WW II nurse will never forget

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dona Oliver worked as a nurse in Britain during World War II.

Dona Oliver worked as a nurse in Britain during World War II.

It’s been 65 years but the memories are still very fresh for Dona Oliver.

Working as a nurse in Britain during World War II, Dona Oliver saw indescribable horrors and unbelievable acts of bravery.

Even today she is plagued by some horrific memories of the bombings in London.

“One night when they bombed London, they just burned it,” Oliver said, fighting back tears. “They burned every big building they could. I was on ambulance duty, and I had to go into London and see all that.”

The images are still very real.

“To see kids and people just laying there dead. It’s too hard to explain,” she said. “My main concern was getting home to see my mother and make sure she was alright.”

Oliver, who now lives at West Woods nursing home in Niles, was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service — the women’s branch of the British Army — and was stationed at a small hospital in Kent for much of the time.

She didn’t have too much training when she first joined the war effort but she left with plenty of experience.

Her duties included making beds, stocking medical supplies and caring for patients.

“We tried to cheer them up if we could,” Oliver said. “Sometimes we had soldiers who would come in that were badly burned. That was pretty rough, but you do what you can, and that’s all you can do.”

She met her husband during her time in the service, the late Bill Oliver, who was a gunner in the U.S. Army.

After dating for a while, the two spent a year apart when he had to go to France and Germany.

“When I heard he had come home and hadn’t told me, I was very angry,” Oliver said.

She sent him a telegram, saying he would have to come to her to win her back.

He did and they got married and moved to America. They were married more than 60 years when he passed away five years ago.

Meeting the love of her life and gaining skills like discipline were positives out of the war for Oliver.

But some of the chilling memories still creep into her mind.

“Lots of times they just hit me. I can’t help it,” she said.

All the veterans living at West Woods of Niles will be honored on Veterans Day Thursday with a program at Riverfront Cafe in Dowagiac at 2:30 p.m.