Eve Osborn: The Midwife’s Tale Oral History Collection

The second extract from The Midwife’s Tale Oral History Collection is taken from an interview with midwife Eve Osborn, recorded in 1986. In this extract Eve describes her experiences working as a midwife on the district in Bexleyheath, in the London Borough of Bexley, during the Second World War .

Interview reference: RCMS/251/8


Interviewer: So where abouts were on the district, what area was that in?

Eve: Um, Bexleyheath.

Interviewer: Bexleyheath, that’s right.  And you only did that for three months.

Eve: Only did if for three months, and three months at Barnehurst, the hospital was at Barnehurst.  But in the borough of Bexley, you see, and Bexley is a very big borough and it was half country half, um, town in those days, and, um, even our practice was half-reach you know, all these wooden huts from, um, the First World War that had been condemned, and people were still living in them because they hadn’t been able to rebuild them by the time the Second World War came, you see.  They were, um, ammunition workers and things like that from the, the Woolwich arsenal, making ammunition during the war.  And, and we, er, really had a, you know, really had a very varied district from the slums to, er, posh people down Shooter’s Hill way, see, and old Bexley is very big houses and things, and we often had … well Shooter’s Hill was definitely that, I think.

Eve: And then if went the other way you went down to Woolwich, you see, so it was a very big area and, er, the blackout during the war and, er, er, um, you know, you had to get up in the middle of the night in blackout.  But I used to put my wellingtons on and put these … keep over the top of my pyjamas and put my uniform on over the top of that, ((laughingly)) and the uniforms were long anyway, you see, and, er, put your … then your winter coat, you see.  So you had your pyjamas and ((laughs)) get into it and get out of it.  And, er, and, er, but then you see you had to find a house in the dark.  If they didn’t … and they weren’t allowed to show much light, they used to sometimes do a little bit of red lighting or do something to help there, or somebody would meet at the gate.  But I did six weeks in the snow, and I couldn’t even use the bicycle half the time because you could ride it, you see, in the middle of the night.

Eve: But I still loved it.  I still loved every minute of it.  And I used to go along on, on the nice, nice lanes, along the country lanes, and I used to sing, um, “Glad that I live am I; That the sky is blue; Glad for the country lanes,”, and then I used to sing, um, two hymns – I’ve forgotten now what they are now – but, um, “New every morning is the love; our wakening and uprising prove; through sleep and darkness safely brought, restored to life, and power, and thought,” you know. ((Laughingly)) And, and there was another one – I’ve forgotten the second hymn – but there were two hymns and that, um, thing that I, you know, I had, er, riding a bicycle.  And, you see, you get dogs barking at your coat, ((laughingly)) and there were all sorts of things that happened to you on the district, but I loved every minute of it.

How to Access the Midwife’s Tale Oral History Collection

Transcripts and descriptions of the interviews are freely available online on the Royal College of Midwives website: https://www.rcm.org.uk/midwives-tale-oral-history-collection-transcripts

Audio Interviews
Reference copies are accessible at the library of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
27 Sussex Place, Regent’s Park
London, NW1 4RG
Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm
Phone: 020 7772 6309
Email: archives@rcog.org.uk

Digital copies of interviews, for research purposes only, are also available remotely through the archive.
Write, call or email us to make an enquiry, or to order digital copies (free via Dropbox) for personal and non-commercial research.

Copyright permission is required for commercial use of audio and/or transcripts. Transcripts and audio files are copyright of the authors Billie Hunter and Nicky Leap.

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