The story behind King's Mill

IN 1942, as the battle to free occupied Europe from the control of Nazi Germany raged on, a new military hospital was set up in Sutton to help in the fight.

The newly-constructed facility on Mansfield Road was known as Sutton Emergency Hospital and housed 400 injured American personnel as well as German prisoners of war.

Since then, the medical facility –– which was constructed because it was located away from major bombing hotspots –– has significantly developed into the modern day state-of-the art King's Mill Hospital.

But for one lucky Mansfield woman, the former Sutton Emergency Hospital will always hold a very special place in her heart.

Frank Bassillo, who was born in 1914 in Jersey City, New York, was posted to the hospital in 1942 as a dental technician with the 207th Medical Division of the US Army.

Night out

And while on a night out with friends, Frank met Kathleen Foster in September 1942 at the Old Eclipse pub where she worked.

The couple then began a relationship and eventually married at St Philip Neri's Church, Mansfield, in March 1944.

Reflecting on her happy memories, Kathleen –– who is known as 'Kitty' –– told Chad: "We needed the aid of America and when they came here I met my husband. I never dreamt that it would happen and that I would end up in America.

"During our courtship, Frank would visit me everywhere I was stationed and we decided we would get married."

Frank returned to the USA with his unit after VE Day and was discharged from the Army in July 1945.

New York

In February 1946, Kitty –– who used to attend Bull Farm and Pleasley Hill schools –– arrived in New York from Southampton aboard the passenger liner, Queen Mary, along with hundreds of other GI brides to set up home in Jersey City, where she and Frank lived for 40 years.

The couple then moved to a retirement village in New Jersey, where they lived for 22 years before Frank died on 20th September 2007, leaving three sons and one daughter.

The influx of American troops in the area also holds special memories for Sutton woman Mary Howe.

In April 1945, Mary visited the hospital to meet 19-year-old soldier Andy Andreason, who had been injured while trying to restrain escaping German prisoners in Europe.

The friendship formed during difficult times still lasts today, with the couple regularly staying in contact.

Origins

And to celebrate the proud origins of King's Mill Hospital, Kitty and Andy will be jetting in from the States as special guests at the unveiling of a major new exhibition charting the hospital's development down the decades.

The fascinating King's Mill History Project will be officially unveiled on Friday to mark American Independence Day during a 1940s-themed ceremony and will celebrate the hospital's unique heritage through a variety of photographs, memorabilia and personal stories.

The heritage display will consist of a series of large detailed wall-mounted display panels together with two banners, including six dramatic story-length banners and two interactive kiosks of audio-visual information related to the displays.

These will be on permanent display in the hospital's main thoroughfare at the new King's Treatment Centre, which is expected to receive more than 380,000 visitors annually.

'Interesting'

Patients and visitors will be able to learn about the tale behind the hospital's regal name dating back hundreds of years and its links to regional trades such as agriculture, hosiery, coal mining and light engineering.

Former hospital trust chairman Brian Meakin, who came up with the idea, told Chad: "I wanted something that would help patients recover by providing something interesting for them to look at and to help make their surroundings feel less intimidating.

"Getting all the information together was a very long and time-consuming process and we are very proud of our project. It is also important to remember the long history of our hospital.

"The Americans do not want to forget their role in King's Mill and this will help younger generations of their families learn about their own heritage. They are very proud of their connection with this area."

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The friendship formed during difficult times still lasts today, with the couple regularly staying in contact.

Origins

And to celebrate the proud origins of King’s Mill Hospital, Kitty and Andy will be jetting in from the States as special guests at the unveiling of a major new exhibition charting the hospital’s development down the decades.

The fascinating King’s Mill History Project will be officially unveiled on Friday to mark American Independence Day during a 1940s-themed ceremony and will celebrate the hospital’s unique heritage through a variety of photographs, memorabilia and personal stories.

The heritage display will consist of a series of large detailed wall-mounted display panels together with two banners, including six dramatic story-length banners and two interactive kiosks of audio-visual information related to the displays.

These will be on permanent display in the hospital’s main thoroughfare at the new King’s Treatment Centre, which is expected to receive more than 380,000 visitors annually.

Patients and visitors will be able to learn about the tale behind the hospital’s regal name dating back hundreds of years and its links to regional trades such as agriculture, hosiery, coal mining and light engineering.

Former hospital trust chairman Brian Meakin, who came up with the idea, told Chad: “I wanted something that would help patients recover by providing something interesting for them to look at and to help make their surroundings feel less intimidating.

“Getting all the information together was a very long and time-consuming process and we are very proud of our project. It is also important to remember the long history of our hospital.

“The Americans do not want to forget their role in King’s Mill and this will help younger generations of their families learn about their own heritage. They are very proud of their connection with this area."