Episode 7: Anzac Day 2024

Mark Bowers and Clair Mullins with a box of lamingtons

What links Harefield Hospital so strongly to Australia and New Zealand?

A question not many people may know the answer to, but Harefield wouldn't be one of the leading heart and lung centres it is today without its connection to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the First World War. 

In this special episode for Anzac Day 2024, we explore how Harefield Hospital became the No.1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital in treating injured Australians and New Zealanders, and why, one hundred years on, this connection remains so important to Harefield and its staff - including Australian-born Clair Mullins (Theatre Services Manager) and Mark Bowers (Divisional Interventional Lead) who explain what the connection between their birthplace and workplace means to them.

Also in this episode, Sarah Chaney, a historian who led on the Harefield Centenary project, offers fascinating stories from this moment in Harefield’s history – from the special community spirit forged between Harefield villagers and ANZAC soldiers, to the wallabies that would roam the hospital fields. 

Listen to more episodes

Our new podcast, More than a Hospital, delves into the untold and inspiring stories of the people at the heart of our hospitals. In each episode, host Oli Lewington interviews a guest with a particular connection to Royal Brompton and Harefield, as they share the story that forged it. 

You can find each episode here, and on AcastSpotify or Apple.

OLI LEWINGTON

ANZAC is an acronym standing for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. And ANZAC Day is the annual day of remembrance for the wide Anzac community around the world commemorating people who served and died in wars and conflict. It's not widely known about or celebrated here in the UK, but in the village of Harefield, it's been marked every year since its inception. Why? Because Harefield Hospital wouldn't be the world leading heart and lung specialist hospital it is today without the history that is deeply rooted in the Anzac community. In this episode, released for Anzac Day 2024, we'll explore the lesser-known history of the hospital and why the Anzac connection still means so much more than 100 years since its founding. 

JINGLE

OLI LEWINGTON

Harefield was built as a First World War auxiliary hospital for Australian and New Zealand soldiers on the grounds of the Harefield Park Manor House in 1915. During what was then known as the great war, more than 50,000 soldiers would pass through its gates. Years later, it would become a tuberculosis hospital before evolving into the specialist hospital that stands on the same grounds today. It's this incredible and rich history that makes Harefield unique, and why nothing ever surprises me when it comes to learning and discovering more and more of its stories. 

In this episode, we'll share just a small selection of those stories and delve into what this history means to some of the Australian staff members working here today. But first, Sarah Chaney, a historian who led the work on the Harefield Hospital Centenary exhibition, tells us about the beginnings of the hospital and one of the strangest sights of its history, a wallaby named Jimmy.

SARAH CHANEY

So this all started with a chap called Charles Billyard-Leake. So Charles and Letitia Billyard-Leake owned the Harefield Park estate, as it was before the hospital was founded. Charles was known locally as Bill. He was originally a solicitor from New South Wales, but, in 1895, he and his wife, Letitia, who's a wealthy heiress, decided to return to Britain and they settled at Harefield Park. As they were both Australians, when the First World War started, they decided that they would offer the country house to the Australian military defence service to use as a hospital. And that was where the Harefield Hospital started as the Australian Auxiliary Hospital, which began in 1915. And Bill and Letitia continued to stay involved through, the running of the hospital. Bill would pop by to see how things were going from time to time. And Letitia and her daughters, also, worked at the hospital. 

So when we were looking into the history of the hospital for the Harefield Centenary Project, we had stories shared from around the world. So Annette Gutierrez shared a family letter from Letitia's daughter, who was also called Letitia, and she spoke about her work at the hospital. She volunteered in the canteen through that time, and her joy at the knowledge that her brothers and her cousins all survived the war. So after the Billyard-Leakes offered up Harefield House and Harefield Park to the hospital, it was then down to a group of Australians to get things going, and particularly matron Ethel Gray was one of the real galvanising forces in founding the hospital here. So Ethel Gray was a 38 year old, Australian, Queen Alexandra's nurse. She's originally from Melbourne. She volunteered for war service abroad. And in March 1915, Ethel arrived at Harefield Park along with 5 Australian nurses, and she's dedicated and hardworking. And she often went without sleep to keep things going to make sure that she was checking in on every part of the hospital at all the hospital didn't exist when Ethel Gray arrived. 

The Harefield Park was a country house estate, there was a mansion house, there were stables, there were outbuildings on these extensive beautiful grounds, so there was nowhere to house the planned 150 soldiers. So, the original hospital was designed to have 150 soldiers during the summer and 50 during the winter. So it was down to Ethel Grey and her team to, help, arrange, the building of huts, which would serve as wards on the lawns of the, mansion house, along with a courtyard mess, which would house 120 people. 

