Catherine Albury

Also known as: Tatan.

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My mother was born in Ireland in 1924, the eldest of nine. Her childhood was spent on the family farm and at the age of seventeen she started nursing training in Dublin. Mum didn’t finish her training though. There were three trainees who didn’t finish. She felt that seventeen and a half was far too young and they weren’t a suitable age. The training was very strict and she was always being sent to Matron for practically nothing, so she left after eighteen months. She thought that Matron was probably pleased to see the back of them.

Mum couldn’t go home and admit failure because she would never be allowed to go away again. Instead, she decided to apply to the RAF and was invited for an interview. She went to Belfast, the nearest recruiting office, and signed up. She took the ferry to Liverpool and started basic training in Wilmslow, Cheshire. Mum didn’t tell her parents until she had reached England because they had paid for her training in Dublin. As Mum already had nursing experience she was assigned to medical duties. On VE Day, 8th May 1945, she sailed to North Africa.

Mum had some wonderful times whilst posted at RAF Fayid in Egypt and RAF Khormaksar and Steamer Point in Aden. There are many photos of Mum from that time, with names such as Algiers, Asmara, Conquest Bay, the Red Sea and Queen of Sheba Wells at Crater, written on the back.

There were also sad times as well. Mum described how she nursed a sailor from Norway. He got TB and was invalided to her RAF hospital. He was on his own – there were no other Norwegians. He was there six months and used to say that he wished he could get home to see his parents. But he died there without seeing them.

After Mum was demobbed she continued her nursing training at Harefield and Hillingdon hospitals. She met my father Joe Albury in Uxbridge and they married in 1956. He was a teacher then, but had also been in the RAF. They moved to Worcestershire where Dad started a new job. Mum said that when she got married, all she really wanted was a magnolia tree in the garden and a red setter. But she didn’t get either. Instead, a year later, along I came!

Mum went back to nursing, and continued when we moved to Newbury and finally High Wycombe. Dad died in 1975 and Mum worked until her retirement, and beyond. Mum had a quiet retirement, enjoying her garden, keeping up with family news and visiting some of her siblings who now lived in the States

When Mum could no longer look after herself she became a resident at Howard House in Gerrards Cross, a home for retired nurses. It was everything a home should be, with superb staff, and a safe, loving and caring environment. Sadly the Howard House decided to close and I moved Mum to a home near me. I was looking forward to having her close to me. It was not for long though. Mum passed away 3rd August, just over 2 months after leaving Howard House. The new home was similar in environment to her previous one, the staff were excellent, and I could not have asked for better. I knew that moving to a new nursing home at this stage of life was not good, but I really thought Mum was robust and would not be affected – How wrong I was!

Mothers hold their children’s hands for a while and their hearts forever.

Added by: Mary Albury on 18th August 2013.


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Picture of Catherine Albury.
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Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
67 Portland Place, London W1B 1AR
0800 169 2942
Registered Charity No. 1081009