This film is part of Free

Flying Squad

An obstetrics Flying Squad comes to the rescue of a mother-to-be in working class Newcastle upon Tyne.

Magazine and Review show 1959 6 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


A doctor is incongruously on the move in his Bentley on an emergency call-out to a poor pregnant woman at a back street home in Newcastle. As one of the city’s mobile maternity units designed to ‘bring the hospital’ to seriously ill patients, he picks up help and blood transfusion equipment at the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital off the Great North Road. It is a sign of the times that the old doctor, still clad in a plastic apron, joins the anxious father-to-be for a cigarette.

This (mute) Tyne Tees TV news magazine feature highlights an area of maternity services first pioneered by Lanarkshire and Newcastle back in the 1930s, reported to be the idea of Professor E. Farquhar Murray. A certain Doctor Frank Stabler did more than anyone else to build this service in Newcastle from the 1940s. He was reputed to enjoy any excuse to drive his Bentley at speed through police traps on call-outs, waving his stethoscope out of the window. The obstetric flying squads reached their heyday in the 1950s and 60s. With no ‘pill’, and frequently no TV, the birth rate was quite high in the 50s. The majority of women did not give birth in hospital until 1945 and maternal deaths were a cause for concern.