And Ethel stayed through, all of the founding of the hospital, until 1916. That year she was awarded the Royal Red Cross First Class for her work, at Harefield. And in December 1916, having finished her job, having set up, the number one Australian auxiliary hospital here. She was then posted to France. And obviously, she got a taste for converting old houses into hospitals because after the war, she then went back to Melbourne, and, performed a similar conversion with an old house there, where she created a hospital of which she became its first matron.

So the first eight patients, arrived, at, the Australian Auxiliary Hospital on the 2nd June, 1915, and that was shortly followed by a huge devastation of the Australian forces in the Gallipoli campaign. So while the plan had been for the hospital to have 150 patients, by August of 1915, so it's just a couple of months after first opening, they had 362 patients.

So more huts needed to very quickly be built, and then the hospital quickly expanded. And at its height, during the First World War, Harefield had 1,000 patients. They had operating theatres on-site. They had x-ray facilities. They even had an artificial limb workshop. But they also had, on the other side as well. The hospital had, several mascots, which were brought in by its patients, during the First World War. One of the most famous was Jimmy the Wallaby. So he was presented to one of the volunteer nurses, Nancy Birdwood, by the soldiers of the 3rd division just before they set out for France. And Jimmy quickly became a beloved pet of the staff and the patients at Harefield. And, apparently, he was often seen out hopping around the village. Although, sadly, he roamed a little bit too far. And one day, Jimmy was shot dead by a local farmer who had no idea what on earth this strange creature roaming in his fields was. The hospital also had a cockatoo as a mascot at one point as well, which had been brought by another soldier, from the trenches at Gallipoli. And, apparently, it had a very unfortunate tendency of imitating the screech of a Turkish shell without warning. 

And the hospital had a number of links throughout its time with the local community, really right from the beginning. So shortly after the hospital opened, an advert was placed in the Uxbridge advertiser, and that asked that any local Australians who might be willing to visit the wounded soldiers. The response was apparently overwhelming. Large numbers of Harefield residents offered their assistance with all sorts of different roles. Locals helped in the canteen, helped in the splint making room. They taught handicrafts to the wounded. One of the local villagers that we spoke to in the Harefield Centenary project remembers, that her aunt told her that she used to collect all the dirty washing from the hospital, so there were huge numbers of things that local residents could help out with.

 They might offer up cars for those, few who had them, to take the wounded out on outings and trips. They organised trips to places like the Apollo Theatre in London. And the hospital was very big on sports as well. So from November 1916, they had its own sports union for patients and staff and sometimes played with, villagers as well. Apparently, they played, rugby alternately by both British and Australian rules. And in the summer, things like cricket and tennis and rowing were very, very popular. And we also, during the Centenary Project, researched the lives of some of the soldiers, the many soldiers that were at Harefield during the First World War.

 And these included, people like Bill Hitchen. So Bill, had signed up bravely after the disaster of Gallipoli and the huge number of casualties in France, during 1915. This had meant that recruiting

numbers in Australia had really dropped dramatically. So Bill Hitchen, who was a plumber from a small town called Gilgandra in New South Wales, he raised up a company of recruits. They became known as the Cooies, and they decided to march several 100 miles to Sydney, in order to sign up. Now Bill concealed his age in order to be able to enlist, in 1915. He declared that he was 44 years old. However, when he died, sadly less than a year later, his age was recorded as 52.

 So, Bill had claimed to be younger than he was in order to be able to, go and serve and was assigned, to the 45th battalion as a corporal. Unfortunately, he did fall ill soon after, and he was admitted to Harefield in July 1916 with skin cancer and diabetic complaints. And after his death in September 1916, Bill was buried at the Anzac cemetery at Saint Mary's Church. 

So there's one other soldier's story that I wanted to tell, which is, a almost hospital romance or at least a, First World War romance. And there's the story of Len Fookes. So, Len's granddaughter actually shared this story with us. He was a farmer from New South Wales, and he'd enlisted in the Australian Army in May 1916. By December 1916, after his initial training, 20 year old Len was serving in France. His battalion, the 53rd, was involved in a number of skirmishes, and Len was wounded for the first time in September 1917 during the Battle of Glencorese Woods.

