Banburyshire villagers help mark 80th birthday for long-time dedicated nurse

A nurse who has helped wounded children in Vietnam and Cambodian refugees in Thailand celebrated her 80th birthday this week.
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Anne Watts, from Tadmarton, received a surprise from neighbours and friends in the village who turned up on her doorstep to sing Happy Birthday at a safe distance and even brought her a cake.

Anne’s two sisters had originally planned for a special barbecue birthday celebration, but those plans were scuppered by the coronavirus lockdown.

Anne said: “What happened in the end was quite organic and amazing really.

Anne Watts was surprised to find a cake and a Happy Birthday serenade from friends and neighbours to help celebrate her 80th birthday at her home in Lower TadmartonAnne Watts was surprised to find a cake and a Happy Birthday serenade from friends and neighbours to help celebrate her 80th birthday at her home in Lower Tadmarton
Anne Watts was surprised to find a cake and a Happy Birthday serenade from friends and neighbours to help celebrate her 80th birthday at her home in Lower Tadmarton

“The doorbell rang and I opened the door to find 25 people outside my door.”

She added: “It was just a lovely day. Nothing was planned. It all just happened.”

Anne has spent more than 50 years of her life serving as a nurse around the world, and continues to do so as a live-in carer on a retirement estate called the Highlands near Lower Tadmarton.

She said: “I don’t have a home of my own. I’m a free spirit, always have been. I’ve been looking after a lovely 85-year-old gentleman who has Parkinson’s.”

Friends and neighbours surprised long-time nurse, Anne Watts, with a 'Happy Birthday' song on Monday to mark her 80th birthdayFriends and neighbours surprised long-time nurse, Anne Watts, with a 'Happy Birthday' song on Monday to mark her 80th birthday
Friends and neighbours surprised long-time nurse, Anne Watts, with a 'Happy Birthday' song on Monday to mark her 80th birthday

Anne began her training as a nurse at the age of 18, and later became fully qualified in late 1962.

She said: “I always knew I’d travel as a nurse. My father was in the merchant navy and we had a map of the world up at home. The world was never an alien place to me.”

Anne spent three-and-a-half years in Vietnam, and returned home to Britain earlier than planned after getting malaria.

Some of her time in Vietnam was spent as a volunteer civilian nurse for the Save the Children charity when she helped set up a rehab centre for wounded children from the Vietnam War in 1967. She also later worked in mission hospital.

Anne has written two books about her travels around the world serving as a nurse, which include Always the Children: A Nurse’s Story Home and War and A Nurse Abroad.

When she wrote her books she believed it was important to remember she was writing about what she saw and witnessed happening around the world.

She said: “I saw it as a tribute to the people I nursed and worked alongside.”

Vietnam Vets of America, gave Always the Children a glowing review, and even published three of her stories from the book in its magazine. It has also placed a copy of the book in the library at the group’s headquarters in Maryland, US.

Information about Anne, including her books can be found on her website at http://annewatts.co.uk/

She later spent a-year-and-a-half in Thailand working with Cambodian refugees in 1979, many of whom were children escaping Pol Pot’s regime.

One of the many Happy Birthday phone calls Anne received on her birthday came from Vichuta Ly, one of the teenage girls she treated and helped after an escape from the Pol Pot’s regime.

Anne also later served as an emergency room nurse at a hospital in Vancouver, Canada, and then later a nurse at a mining camp in the Yukon territory in northwest Canada. She also spent 12 years in the Middle East, including time in Lebanon and Egypt as a nurse.

Anne added: “I’ve lived with the Inuit in the Canadian arctic. Human survival has long been one of my interests in life. I’ve met the most extraordinary people.

“The thread that has run through all the different cultures I’ve lived in is the goodness, kindness and decency of ordinary people. I have always believed we are one family, the human race.

"Perhaps that’s what being a humanitarian is...under the skin we’re all the same.”

Anne has also helped in the co-ordinating of a team to make scrubs for local nursing staff during the lockdown.

She said: “It’s aken this pandemic to slow people down for them to think about the more important things in life like spending time with family and not rushing out to get the latest gadget.”

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