war entering its final year, we're still talking about World War Two as the emergency. Ireland had stayed neutral through the fighting. But it was still affected by the war. Swinging stride men and women of the Irish Red Cross marching procession before Mr. Devlet in Dublin. They're all voluntary workers in the cause of charity, and the nurses especially have been called upon to perform the hardest tasks in a time of emergency.
The Irish Red Cross was set up in 1939 and it worked very closely with the Irish Army, the Irish Army Medical Corps, and it had hundreds of branches all over the country. And it was mainly concerned with pursuing the war effort at home, giving first aid classes, ensuring that there would be medical supplies for the hospitals, and that in some cases meant volunteer women coming in to make bandages and blankets and so on. But they also had some overseas projects, such as sending parcels to prisoners of war on the continent.
In 1943, the Irish Red Cross tried to send a mobile hospital to the fighting in Europe. But Britain was more interested in recruiting Irish doctors than in a hospital unit. The following year, an offer was made to the French Red Cross and it was accepted.
And the plans very quickly developed into an offer of a hospital, a civilian hospital of 100 beds, which was to be set up in a place yet to be decided. Cork Examiner Second October 1944. Public Notice Irish Red Cross Society Hospital Unit four front the surface to be at 50 or 60 people.
Ads were put in Irish newspapers for staff, doctors and nurses are wanted. Also members of the society willing to act as engineers, ambulance mechanics, clerks and interpreters.
There were over 600 applications from all over Ireland.
Irish Independent 12th of October 1944. Head of unit to France chosen Colonel TJ McKinney has been chosen by the Irish Red Cross to act as an officer in charge of the hospital unit in France.
It's understandable that the army was involved and that they procured the secondment of Colonel Thomas McKinney, who was to head up the operation. And he was a very good choice. He was head of the Army Medical Corps at the time. He had gone to Spain with some aid in 1943, and he spoke fluent French, fluent Spanish, fluent German and good Irish. So he was and he knew how to organize things.
In early 1945, Colonel McKinnie went to visit devastated parts of Normandy, including its most badly damaged town, Sandalow, and when he got back, he made this appeal on Irish radio in Lou, the scene of our perspective libres, I was told that many of the former residents have returned to live in the cellars. Personally, I got the impression that all the sellers must be choked with debris. So low may be described as 100 percent flattened the work of a few hours from the air.
The world will expect the Irish Red Cross as representing a nation which had escaped the ravages and horrors of war to play a full part. Help, much help will be needed.
The cost of the hospital was to be funded by donations from Ireland and by sweepstakes, an early version of a national lottery, very quickly, costs of over a million euros in today's money were run up and there were still all the staff salaries that would have to be paid by the spring of 45.
It had been agreed that the French Ministry of Reconstruction would provide the, if you like, the hardware, the buildings, the sanitation, the plumbing, the electricity, and that the Irish would bring everything else and send everything else. One of the people they would send was nurse Mary Frances Crowley, who worked at Dublin's Eye and Ear Hospital. She was from Wexford and in her late 30s, she took up the job of Matron for the Irish Hospital in St.
My name is Bernie Bernie Mac MacNamee. I'm a niece of Mary Frances. And I remember her telling me all about going to Sandalow, which was a big thing in those days. And it is very interesting to read about it.
It was a lovely time in her career. It was a lovely thing to do.
Mary Frances Crowley would become a very important figure in later years for nursing education in Ireland. But for her family, she was simply Auntie Maureen.
She wasn't particularly tall, but she had a very imperious kind of stature. You couldn't miss her if she walked into a room you couldn't miss.
And tomorrow she would stand out.
And yet she had a gentle voice.
She didn't have a strident voice or anything, and a pleasant face always wore her hair scraped back in a barn and always wore a hash.
Her first job was to her staff. Then it was time to start collecting all the materials to build and to stock an entire hospital.
Only those who had the privilege to assist with the preparation and organisation can estimate the colossal task it was to try and ship a complete hospital from one country to another and to set in motion every department fully equipped and staffed.
