Celia Packe's wartime experiences

Celia Dibblee (née Packe) was fond of poetry all her life, and she wrote some poetry herself. During World War II, Celia was working as a VAD. The Voluntary Aid Detachment was a voluntary organisation providing field nursing services in hospitals and other places. They were not officially nurses, since their training was rudimentary, but Celia tended to call herself a nurse. She said "Poetry was a marvellous escape from the GREYNESS of wartime Britain - and it was an escape from my own job as a nurse working in various military hospitals.

There are some more poems in Celia's own wartime memoirs.

Night Duty

Written at Shaftsbury, December 1943

Everything is asleep.
The air breaths rhythmically.
The clock pulses evenly.
The radiator's temperature
Warms the room moderately.

The hour is three o'clock,
Time of low resistance.
Life waits for guidance
In this hour of evil,
Then throbs of[f] in silence.

Thoughts become empty.
Five hours till morning.
The sun is late dawning.
Down behind Melbury
She quietly lies snoring.
Celia Packe


Written at Shaftsbury, December 1943

For thirty one nights I've nursed
For thirty one nights I've cursed.
'Flu, 'Flu, 'Flu
On "Officers 1 & 2"*.

Then I'd leave for thirty six hours
To Razzle till money expires
And forget the horrors of 'flu
On "Officers 1 & 2".

Even a nurse can be ill I've learned
For the tables were suddenly turned
Instead of the train I caught the 'flu
And returned to "1 & 2".

It was better than expectation
Mrs Sommerville with inhalations
Sister Cox with Mist Expect
It all took great effect
On that chesty testy 'flu
On "Officers 1 & 2".

Although I've enjoyed my stay
To the staff I cautiously say
Do beware of catching 'flu
On "Officers 1 & 2".

*"Officers 1 & 2" was a female ward.

Soldier's badges of the inside of Celia Packe's VAD cape

This is Celia Packe's VAD cape, black outside and red inside. She sewed on badges from the various soldiers that she nursed.

The Coming Invasion

Written at Shaftsbury, February 1944

This will be no gentle spring
Christened with April's tender showers.
Fiercely will Justice turn her back
On lovers, poets, lambs and flowers.

This will be a fearful spring
When retribution summons dread
Then, baptised with grief and tears
Will Europe bleed and count her dead.

Spring has brought, though eternity,
Fresh courage, hope, a time to pray.
Will crucifixion be her birth?
Who can say, oh who can say?

This was written three months before
the great invasion of Europe of D Day

Newspaper article about Shaftesbury Hospital

Newspaper article about Shaftesbury Military Hospital - Nursing Times, July 21, 1945. Click on picture for large version.