He had a gunshot wound to the right knee and he was sent to Duston War Hospital in Northampton. He rejoined the battalion in February, but then in April 1918 he was hit in the left arm by flying shrapnel and he was sent to Harefield Hospital. Now his granddaughter accounts that while Len was recuperating in England, this is when he met his future wife, Hetty Maguire. So Hetty was born in Lambeth in 1900. And at the time of the First World War, she was working at the Handley Page plane factory helping in the construction of biplanes. Hetty remembered seeing many trains coming into Waterloo station full of wounded soldiers and at some point one of those wounded soldiers was Len. Len carried a number of photos of Hetty around with him. On the back of the photos, he wrote, “if anything should happen to me, the finder please return to Miss Hetty Maguire” and her full address. And Len and Hetty were finally married just after the First World War on 11th May 1919 at St Thomas' Church in Lambeth. In the summer of 1919, the couple then joined many other soldiers and war brides on board the ship HMAT Demosthenes, which took them back, to Sydney, later in 1919. 

And 1919 was also the year, that Harefield Hospital finally closed or the Australian Auxiliary Hospital realised. So the war ended in November 1918 and the last patients left Harefield Hospital, in January 1919. And the estate, the Harefield Park Estate, was returned to the Billyard-Leakes, only later, to become a tuberculosis, sanatorium, in the 1920s, and then continued to be a hospital to this day.

OLI LEWINGTON

That strong connection that Sarah so beautifully described between the hospital and the Anzac countries still remains strong today. Harefield's Anzac Centre is a state of the art reminder of the contributions made by the troops. And Saint Mary's Church in the village is home to the largest Anzac memorial outside Australia and New Zealand. Every year, the hospital comes together with villagers, community members, and representatives of each country's high commissions to honour Anzac Day at the church. To understand more of what it means on a personal level, I spoke to Brisbane born Claire Mullins, Harefield's Theatre Services Lead, and divisional interventional lead Mark Bowers, who's originally from Perth. There's a story from the pandemic that the Australian high commissioner Steve Smith delivered 500 Lamingtons to the staff of the Brompton and Harefield Hospitals. Now I've heard a lot of Aussies talk about Lamingtons over the years, so the obvious first question for Clare and Mark seemed to be, what is a Lamington?

MARK BOWERS

Oh, Clair. How do you wanna start with that?

CLAIR MULLINS

The most amazing experience, food experience that you'll ever have.

MARK BOWERS

Nothing quite like it. Square cube sponge...

CLAIR MULLINS

cake rolled in chocolate covered by...

MARK BOWERS

coconut flakes.

OLI LEWINGTON

So the reason for the question was I heard that during the pandemic, the Australian high commissioner brought a delivery of Lamingtons to both hospitals. But I also heard that you guys didn't actually get any.

MARK BOWERS

That's correct. You know, we were gutted, mate. Absolutely gutted. I can't tell you what that did to us.

OLI LEWINGTON

Well, producer Joe happens to have...

MARK BOWERS

No way!

OLI LEWINGTON

In his little magic bag.

MARK BOWERS

Oh, man.

OLI LEWINGTON

Special, fresh Lamingtons.

MARK BOWERS

How are we gonna talk with one of those in our mouth?

CLAIR MULLINS

Oh my God!

OLI LEWINGTON

Grab one!

MARK BOWERS

That’s a Lamington.

CLAIR MULLINS

They're like proper too.

OLI LEWINGTON

Go for it. Grab one.

MARK BOWERS

Yeah. You know, I used to eat those as a kid. You know, everyone would have a Lamington. Oh, she's going for it. Alright. Ask her a question quick. Claire, can you describe it to me?

CLAIR MULLINS

This is amazing!

MARK BOWERS

Is it bringing back memories like, you know, when you bite into it?

CLAIR MULLINS

It's a good quality one. And it goes everywhere.

MARK BOWERS

I can see that! Oh, they are they are messy to eat. There's no way around it. Yeah.

CLAIR MULLINS

Yeah. Joe, that was special. Thank you!

MARK BOWERS

Amazing. Something so simple. You know, can be so good.

OLI LEWINGTON

Do you wanna pop it down somewhere while we're chatting?

CLAIR MULLINS

I just wanna look at it!

OLI LEWINGTON

So, for everyone listening we have just had a little sample of lamingtons which is the noise you can hear in the background. They are incredible. So I guess second question is why don't we have those over here? I mean, it's ridiculous.

MARK BOWERS

I don't get it. Yeah. They should be everywhere. You know, Lamingtons, they're rife in Australia, aren't they?

CLAIR MULLINS 

Yeah.

MARK BOWERS

If you haven't had a Lamington, you haven't lived.

CLAIR MULLINS

Every bakery. Yeah.

MARK BOWERS

Yeah. Absolutely. That and ANZAC cookies.

OLI LEWINGTON

So what's Anzac cookie?

MARK BOWERS

Oh, I don't know what's in them, but they taste good.