Among Mary Crowley's papers, Phyllis Gafney discovered a talk she'd given about the Irish hospital and about all the logistics involved.
The preparations consisted of preparing a list of the required departments medical, surgical, all of the equipment, equipment, including furniture, chairs, tables, beds, obviously bed linen.
That's only a start.
Cooking utensils, refrigerators, fuel, medical appliances, toilet requirements, dressing.
They also packed enough food for six months. There was whisky for enough for about a year. Cigarettes?
Yes. Hospital staff smoked in those days.
Vegetable seeds for the garden material for the chaplain. You know, that had to be a chapel, of course, and vestments for the priest. Everything you name it, it was phenomenal. I mean, there were, what, 3500 crates.
And as a team, we assembled all the requirements in Lincoln Place, Dublin. It was a phenomenal undertaking when you think about it. And a lot of the equipment was provided by volunteers, women volunteers going into hem sheets and blankets. You know, it was all provided basically from nothing.
In the summer of 1945, with the war over in Europe, but still raging in other parts of the world, the materials were ready to be shipped from Dublin Port six ambulances, a wagon, a lorry, generators, hundreds of tons of food and medical supplies and 200 beds. The storekeeper who had the job of looking after the material once it arrived in Normandy was the writer Samuel Beckett. Years later, he would win the Nobel Prize for literature and see his work and his name become world famous.
But at this point, he was 39 and it published some work which was still unknown. He was based in France and Paris and had spent the war years helping the French Resistance movement and then working as a farm laborer. But with the war ending, he'd come back to Dublin for a visit. The writer and Beckett specialist Gerry Dukes says at this point he was essentially stuck in Ireland. He's in Dublin.
He's at a loose end.
He discovers fairly early in his visit back to his mother, whom he hadn't seen for five years, that this time that he wouldn't be allowed back into France because he wasn't he didn't have a valid court decision. So there he was with a flat in Paris, a life partner in Paris, a possible future in Paris as a French writer and no way to get there.
One of the doctors who was due to travel to France, Alan Thompson, told him about the hospital.
He knew back and he knew Beckett's situation. And he suggested to him that he should apply for the job at the Red Cross to be a storekeeper and interpreter.
And Beckett interviewed for the job and got the job in August 1945 because Alan Thompson and Colonel McKinnie travelled to Sanlu as an advance party. The last fighting in the World War was finally ending that month. It was now over a year since the allied bombs had fallen on the town. When you think of what Europe must have looked like, Dresden was 95 percent destroyed. Hamburg was 80 percent destroyed. Berlin was well over 60 per cent destroyed. And that's in the heartland of the Nazi threat towards ruination all over Europe.
There is a letter written in the 19th of August 1945 from Santillo by Beckett saying that the the place it's been it's been raining for days and the place is a sea of mud. And that he has he has very great fears. But if it's like this at the end of the summer, what is going to be like in the winter? And not only that, but there is there's actually no place to live in that place is utterly destroyed.
In fact, he shared a bed with one of the doctors from the hospital in the early days before that, the accommodation was what became available. He shared a bed in a room with a man in the bed, and they had a booklet in which to wash. There was no no sanitation, no plumbing.
It was fairly provisional, as he says himself. Samuel Beckett wrote several pieces about his time at Sando. One of them was a script for authority radio that it seems was never broadcast.
In it, he refers to the difficulties involved in setting up the hospital and then working with different groups of people, what he called the home temperaments and the visiting temperaments.
I suspect that our pains were those inherent in the simple and necessary and yet so unattainable proposition that their way of being we was not our way and that our way of being, they was not their way.
It is only fair to say that many of us had never been abroad before, and of course, they got more than they bargained for because not only was he a superb interpreter from French, but he also had possible German so that he was able to liaise with the German prisoners of war who were used in the building of the hospital itself.
A few weeks later, more doctors arrived to join the advance party. These included Phyllis Gaffneys father Jim Gafney. Shortly after he wrote home to his sister, Maureen, he said that when they arrived in Satullo, it took almost an hour to find the hospital. One street of ruins looks very much like another. There are acres of empty spaces. That is the rubble piled up 10 to 20 feet.
