Sybil Allen, 87, and Mary Walker, 88, both met at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on their first day of preliminary nursing training school on 28 December 1948.
70 years on, after enjoying long nursing careers together, they remain the best of friends and now live together in the Cotswolds.
Sybil and Mary retired in 1987 after working together as St Bartholomew’s hospital nurses for the majority of their nursing careers. They enjoy talking about their experiences as student nurses, the most memorable moments during their careers, and how the NHS has changed over the last seventy years.
Both Sybil and Mary were evacuated to Hill End Hospital in St Albans at the start of World War II along with the majority of St Bartholomew’s nurses and patients, as the central London site was predominantly used for casualties. Gradually over the years, wards moved back to London as the country recovered.
Sybil was the very last nurse to leave Hill End and come back to St Bartholomew’s in 1961. She was on the last ambulance chaperoning its final two patients – one male, one female.
Sybil said: “Mary and I have so many vivid memories from our careers and have been best of friends since our very first day. I feel very privileged to share a home with Mary now. Both our families have passed away, so we are each other’s next of kin.
“Because nurses lived together in nursing accommodation back then, we all became a real family. It was our home and there was a support system. We made friendships for life.”
“We both recently decided we wanted to get out of busy London. We had spent all of our careers there. This house we found in the Cotswolds was perfect for us both. We share the ground floor but keep our independence as we each have our own floor as well.”
Mary said: “Sybil and I were sat next to each other on the bus on our first day of preliminary training school. Sybil was knitting and the needles kept digging in to me.
“We spent most of our nursing lives together as St Bartholomew’s nurses, including when we were evacuated to Hill End Hospital.
“St Bartholomew’s Hospital was a wonderful place to work, which is why Sybil and I both stayed as Bart’s nurses for the rest of our careers until we retired in 1987.”