CLAIR MULLINS

So oats, golden syrup, sugar, and a whole lot of love. And they are just absolutely to die for. And I think it was the concept was probably back in the day, they probably had limited ingredients. So in the war days, they just put all these wonderful ingredients together, and that was what they came up with. Obviously, I'm not a historian, but they're called Anzac biscuits and they're associated with celebrations of ANZAC...

MARK BOWERS

Oh, absolutely. Woah. Look at the size of those ones! That's not any Anzac cookie. That's a mega cookie! Oh, no. You know, and someone will always turn up with a batch of them on the day, won't they? Someone will have baked some, you know. And that's just memories of childhood. Lamos and Anzac Cookies.

OLI LEWINGTON

What is it about the community here then that kind of... it sounds like it's a pretty special place around Anzac Day particularly because, you know, you've got people baking kind of home favourites. That must be pretty special?

MARK BOWERS

Yeah. Absolutely. So Anzac Day is a big one, you know, for us here. I mean, mainly because of all the history, you know, which, I suppose a lot of people know, and the villagers here are actually taught totally in the history of of exactly what went on. So when they turn up, you know, on Anzac Day, all the kids, you know, you know exactly what's been happening. But also, when they become adults they follow that through and they teach their kids, you know, going forward. And it's an amazing community feeling that I don't think we had back home. I don't think because it's a whole village, if you like, that has got together to remember the special day and remember the fallen. You know?

OLI LEWINGTON

Can you describe Anzac Day to us? So is it kind of an equivalent of, like, our remembrance day?

CLAIR MULLINS

Yeah. I would have thought so. Just a really beautiful time to remember the fallen and everybody would have some family history associated with those who went to war. And so it's just a really beautiful day to still see so many people commemorate the fallen and what people did, you know, for our country and for all of our countries combined. And it's so nice to be in and work in a place that has such a history of Australians in in particular who offered this land up.

MARK BOWERS

That's right. Yeah. I think we always say, lest we forget. You don't want to forget, you know, when you think of the hard times that went through back here when those nurses come out from Australia and made it into an 80 bed unit and operating theater. And then right off the front in Gallipoli, and Gallipoli was bad news, you know. And so they'd get 20 or 30 patients at one occasion, and we complain when we get 2 or 3 heart attack patients come through at once, you know, but imagine what you had to do when you had to deal with 20 or 30 patients and erect tents and find the beds, you know, it's just an incredible time, you know. And so on the 100th year anniversary, it was quite a big thing for Australia to remember this hospital in itself. And I think it was all over the ABC. The ABC came here and did some filming and sent it back home, and I I just didn't realise how big it was until that happened, I think.

OLI LEWINGTON

So you did an interview, didn't you, with ABC?

MARK BOWERS

They wheeled me out as a token Australian back then. Yeah. That was daunting.

OLI LEWINGTON

Is it something that you felt was important to represent kind of I I guess representing the hospital in a way for Australians back home?

MARK BOWERS

Yeah. Yeah. And funny enough after that, we had some family out in the farm down southwest, you know, and they'd seen me come on the news, on the ABC News, and they phoned up my family and said, I think Mark's just been on the TV! They were like, no way, you're joking, aren't you? And it was incredible. So I love the history here that if I have to go and give a presentation in another hospital, my opening slides will be the history of this place. Because there's stories galore, you know, within that, you know, about not only the Australians coming here, but the mascots they had like the Wallaby and the sulphur crested Galar and, you know, what happened to them, their stories within itself, and how the king and queen used to come and visit, not just for the First World War but the Second World War as well. You know, it was quite a time. And I was just thinking this morning over how they must have felt, those old diggers, when it froze over here. Because not a lot of Aussies have seen snow or, you know, like any any extreme temperatures like you get here in Pomieland, But the lake froze over down the back there, and the lake was pretty good looking back in the day. It's even even better now we've had it done up. But when it froze over, they decided to have a go on their ice skates, you know, and they were like Bambi on ice. They didn't know what had hit them. You know? 

Like, and then you got the cricket as well. So the cricket's a special time as well. It's special for us, you know, especially when we take you guys on in the ashes. But, also, when they they got together, and you'll see some of the old pictures of where they were they were severely disabled, some of them, and yet they played some good cricket. Word is they played one of these village teams and whooped them. I'd still like to believe that.

OLI LEWINGTON

I can absolutely believe that. So, Mark, you were at the Brompton for 6 years before you came here?

MARK BOWERS

Correct. Yes.

OLI LEWINGTON 

And you didn't know anything about the history?