Many of the streets can be traversed only on foot by stepping from one part of bricks to another. Many settlers still lie under the debris and demolition work goes on slowly but surely. Digging the other day, they found the body of one of the local bakers and two of his assistants. We saw the post office, which has got it, you can see the sky through the empty windows and roof, it would have been about the size of Mount Joy police station.
By now, progress had been made on the wooden huts that were going to make up the hospital buildings, there are 10 huts quite large made of wood lined with asbestos and Bryce with many windows and electric lighting. Our clothes are thrown on a chair beside the bed or over one of the low cross ties into the ceiling, the eight of us sleep is rice and read in this house, which is the only complete one. The others are being wired or otherwise finished.
Can you tell us where we are at school to learn the layout of the Irish hospital in know is still clear today for Libo. He has a special connection to the hospital. He was born there not long after the Irish arrived and also had family members looked after in it.
Also to there are we're standing right on the ground where the Irish hospital was constructed.
It used to be Chieko. There's nothing left except a single hut, which was part of the Irish hospital.
And we should say that was all of this land which slopes down a symposium on it because it was on a slope.
It was built slightly terraced, but you might whole year and the buildings were all connected by covered corridors.
The Wales which let you move from one department to another, from maternity to radiology or to the operating theatre, for example.
The Irish staff continued to arrive in batches in November 1945, the first nurses arrived with a radiographer and an obstetrician gynecologist.
There were lots of accidents, unexploded mines, crumbling masonry, people being being injured in that kind of way. There were loads of diseased men who had come back from labour camps and from the war with with continuing medical problems.
The matron, Mary Frances Crawley, remembered that the hospital served a much wider area than just the town.
The ambulance service served the whole Normandy area and did invaluable work at a time of great need. Always ready to go to the scene of an accident or to an isolated hole to bring the patients in by October.
There was an x ray service in place, as well as Jim Gaffneys pathology lab. He set up a pathology lab in one of the huts. And when I say set up, it was rigged up. You know, recycling was before it was invented.
So in his, in his lab, erm it was agreed that it would service the whole area. So it wasn't just the samples from the patients, it was any pathology work that needed to be done in a radius of I don't know how many miles around Santo. That's Ashton Show. And to back out of his pocket, you know him, that's my dad, the German prisoners of war. This is Colonel McKinney, that's Tommy Dunn.
Becker drove regularly to the ports to collect supplies and Irish workers who were arriving. He also went to Paris, where on one occasion he showed Jim Gaffney the sights.
Sam took me into Notre Dame, which was magnificent.
There is a nice anecdote about Beckett and Tommy Dunn, his assistant, but he passed a little rosary beads, which was on a stone, a Notre Dame to bring back as a little so shelf of souvenirs on sale.
And he bought a rosary beads to give to Tommy Dunn, which I thought of no such and thought he was a very nice man.
It was very thoughtful. His body was everybody body. They did make good friends with many allied bases around the of a vast American hospitals who lent them and gave them gifts of things that were RAAF bases and they used to go fraternize with them. They even went for dinner once in a local convent. Beckett didn't think the convents were such nice places. He'd never known convents could be such nice places. They were given a seven course meal by the nuns and showers.
That was the time that no showers, no sanitation. For months, sanitation coincides with the arrival of the first female staff.
In November 1945, more nurses arrived, a radiographer, an obstetrician gynecologist, by December, the outpatients department had seen over a thousand people. The wooden huts that made up the hospital were now ready, and the wards finally opened for inpatients. There were now six doctors, 10 nurses and nine general staff who had all traveled from Ireland.
Mary Crowley, who was the matron of the hospital and had been recruited very early on, was waiting to be called. She turned up. She traveled and arrived on Christmas Eve in 1945.
Beckett met her and drove her very fast in or through the snow in order to make midnight mass in the ruined cathedral.
And I can remember her telling me, MacNamee Mary Crowleys niece, she said the whole roof was blown off the cathedral and they were looking up at the stars and the choirs were singing.
And she said it was absolutely magical.
