TB patient’s war on the sidelines at Papworth Hospital

A SURVIVOR from the Second World War has paid a historic tribute to medical staff in Papworth who saved his life as he prepared to fight on the front line.

A SECOND World War survivor has paid tribute to medical staff in Papworth who saved his life after he was struck down by a deadly bug.

Charlie Townsend was fighting a battle of his own at Papworth TB colony as his colleagues in the Royal Norfolk Regiment geared up for war in 1941.

The young soldier had been struck down with tuberculosis in his hip. He was strapped to a bed with a 7lb weight for two years, unable to move an inch as doctors tried to cure the infectious disease.

Unlike many of his comrades, the veteran lived to tell the tale and settled in the village to bring up a family of five children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He said: “When the nurse got me to stand up at the end of the two years, I felt like a tall giant. It was a terrific feeling.

“I could have no complaints about my care. The nurses were very, very good.”

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The 91-year-old’s remarkable tale emerges as part of the Papworth Heritage Centre’s collection of memorabilia, which has been unveiled to the public.

Now a world-renowned heart hospital, the centre was used to treat tuberculosis patients during both world wars.

Photographs show Mr Townsend strapped to a bed inside enclosed TB huts designed to shut off infected patients from the outside world.

While fellow-soldiers in the prime of health marched to fight the enemy, Mr Townsend could only listen to news of the war effort on the wireless.

Although living with TB was a nightmare, Mr Townsend said, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because many of his old friends were killed fighting in Singapore.

A hospital spokesman said: “It is fascinating to look back and find that the hospital owes its existence to a treatment centre for TB patients.”

For more information, visit the website www.papworthhospital.nhs.uk/papworthheritagecentre