MARK BOWERS

I had no idea. I had no idea. I was there for the merger of Brompton and Harefield, you know, got the medal to prove it. And then went back home to travel. Got passed up for promotion a few times at the Brompton and then, started to go travelling. And then came back here and landed the job that I wanted here at Harefield. And, yeah, the rest is history, you know, but and that was back in the year 2000 I started here. But, yeah, enjoyed my time at the Brompton, you know, young Australian over living near King's Road. You know, it was a good time to be in London, you know.

OLI LEWINGTON

When did you first learn about the Anzac history here at Harefield?

MARK BOWERS

Yeah. So, I think I was here for a good few years. I I was even living across the road from the church, you know, with the Anzac graves. I didn't even realise I was there. And then I think after a few years, got chatting to someone and they said, you do realise that this place is steeped in Australian history? And it was at that point that I chose to read up on it. And then I realised I haven't missed an Anzac Day since, you know, every year since about 2003, 2004. Always down there. We're always down there, you know, and it's it's a kind of an eerie feeling.

Well, it's it's great. You know, you have the the church service, which is always good. They always roll out some dignitary from Australia somewhere to give it for the sermon. And then, we're all outside and you hear the last post playing, and that's when it really hits home. And that graveside is pristine as well, isn't it?

CLAIR MULLINS

Yeah. Beautiful down there.

OLI LEWINGTON

When did you first learn about it, Clair?

CLAIR MULLINS

I think it would have been through Mark, and I think it would have been a fair length of time since I first started here before I knew anything about it. Yeah. I didn't I mean, I didn't even know Harefield Hospital, was a place. You know, I came here. I was on the agency. I was taking a bus out to this place called Harefield Hospital, and I actually said to the bus driver, I think you've missed my stop because I didn't understand why we were now passing fields and cows, and it just didn't really make sense. Yeah. And so that was kind of when that all started for me. 

But like I said, I think it was a long time after that that when I would have probably met Mark, and then he would have no doubt shared the story because there aren't many Australian here. I think it's fair to say there is a a few who've stayed a really long time, but and a few Australians come and go. But it's not the biggest represented country by any means, from a staffing perspective.

MARK BOWERS

Do you know thinking back. I think there was one Anzac we missed during COVID. We managed to have a little socially distanced gathering out the front. Do you remember in that little, little, where the roundabout is, you know, in the green there? We all gathered there because someone put a flagpole up, you know, and was doing the flag. And we actually got a phone out and played the last post on there. And the funny thing about that was we didn't realise it was on loop.

 So we're all standing out there, last post, you know, heads bowed and the thing just kept going over and over and someone were looking at each other like something's wrong here. We would stand out there for ages before someone had the balls to say, I think we better shut that off now.

OLI LEWINGTON

It's an awkward moment, isn't it? When you're kind of you've got your heads bowed and you're trying to work out when you should unbow your head.

MARK BOWERS

And I thought we heard some of that before, didn't you? I'm sure it was Clair that noticed first!

OLI LEWINGTON

Yeah. It's quite hard to speak up though, isn't it? Looping the last post and you say can we stop hearing it now would feel slightly uncomfortable!

This podcast focuses quite a lot on the, like, the unique sense of community that exists at the Brompton and Harefield. And it's, like, it's a place that's obviously really close to my heart. And I noticed it throughout my transplant journey that it just feels different as a hospital. It feels friendly. It feels like its own little bubble of people who know each other, like each other, respect each other and work in a way that I've never come across. Like I had encouragement from cleaners while I was on the ward and things like that. And it it's it's a huge thing for me. And it kind of feels like the Aussie and the Kiwi community is like a perfect little subset of that wider hospital community. Do you think that's, like, accurate?

MARK BOWERS

100%. So first of all, when you say it feels like a family sort of feeling, that's because it is. You know, we all get on, you know, get on well back home. Well, most of the time, you can't get on with everyone a 100 percent of the time. But here, you really do. It's like a family feeling. You can't get that anywhere else. And the best thing to hear is when you hear, certain staff members that have left to go into the big smoke, you know, in London to get a job, and then they find out that it's not the same feeling, family feeling that they've had at Harefield, and they come back. You know? And to see them boomerang back into their workplace, I mean, there's nothing finer, is it, when they come back? I think so, anyway.

OLI LEWINGTON

Feels very appropriate to boomerang back to Harefield.

CLAIR MULLINS

I feel like he's trying to say as many Australian words in this podcast as possible. You're definitely winning.

OLI LEWINGTON

The hospital is kind of shaped like a boomerang as well.

MARK BOWERS

Oh yeah, I didn't think about that. Absolutely. 100%.

OLI LEWINGTON

I don't think you can throw it though.

MARK BOWERS

You're quite good at throwing the old rang, aren't you Clair?