After Christmas, Samuel Beckett finished up a storekeeper. He left the hospital and returned to his writing in Paris.
The experience overall, well, he was run off his feet. He was extremely busy doing, you know, four jobs at once. And as he says in one letter, six people asking you questions at once and he flops into bed every night, exhausted. So after a few months of this, he is desperate to leave his mostly desperate to leave because he needs to write this urge to write. And after Somalo, interestingly enough, he writes in French, It's a very important turning point in the trajectory of his writings.
No matter where you scratch at that period of five to six months in France with the Irish Red Cross, you come up with connections that reach right through the work.
By early 1946, Matron Mary Crowley had a fully operational hospital in the surgical unit.
There were 26 surgical beds, a fine theatre, the walls covered with stainless steel plate and cork lino floor covering it had all the most modern and up to date equipment.
And there's a photograph of her there at her desk. But can't you see her Irish roots, St. Patrick's picture upon her on her desk.
But you can imagine within Maureen in charge, everything was run properly. And I'd say it was spick and span from top to bottom.
There were a number of German prisoners of war working in the hospital when it was running in the kitchens and cleaning. So it was pristine, very, very clean with German standards of cleanliness.
Normandy was an agricultural region which had helped in times of food shortages. Jim Gafney recounted in one letter how grateful patients even left presence of food on markets.
A lady came with her son to Dorothy's outpatient department, said she had a chicken for him in her basket. She had some shopping to do, would leave the basket there and call for it later. An hour later, Arthur was surprised to find a live chicken jumping around the pharmacy. There was also a busy tuberculosis ward full of men who'd contracted the disease in prisoner of war camps, and the Irish hospital dispensed the new drug penicillin and told its ambulance drivers to carry guns in case anyone tried to steal it and sell it on the black market for hundreds of times its normal price.
Penicillin was very significant.
It was absolutely not available pretty well on available for civilians. It was there for wounded soldiers anyway. It was a new drug. It was a wonder drug. There were two labor wards and a maternity ward, which was very welcome because it was quiet and clean and very much welcomed by women who had had to suffer giving birth in fields or in cellars during the time of their child's antenatal and postnatal clinics were held weekly.
The babies were born in the hospital. The mother's remaining in from 10 to 12 days. The modern comfortable lying in bed with the swing cuts attached and mobile back rests, added greatly to the comfort of the mothers and attracted much interest. The first baby was born in the hospital in January 1946 and was named Patrick Newell. Many others followed.
Some called Patrick or Michelle Patrick and others were named after Irish doctors. There were an unmarried young woman walked 10 miles to the hospital, heavily pregnant, after her mother and her employers wouldn't have her give birth in their homes. A nickel arrival. His mother's family had been forced out of the town by the war, was born there to.
Jeff, I have a brother I never knew because he died when he was nine days old, you know, he was born in 44.
Bones does live.
And I think the fact that my mother had lost a very young baby, nine days old, lost skin meant that when she was pregnant with me, she went to the Irish hospital is just finished. And I was born at the Irish Hospital.
In the 1990s, Phyllis Gafney spoke to many people who'd been to the hospital or whose families have been cared for there.
The hospital had a reputation, too, of allowing children play in the green spaces because there was a safe place for them to play. And the nurses were always singing with the patients, remember?
And some patients still remembered English nursery rhymes that they'd learnt as children in the hospital.
But also what they remembered very vividly was the just the decency and the niceness of the Irish staff. You know, Dr. Poland stayed up all night with a woman in difficulty and how they seemed to go above and beyond the call of duty in what they were doing, their professionalism, and a little bit extra for the matron, Mary Frances Crowley, the towns or the Irish hospital, as a warm, welcoming place.
The grounds were nicely laid out with flowers and shrubs and vegetable gardens, and the general appearance was homely, bright and cheerful. And besides the constant stream of patients, their relatives and friends, no stranger, I think, ever passed without calling and all received the hospitality of the house.
Afternoon tea. Every Sunday you could go and chat and have afternoon tea. So they were very flagellar altogether. You know, there was a kind of a it had a reputation for being a very warm, hospitable place.
