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The Windrush Generation at The Bethlem and the Maudsley Joint Hospital

Josephine St John

Sister Josephine St John's profile picture in the Bethlem and Maudsley Gazette

To celebrate Windrush Day we had a look through the archives for any mention of staff who came to what was then the Bethlem and Maudsley Joint Hospital to work and train in the late 1940s onwards from the Caribbean.

Our favourite item was the ‘Profile’ in the Bethlem and Maudsley Gazette of Sister Josephine St John, which appeared in the Autumn edition in 1967. Josephine came to the United Kingdom in 1958 from Trinidad and had enlisted in the Queen Alexander’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. After travelling the world and spending significant time in Singapore and Malaysia (referred to as ‘Malaya’ in the profile) she joined the Joint Hospital in 1963.

Josephine seems to have been an accomplished and impressive nurse, as she quickly became first Deputy Sister and then Sister at Fitzmary 1 at Bethlem in 1964 and 1965 respectively- which meant she was the first Commonwealth Sister in the Joint Hospital. She also went on to represent the Hospital at the Royal Garden Party in 1966 ‘an occasion she remembers with great pleasure and pride’, and the profile notes her enjoyment of ballet and her keen interest in travelling around Europe.

The profile was written because Sister St John was leaving the Hospital to join her family in the USA, though she was very keen to continue to work in psychiatric medicine. If anyone knows what happened to her we would love to find out- please get in touch via the archives option on the contact page.

However Josephine seems to have been one of many members of staff who came to work from the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s. We’ve found several photographs donated to the Museum from the old School of Nursing that we date to that time and which feature a diverse range of students. This rather wonderful photograph comes with a slightly mysterious letter from 1959 addressed to Annie Altschul, the then head of the School, requesting its inclusion in the ‘Tutor’s book’ together with a poem. We haven't heard of a Tutor’s Book, and we don’t know who these people are- all we have are the names Erica Bayer and Dorothea Howard. Again, please get in touch if you can shed any light on the stories here!

Nurses picture 1

Group of Nurses (?) from 1959

Letter with photograph

The letter that came with the photograph