OLI LEWINGTON

I mean, I assume that on ANZAC Day, that's all you guys do. You just stand out the front of the hospital tossing boomerangs around and playing cricket. Right?

MARK BOWERS

No. That's the thing, mate. Yeah. It's definitely the cricket on the go. We have thrown a boomerang or 2.

OLI LEWINGTON

Have you really?

MARK BOWERS

Yeah.

OLI LEWINGTON

I was just joking!

MARK BOWERS

Out in the field's perfect.

CLAIR MULLINS

And I think probably part of that whole community thing is we walk down the street and you say hi to your neighbours and they might be neighbours you know, they might be neighbours you don't know. And I think that's that whole concept of walking through the hospital here. Everyone says hello to you. And generally speaking, you will have crossed paths with them at one time. We are such a small kind of footprint, aren't we, from a perspective of, you know, the layout of the hospital and yeah. It's just a nice vibe. Nice community vibe.

MARK BOWERS

That's something they used to do from history as well. I think the Australians used to peeve the locals off here because the Aussies used to just walk through the doors. They wouldn't knock on or anything. They just walk into the houses and imagine that he's a they didn't like that too much, the poms, you know.

OLI LEWINGTON

How important is it to you, Clair, that this kind of community exists?

CLAIR MULLINS

I think it's so important because so many people have come from a really faraway country themselves. And my sister visited. She just went home 2 days ago, and she goes, I now get it. I now get why you're here. You're not surrounded by your family, but you're surrounded by people, you know, who have stepped in to be your family. It's it's I think you just have so many relationships and create so many beautiful dynamics of people here that, you know, it's a community. It's a family. And so, yeah, we're far from home, but it it's a home. It's, yeah, it's a beautiful part of the world. We're out in the countryside. We're close to London, but we're in a in a place that has a piece of home here because you've got ANZACs buried just down the road. This hospital is steeped in Australian history that we didn't even know about, did we? Like, when we came and then we get served Lamingtons and ANZAC biscuits. Like, you know, it's special. Yeah.

OLI LEWINGTON

Take me back to growing up in Australia and training in Australia because you both trained in Australia. Right?

MARK BOWERS

Mhmm. Yeah.

OLI LEWINGTON

Did you have to retrain when you came over here?

CLAIR MULLINS

No. I had very transferable skills, as a nurse, and I felt that from a technology side of things, I think we were fairly advanced, especially at the hospital where I worked and, trained in theatres. And I actually worked with 1 of the surgeons, who recently came and worked back here at Harefield. So to work alongside him 17 years later was really, really special. But I think our training was strong. I think from a perspective of our standards of care, I think they were really high and so very transferable over here. Yeah. So I didn't come here and feel like everything was completely different. Yes. It was a new health care system.

But, you know, people it's the people in a in a place, you know, that make you feel welcome, show you the ropes, show you the way we do things. And that just made it really easy. A few different names, like, I work in operating theatres. Things are called different things, but, it's such a multicultural environment anyway that everybody's come from somewhere, and everyone has their own story, and so everyone welcomes, you know, new people, new stories, new cultures.

MARK BOWERS

I agree with you. I think the equipment that we were using back in Australia was antiquated. You know, it was it was so old. So as you're traveling around Australia, you had to, as a radiographer, you had to hand process your, x-ray film. So dip it in the developer fixer.

CLAIR MULLINS

Really?

MARK BOWERS

And then the thing over here, that automatic processes. And I thought that's amazing, you know. And, just the equipment used to break down all the time. You're always hand cranking it. You know, coming into the hospital, Brompton working at Brompton and Harefield, state of the art everything. So it was a it was a great time. But, yeah, back then, I think that was probably the only thing is that our the equipment that we were given to use, especially in some of the more outback places, was was really old.

OLI LEWINGTON

So you've both been here for quite a long time. Mark, I think 30 years for you over here this year?

MARK BOWERS

Yep. Yeah. Yeah.

OLI LEWINGTON

And 17 for you?

CLAIR MULLINS

Yeah. He's kind of a bit older.

OLI LEWINGTON

What is it that's kept you here for so long, Clair?

