REPORT TO SPANISH MEDICAL AID COMMITTEE
by Miss Rosita Davson
Wednesday 15th February 1939
Ten days before the actual beginning of the Fascist offensive in Cataluna, the Sanidad sent up every surgical equipe which could be spared to the fronts. Margaret Powell was with the XI Sanidad Army Corps at Prats to Anoya, Lilian Urmston with the XV Sanidad Army Corps near Valls, Mavis King, Ann Organ, and Jim Smyth at Sabinosa with the two autochirs. Ann Murray was on call in Barcelona to leave with the Hospital Train when considered necessary.
At first it seemed as if the front lines would be able to resist the Fascist attack, but ten days later it was evident that the amount of war material at the disposal of the Fascists far outnumbered our own and step by step the Republican troops were pushed back.
Shortly after the New Year, the Sanidad began the evacuation of the hospitals in Reus, Valls, Tarragona and Sabinosa to Vilafranca and Vilaneuva. All this was done in excellent order - no wounded being left behind and no materials lost. The evacuation of hospital went on steadily for three weeks - everyone hoping that a stand would be made soon and the danger of Barcelona falling averted.
On Sunday, January 22nd, Puche gave the order for the evacuation of the hospitals in Barcelona and the general evacuation of Sanidad materiel and personnel to Gerona.
The evacuation of hospitals, which had hitherto been carried out in excellent order, now broke down. The last three weeks had paid heavy toll on the transport, large numbers of ambulances and trucks had been wrecked by bombings and machine gunning. Sanidad drivers were desperate for lack of sleep and were driving their vehicles into trees. Although all reserves of vehicles were called upon for the Barcelona evacuation - the number was insufficient. Vallcara was one of the few hospitals which was evacuated in time.
Dr. Poveda, Parque Central de Sanidad, arranged to transfer my Office with the rest of the Parque. Unfortunately the last vehicles leaving the Parque with the office material did not leave till Wednesday evening, and these did not succeed in getting out of Barcelona.
I left Barcelona with the Blood Transfusion Service base (Amer) my centre because of the transport. The Parque base ( Cassa de la Selva ), Dr. Poveda informed me, would have no fixed transport, and he could not say for certain if any vehicle could be put at my disposition. As I had arranged to be at the frontier on Friday the 27th to meet Roy Poole with the convoy, it was essential for me to be with some group of the Sanidad with transport facilities.
Before leaving Barcelona I saw the office material being loaded on trucks and those were due to leave that afternoon. These trucks however, never got through - an order was issued preventing any further vehicles from leaving Barcelona.
Between Monday and Wednesday before the evacuation of Barcelona I went to Rubi, then the centre of the XV Sanidad Army Corps, and told Lilian where I would be. From Rubi I tried to get across to Tarassa to see the Autochir group but the roads were so badly bombed that it became impossible. The same thing happened when I tried to got up to Solsona to see Margaret Powell.
On Thursday, after my arrival in Amer, I went with Dr. Duran to visit the Jefatura in Gerona. Here, there was a terrible muddle and all the department heads were running round in circles. The streets in Gerona were so full with vehicles that it took an hour to