RAF Wegberg Infant Deaths

Discussion in 'Charities and Welfare' started by northagnick, Nov 26, 2006.

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  1. Hi,
    I am doing research into the level of infant mortality in the 70s. The geographical location is the JHQ Rheindahlen district and more specifically RAF Wegberg.

    If anyone can assist in the location of any stats or case histories I would be extremly grateful all infornmations will trated in the strictest confidence.

  2. I would think that the relevant statistics from RAF(H) Wegberg can be obtained from MOD under an FOI request.

    You may also find the register at the Military Cemetery, Rheindahlen useful - there is a separate section for stillbirths; some babies are also buried there, though some bodies were repatriated. Babies born with serious medical problems were often transferred to other hospitals, either in UK or Germany, so deaths may be registered elsewhere.
  3. Thanks for the info,I have looked at the register in Rheindahlen and the cemetary. There are quite a lot of infant deaths. The point you raise about infants dieing elswhere is interesting and I will follow it up.
    Many thanks

  4. I was born there in 1977.

    My mortality rate to date has been 0%, if that helps...
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  5. There was a major study conducted during the 80s and 90s which resulted as Service Parents being classed as a higher than average risk group/factor.

    It was a Glasgow University run thing, not sure which one but we had to do a check list on their behalf, known as the Sudden Infant Death (SID) Score and return it for them. They should be able to provide chapter and verse.
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  6. I gave birth at wegberg in July 1970. I was in labour for 3 days before they realised there was a problem. My son was born but only lived for 2 hours. I had a section and never got to see him. He is buried in the cemetery. Scott munro calderwood. Son of 24030497 John Calderwood. I returned to visit my sons grave in 1997 and was horrified to see how many babies had died at the hospital. I was 18when my son was born and my questions as to why he died were never answered. Not a day goes by when I don't think of him.
    Hope this helps with your study
    Helane Calderwood nee Munro
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  7. Condolences - that must have been awful. One of my drivers and his wife lost a very young child in Duisburg in the very early 80s. I sometimes drove them to Wegberg to visit the grave (he could drive, obviously, but he didn't have a car) and I found it quite a salutary experience for a young officer. I served in Rheindahlen years later and went to the cemetery once - the number of very young children's graves came as a shock, but perhaps I should have expected it given the troop levels.
  8. My wife was pregnant in the scorching summer of 1976 when I was posted as a Senior Aircraftsman at RAF Gutersloh. I realise this is out of the geographical area but just to let you know she developed pre-eclampsia (toxaemia) at 37 weeks. The doctors at BMH Rinteln tried to induce the birth but sadly the baby (a little boy) died during the procedure. This thread has been useful to us both in that this event affected (and still does affect) our lives and the whole of our relationship but at least now we are aware that perhaps there is some sort of indication that his passing was marked. It has always been a matter of great shame to me that when I was given his little body wrapped in a green cloth, I asked the young man across the desk if perhaps they could deal with it. I can only say in my defence I was completely traumatised by the event. I recall much of it through a haze of pain and anguish but one memory has come back to me over the years and that is a young Flight Lieutant doctor trying to intimate to me that things had not gone as they should have done and maybe I should keep that in mind for another time!

    If anyone has information on burials of infants at Rinteln we would be very grateful as we drive past it regularly when we go to visit our son in Berlin.

    Thank You
  9. Births, deaths and stillbirths that occurred in Germany will have been registered by G1 Branch at JHQ. Sick babies that were transferred to local hospitals and subsequently died will still have been so registered. Sick babies flown to UK by aeromed that subsequently died in UK will not.

    I am not sure for how long such records are kept, or how they can be accessed.

    In general, stillbirths were buried at the nearest Military Cemetery, where there are records that can be inspected easily.
  10. Thank you for your help and for taking the time to answer my query. My wife and I will very likely visit Rinteln in the near future to see if there are any records there.

    Kind Regards
  11. Hello,
    I just wondered how far you got with your research? My sister died at 6months old in the Wegberg hospital. I have come back from Germany today after visiting her grave and I am shocked and saddened on how many babies died over a 20 year period. I can't help but think that this is very suspicious. I am willing to look into this further, as I am concerned that my sisters death was not natural. I would appreciate any information you have, to help me with my investigation
    Many thanks

    Sent from my Lenovo YT3-X50F using Tapatalk
  12. This is a late call, but I remember in the early 90s talking to a nurse in RAFH Wegberg and she told me that she would not want to give birth there, she did not elaborate on the matter.
    The maternity unit in Wegberg closed around 1994 as the then new system of Designated German Providers was introduced which meant that all but primary care was then carried out in German hospitals.
  13. Not sure which 20-year period you are looking at, but the infant mortality rate has dropped considerably over the years. For example, in 1983 it was 10.1 deaths per thousand; in 2013 it was 3.8.

    Another factor that is worth bearing in mind is that in the UK some babies that died will have been cremated; those that were buried could be in any of a number of different churchyards or cemeteries in one town or city.

    In BFG, cremation of babies was extremely unusual (due to local laws). I can remember only one in around 8 years of working in BFG (and being involved with dealing with deaths in one way or another) between 1981 and 2008 - and that was carried out in the Netherlands (this is quite common even amongst Germans because of their restrictive laws on funerals and cremation). So almost all babies were buried, and from memory, whilst the bodies of older children and adults were often repatriated, babies tended to be buried locally, in the military cemetery. Also, stillbirths were interred in the military cemetery (they are marked with a small flat plaque rather than a headstone, and are all together in one part of the cemetery), as they fell outside the repatriation arrangements (and weren't considered deceased persons in German law). Consequently, there is a concentration that may make it appear that a disproportionate number of babies are buried there.

    Certainly my experience of working at Wegberg (1981-1985), and being involved with deaths (either at the hospital, or more often as a result of RTCs, suicide or other causes away from the hospital), is that infant deaths were an unusual and uncommon event.
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  14. I can remember some of the midwives, and can understand why nurses would steer clear!

    Wegberg suffered, like all the military hospitals, from being small and not well resourced, especially as medicine and technology increased at a fast pace. So that in the 70s and early 80s they were broadly similar to most small NHS hospitals in the level of care that they provided, but as the NHS moved towards the big District General Hospital model the MoD fell behind.

    Wegberg had about 200 beds; when I was there it had an ICU that was only opened when it was needed - so no dedicated intensivists or ICU nurses with current experience. There was one Paediatric consultant and one House Officer. It had no A&E - just a 'crash bay' at the end of the orthopaedic ward, run by the Outpatients sister during the day and Senior Night Sister at night. At the time, it was similar to many small NHS facilities, and anything very serious tended to go direct to local German hospitals anyway if picked up by German ambulance or the RAF. The Army usually had ancient Bedford Js with little or no equipment, and no radio, that usually turned up single-manned by a German driver and often came long distances, especially out of hours.

    In maternity terms - and I do not pretend to be an expert - I think Wegberg and other military hospitals in BFG offered a good level of care for the time. Wegberg had an additional advantage which was that very sick babies could be aeromed to UK very quickly as 60 Sqn were just down the road and we had aeromed staff in the hospital.

    There was also the intangible but I think real benefit that people were cared for by their own.

    Nowadays, of course, it wouldn't be practical, affordable or wise to try to provide modern levels of care on such a small scale.
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  15. Cold_Collation

    Cold_Collation LE Book Reviewer

    You may have been swapped at birth for my sister.

    What colour are your eyes?
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