CLAIR MULLINS

I just feel like I've had experiences here that I would never have had at home. I came here on a working holiday visa for 2 years, that was the plan. I was gonna head back home. And then started doing some agency work here, as I said, and it was just like, wow. Coming to work each day is actually really pleasant, and it's really lovely. And we have this thing in Australia. What are they? Duvet days or doona days? Where there was an expectation that you deserve a sickie probably once a month. You know, that was the vibe. And then I kinda got over here and it was like, no. Actually, we're going to work. It's alright. Like, it's, you know, it's what we do here in such a specialist hospital. It really matters. And, you know, we all partake in saving lives. And I know we do different jobs now. We do probably more managerial work than ever before, which means we don't get as much clinical activity, you know, access or exposure, but actually we're part of something pretty cool. And I've had loads of experiences of, you know, travel opportunities, charity work opportunities. And I just feel really blessed and really lucky. And like I said, like, the team that I work with, it's cool. It's a really multicultural team. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a vibe to bring, and it's just it's just good fun and while producing really good work and giving really good quality clinical care.

And I think that's really special. So, yeah, I kind of forgot to go home. Yeah. And could possibly say this is this is one of my homes now for sure.

OLI LEWINGTON

That's pretty special.

CLAIR MULLINS

Yeah. Yeah.

OLI LEWINGTON

What about you, Mark?

MARK BOWERS

Oh, wow. So everything Clair's mentioned for sure. It's it's generally that family feeling here. And Clair's right. We are blessed with fantastic teams. You know, they make every day a joy. And and to be in a hospital, they're actually doing the becoming the first of something.

I mean, look, we got Sir Magdi Prof Yacoub. We've done the most heart and lung transplants, I think, in a year than any other centre in the UK. We held the record for door to balloon times for emergency heart attacks. I mean, we held that for 8 years running until Newcastle and Glasgow ate too many deep fried Mars bars and got better at it. But, you know, we were we're the first, you know, Harefield's on the map all the time, and that's why they've tried to shut us down many times, but we keep staying here because we're a heart attack centre, we're a transplant centre, and actually we've got high performing teams. We are so lucky to have high performing teams, and everyone enjoys coming to work. You only have to look at the staff surveys scores, and they knock it out the park compared to the rest of the UK. Do you enjoy coming to work? Big fact tick. You know, it's high marks for that one.

OLI LEWINGTON

There are very few places in the UK that actually properly celebrate Anzac Day. And we talked a little bit earlier about the the community here, both the Anzac community and the wider community of the hospital. What is it that makes celebrating Anzac Day special here?

CLAIR MULLINS

I'd have to say back home, it is a big day. Really, really big day. And people yeah. And people get up at 5 AM in the morning, and they will go to their local service. And they get to be part of something. And I think it's really special that we celebrate it here and we get to be part of something special and something big despite being so far from home and despite being surrounded by so few Australians and Kiwis, like there aren't there aren't many of us. But to be part of something where you get to respect such a significant day and be humbled by such a significant day and to be surrounded by people who see that same level of significance is really special.

And to do it in such a place as the church with that beautiful cemetery and the beautiful head stones and reading the stories on the headstones and hearing the last post and having all the surrounding dignitaries come in and say this is important. We get this. We understand it.

We're here to respect it and and say thank you and and show our gratitude. And that's like, wow, like this is yeah. So it's it's our turn at being able to equally show our respects and be a part of something that is so special because it's history and it's our history and it's the local community's history and it's Harefield's history, isn't it?

MARK BOWERS

Yeah. It's become our history, you know, and to think that an Australian owned this place at the very start, and in the early 1900 moved out just so those Anzac warriors to come in here off the front, you know, and that you know, when you think you're having a bad day, just think about what those old diggers went through back then, you know, when they were coming off the front after what they'd seen, you know, in Gallipoli. That must have been horrendous. You know? And that puts it all in perspective. I think that's what makes it special for me. I need that reset. You know, I go down there and I experience that, and I think about, actually, what they went through. You and I've had a bad day. My bad day is nothing compared to what they experienced at all. And I think we should forever remember and respect them and never forget what they did for us.

OLI LEWINGTON

And is it special for you here in in any kind of different way to the way that it's special? I mean, obviously, it's different to being back home, but the way that it's celebrated here, is that special?

MARK BOWERS

Oh, hugely. So as Claire mentioned, you know, it's a big day back home as it is. I mean, it's a public holiday, which they don't do here. But to see the whole village celebrate the Anzac Day with their flags flying, procession down the high street, actually, I don't think we got that back home. I think Anzac as we were growing up, it was a day, you know, and it was a remember day, but here actually it's a celebration, and it's a big celebration. And I didn't know that other centres in the UK actually do this, but I'd be I'd be, surprised if they did it as good as Harefield, without a doubt.

OLI LEWINGTON

Is there anywhere in Australia that you'd compare to Harefield? Do places like this exist?

