It’s fair to say Enid Fordham wasn’t scared of a challenge.
As a driver with the fire service during the dark days of the London Blitz, she saw enough danger and suffering to last most people a lifetime.
But as the Second World War drew to a close, the intrepid go-getter was still eager to do more – and so joined the British Red Cross in early 1945.
Enid wasn’t too surprised to find she’d be immediately sent overseas: there was a huge need for relief workers in Europe. But discovering the ultimate destination tested even her unflappable resolve.
Enid recalled: “We all expected to be sent to Holland. It was a real shock when they sent us to Belsen.”
The notorious concentration camp had been a grisly secret until it was discovered by British forces following the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1945.
After inspecting the camp, a British medical officer sent an urgent request for help to the British Red Cross. Five teams were quickly deployed to offer whatever help they could.
Enid first entered the camp on 2 May, and was confronted by an appalling scene. She later said: “There were 60,000 bodies there – living and dead.
“About a hundred a day were dying, and for a time they all had to be put in an empty swimming pool to be later taken away for burial. It was all pretty grim.”
Although Enid was initially sent as a driver – her role was to take patients from the camps to hospital – she soon found herself mucking in with all kinds of jobs.
And no wonder. There was an endless list of tasks needing to be done: caring for children, establishing canteens, setting up first aid posts, managing stores, and feeding and clothing the patients. Enid admitted it was “pretty hard going” at first.
But eventually the teams found their rhythm and ultimately stayed for a full 16 months, trying to put right all that the Nazis had destroyed.
Enid never forgot the horrors she saw during her time at Belsen, nor the courage of the people there who had been through so much suffering.
Speaking of the former prisoners, she said: “Their faith and gratitude made us proud to be members of the Red Cross.”
When she finally returned home to London, Enid had one more big task to complete.
She threw herself into helping with a Red Cross appeal that sent clothing and provisions out to displaced persons in various camps throughout Europe.
Only once the camps had finally closed did life start to return to normal. Enid was re-posted to the Red Cross supply department in London, where she devoted herself to a new role with the Red Cross.
In 1959, a London newspaper described her as “a woman whose work fills her life”.
It seems that, after living in Belsen for so long, she could never forget that there would always be more work to be done.