The Irish suffer encouraged officially from the start to get to know the people they were serving. They were invited to parties, they attended dances, funerals in the town.
Some of the hospital workers would spend time in a Sanlu cafe that had been improvised in the remains of a destroyed house. And they were often invited for lunch by the owners, Monsieur Madame to they went to drink in the cafe that Monsieur and Madame Teo set up in the ruined building.
They went to race meetings. The hospital became a center for parties.
The Irish knew how to enjoy themselves.
There was plenty of whisky at the hospital, but there was also plenty of Calvados and wine and cider by my colleague Jim Gafney reported in a letter home that dancing had restarted in the town, in part thanks to the hospital.
The local people brought to dances at the hospital are easy to entertain, as would anyone be who hadn't been to a dance for six or seven years or been allowed to play, and that a record player had been tracked down for St. Patrick's Day, that 80 people had turned up to dance.
Some of the nurses and ourselves sang some Irish songs which interested our visitors very much.
But at this stage, the hospital was operating at full capacity. So it was time for an official opening in April 46, just eight months after the first workers had arrived.
We're looking at a poster and this is genuine. This was among my father's things. Um, a poster advertising the official opening of the Irish Hospital. So Villasana Dimanche set of real universal care on six Irish Press.
But the Irish hospital at Siglo Fronts was formally opened. The townspeople spanned the streets with garlands interspersed with the Irish flag and gave the Irish party who went out for the occasion.
An enthusiastic reception for the ceremonies opened with the special mass celebrated at 930 a.m. There was an official luncheon at twelve thirty, and then the French and Irish parties were driven through the decorated town to the War Memorial, also decked with the flags of both nations.
In the summer of 1946, it was announced that the Irish Red Cross would hand over the hospital to the French.
That Autumn Irish funding was running out on local French doctors, many of whom had now returned from Army duty, weren't very happy that the free hospital was affecting their livelihoods.
This caused consternation in the town council had an emergency meeting. They asked the mayor to write to their.
And the mayor even traveled to Dublin. Mary Frances Crowley remembered how people in the town responded. When it was proposed to withdraw the Irish staff at the end of September 1946, virtually the whole population of Zanla and people from all over Normandy marched in procession to the hospital carrying banners bearing the words, Please don't go. And Saulo still needs you. It was ultimately decided that the Irish would stay until the end of 1946. In December, nurses began leaving and a farewell dinner was held just before Christmas.
The hospital was handed over to the French Red Cross on the 31st of December, 1946. Up to that time, 1427 inpatients had received treatment. Consultations totalled 2398. The total cost of the hospital to the Irish Red Cross was in the region of 80000 pounds.
In today's money, it had cost millions. The Irish hospital staff packed up, said goodbye and boarded trains and trucks, and on January 2nd, 1947, hundreds of people in this small town turned out to wave them off. Over the next two decades, the town of Santillo was gradually rebuilt. Families were housed in prefabs. Reconstruction began. People gradually forgot that at one point after the 1944 bombing, it had been suggested that the town simply be abandoned for good.
And after the Irish left the town's hospital continue to function, it did continue as the Irish hospital, just as it had foretold long after the Irish have gone and their names forgotten, it would be always known as Lupita Ireland.
The Irish hospital here, Lebel, who was born in the hospital when the Irish were running it, found himself returning to the wooden huts.
Years later, Lashko, Lobethal, Ireland, say after the Irish hospital was handed over to the French Red Cross, activities are continuing.
The hospital continued until 1956, run by a religious order, a play on meaning of song sung afterwards.
In 1957, I think the Memorial Hospital of Sanlu, built by the Americans, came into operation on the way to the function.
So the Irish hospital stopped and the buildings were used to make a secondary school. And I went there. I went there for school for two or three years. But we all knew we were at the Irish hospital.
The hospital doctors and nurses returned to work in Ireland in a range of jobs, some of them had found a husband or wife on the project or in the Normandy region.