MARK BOWERS

So when I couldn't get a job in Perth, I got a two year placement in Tazmania and actually I'd say the camaraderie there was really good. You know, not a lot of them have left the island. You know, that's like Harefield. A lot of the Harefieldians actually stay in Harefield. They're born and bred here and they stay forever. So actually I'd say it's a lot like Tassie and I joined the armed forces back then in the ten field ambulance in a place called Brighton in Tasmania. And actually that gave me a greater appreciation. You know, being infantry is to, you know, what Anzac Day must have been like. I mean, enough, nowhere near. Of course I was just a learning grunt back then with the hope, you know, to get into the armed forces. But it didn't work out. And that's one of the reasons we ended up over here. One of my mates had a ticket to go to the UK spare because his mate wouldn't go with him. So I grabbed hold of that and now I'm here. So I'm forever grateful that that bloke never, never travelled over here. And then I had that opportunity, you know, so I'd say Tassie for me. What about you, Clair?

CLAIR MULLINS

I'm not sure. I'm from a bigger city. It's just like I said, it's just that community vibe. Back home generally speaking, you speak to strangers. That's what you do. But this, this hospital community, most people know each other. And there is that vibe of you're in a specialty hospital, and A&E brings a whole level of probably stress and overwhelming clinical pressures that we don't have to contend with.

And so there is an element of we're able to give very kind of direct care and in a really timely fashion. And so therefore we've got different stresses and different pressures. And so I think when patients come through, they get they receive the benefit of that. I think in that vibe of not being so stressed and having time to kind of say hi to people and and develop wonderful relationships. So that for me it's that, it's that that openness and that community and that that really kind, friendly, approachable vibe that you get. And I think that's the bit that reminds me of home. Yeah.

MARK BOWERS 

Clair's right. We forget about the patients. So for the transplant patients, we get to see them through the whole journey over years. So even pre transplant, transplant and then post-transplant, they come back for their MOT’s, you know, every six months or a year and we get to revisit them and you build up a bit of a relationship with them, you know, and that and that's a really tough point where they pass away. I think it really hits the staff here hard because they have built up that relationship. And Clair, you're very good at on staff, staff days. You know, when you have the staff meetings, you actually read out the success stories of the transplants and what they're up to now, what they couldn't do before. And I think the staff love that.

OLI LEWINGTON

And I think that's one of the things that's always stood out to me, is the level of care that everybody has within the hospitals. So particularly in my position as someone with CF, I'm incredibly close to my CF team because until I was 23, they were the only people I had any contact with and they were responsible for keeping me alive. After a transplant, you then have to go through the process of learning a new team and you're learning about your body as well because you don't have the same sensations that you had before. So for me, I don't know how to recognise what my lungs feel like. And so you're trying to learn all of these different things. And I think the fact that the medical teams are as close as they are, but also as supportive as they are, it makes such a massive difference to patients in building that trusted relationship. So you understand where everyone is coming from and you feel listened to as well, which is a massive thing for any patient. It's just knowing that people who you talk to are listening to you.

MARK BOWERS

Do you know? I've never heard it from the other side, you know, and that's really good to hear. You know, you hear, you know, staff on our side talking about how it's great to see you through your journey, but actually, it's really interesting to hear from your side.

OLI LEWINGTON

Just to finish up with it. You make a difference to all of our life. You save lives and you change lives. And that's really important. So from our perspective, I know with some certainty and a very high degree of confidence that I speak for every patient, that the work that you guys do is absolutely incredible. And I think the fact that the hospital and the community here are able to make you guys feel at least a little bit at home and a little bit like you're surrounded by a family. I think you guys deserve that.

 CLAIR MULLINS

That's a really lovely thing to say. Thank you.

MARK BOWERS

 It's a symbiotic relationship, I promise you.

OLI LEWINGTON

Thank you both very much.

CLAIR MULLINS

Thank you Oli. I really appreciate it.

 OLI LEWINGTON

I've loved doing this episode and particularly getting to sit down and talk to Clair and Mark about their feelings. Working in a hospital with such close links to home. I feel strangely close to this story because the transplant centre I come to every few months is in the Anzac Center itself. Up on the wall in the waiting area is the story of the Anzac troops and the history of the hospital and how the Anzac Center came to be. And I reread it probably once a year or so to remind me of the incredible history of this place. When we think about history, we often think about legacy, and I can't think of a better legacy to the memory of those fallen soldiers and the incredible work that they've inspired. Without them, the idea of a hospital here may never have occurred to anyone and so many lives may not have been saved and changed in the way that my life has. I really hope you enjoyed listening to this. I hope you've learned a bit about Anzac Day and I hope you've learned a bit about Harefield, maybe something new, and we'd love it if you share this episode and any of the others with your friends or on social media, and I hope you'll come back for the next episode.