BY MATTIE KILROY
The diary of a Caltra-born nurse who worked in London during the Second World War – and was part of the medical team at the D-Day landings – is about to be published after spending years at the Imperial War Museum, London.
The words of Mary Mulry-Morris lay gathering dust in its vaults, but they have recently been unearthed, edited, and will be published this month to coincide with the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the start of the battle of Normandy.
Mary Mulry’s mother died in Pollinaske, Caltra three weeks after she was born and she was reared by her aunt Mrs Sharkey in nearby Lisnagry for a number of years and later by her father. She attended Caltra National School and later Killasolan NS and at the age of 18 years in August 1939 she passed the examinations to train as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital in London at a time when Britain was at war.
She had hoped for an adventure and a new start; she could not have predicted what the next seven years would bring. In this extraordinary diary, Mary recorded in intimate detail her experiences as a nurse on the Home Front and later working on the frontline in Europe. In London, she nursed critically ill children during bombing raids and narrowly escaped with her life in one the worst nights of the Blitz.
Despite the advice of her matron she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service and she travelled to Normandy on a hospital ship with soldiers; arriving on the heels of the D-Day invasion, she tended to Allied soldiers and German prisoners of war. In war-torn Belgium, she witnessed harrowing casualties from the Battle of Arnhem.
Yet romance, glamour and adventure were never far away for Mary, even if her relationships often had to be cut short. “I always seem to be saying goodbye to men whom I might have loved had there been enough time,” she writes.
And she clearly was a woman who acted on impulse – because she accepted a marriage proposal from 2nd Lieutenant Malcolm Morris just two weeks after they’d met. They married eighteen months later and remained married for 50 years.
“We had four children, one boy and three girls, and at the last count had eight grandchildren and one great grandchild,” said Malcolm, later Captain, Morris.
The keeping of a diary during the war was not recommended in case the enemy would get their hands on it but for Mary it was a record every day.
She records her escapes from death by bombing, of her social life, her family including her brother Michael who had emigrated to America and joined the US army and he too landed in Normandy on D-Day and was amongst the US soldiers liberated from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
She records life in Ireland and of her father’s republicanism and his views on partition of Ireland. She recalls that another hospital ship that sailed with them hit a mine and sank with all lives lost.
Her assignments and help for wounded soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk are included in her entries. She died in 1997 in Llandogo in Wales, but her memory lives on in this diary edited by Carol Acton. Her other brother Paddy Mulry moved from Pollinaske to the nearby Glebe where he farmed and where members of his family still live.