People met up occasionally in Ireland afterwards and sang the songs they'd learned to live over three words suitable for. The matron of the Irish hospital, Mary Frances Crowley, went on to become an important figure for nursing education in Ireland, but she kept in touch with some of the German prisoners of war who'd worked in the hospital.
Her niece, Bernie MacNamee, still has a present that Mary Crowley received from a prisoner who'd returned to Germany and worked in the coal mines from William Asho, prisoner of war 1944 47, to Miss Crowley making Irish Red Cross Hospital first quarantined on his return to Germany.
Mary Frances Crowley died in 1990, not that long before Phyllis Gaffney began her research into the hospital recessionary saga last year on his return. Jim Gaffney continued his medical career in Dublin and got married and had a family, but then died very young.
He went on to be a lecturer in Trinity and and he was then killed in in January 52, he was coming back from a conference in Cambridge where he read a paper on leprosy.
I think he was travelling home on an Air Lingus playing the same Kevin. It took off from London on a Thursday evening headed for Dublin, but it hit bad weather over North Wales and crashed into a mountain.
It was the first fatal links crash. All 20 passengers and three crew members were killed.
Alvie. The war in 1998, a book of grateful testimony was brought from Sando to the Irish Red Cross in Dublin, Oceanica consists of.
My daughter was born in 1946 with my gratitude, Giti Swannell, Lupita Mythological, and I was treated in the hospital thanks to the Irish.
Much of the testimony was collected by the woman who'd been friends with the hospital workers and had run that local cafe in the ruins town Madam Till and the conversations Phyllis Gaffney had with people in Sando and the research she did became a book, Healing Amid the Ruins. The town's attachment to its historical Irish hospital doesn't seem to be weakening when the town started building a new primary school recently. It was decided to call the school the old Samuel Beckett in memory of the playwright's time as a logistics man at the hospital long before he became known for writing some of the most important drama of the 20th century.
He died not long before Mary Crowley at the end of 1989 for Beckett specialist Gerry Jukes, the short time at the hospital to remain important for Beckett.
I think the key here is the humanity in ruins.
I think it was very excited, buoyed up, sustained by the thought that a place of devastation which had been bombed almost out of existence by the allies, friendly fire, if you like, that Irish people, his compatriots came bearing the gifts of a hospital and penicillin and medical expertise and just general helpfulness and that they were obliged to do that. In his radio script for Aute that he wrote, The year the Irish were running the hospital, Birket suggested that even after the staff left, it would be known as the Irish Hospital.
And he made a further prediction.
I mean, the possibility that some of those who were in Santillo will come home realizing that they got at least as good as they gave, that they got indeed what they could hardly give a vision and sense of a time honored conception of humanity in ruins and perhaps even an inkling of the terms in which our condition is to be thought. Again, these will have been in France.
Close to 200 children were born in the Irish hospital in 1946. Today, they make up an official group and occasionally meet up.
And some of these children of 1946 turn out every year when the town marks St. Patrick's Day in front of a monument that now stands at the hospital site. For me, we all have people in our families who have helped our friends who are perhaps not just medically, but also emotionally and psychologically, because there were all sorts of suffering that had to be looked after our E so I think it's important that we remember. Today, Irish humanitarian workers are in many difficult places around the world, the legacy in a way of that early hospital in a field of French mud, people from outside coming with this vote of confidence that Sanlu had a future.
The fact that other people from outside so that this help was needed and it came through sweat the come, because I do want this memory.
Is it only for the Irish did a lot for Sanlu beyond Bulgaria and in particular for us, the children of 1946, to know.
No, me and all our families who are looked after here for almost 10 years in the same place in Denmark.
It was an important place in our lives and it's marked us only because we will never forget what the Irish did for us. The hospital the IRA shipped to France was narrated by Aidan O'Donnell, it was produced by Eden and Sarah Blake, sound supervision was by Damien Shanelle, readings were by Dawn Lauralee, Connor McKee, Joanne Ryan and Connor Lovas. The audio of Bernie MacNamee is courtesy of Chiri Guilin of Love Audio Stories with thanks to our CSI and Accenture.
The documentary was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television licence fee until next time. Thanks for listening.