LETTER: Remembering my TB trip from Smethwick to Switzerland

Smethwick | Readers' letters | Published:

A reader calls for memories of a visit to a Swiss sanatorium.

When I was just eleven years old the Swiss Red Cross organised for fifteen tuberculosis children from Smethwick and fifteen from West Bromwich to go for four months, 13th January to 9th May 1951 to a sanatorium in Orselina Locarno Switzerland near to the Italian border to get some healthy, fresh air and I was lucky enough to be chosen. I had fond memories of that visit with kind nurses and of the little children, all younger than me, and had always wanted to re-visit.

Knowing this, in September 2019 our friends, who reside in Geneva, organised a surprise visit for us to go on a four-hour train journey from the French border across Switzerland and through the amazingly beautiful Swiss/Italian alps to Locarno.

I was so overcome with joy to be able to do this pilgrimage. They had researched and came up with an enlightening article written by Bertha Vulliemin about our daily lives spent at the Villa Fragola where we children had stayed.

It was more beautiful than I remember and had a wonderful view of Lake Locarno when, as a child, I had been on a steamer boat to the Italian border. We re-rode the Funicular railway and re-visited the beautiful Roman Catholic Church of Madonna del Sasso.

When back at home I unearthed old memorabilia, including Smethwick Telephone newspaper articles and photos, where the outward and inward journeys were well documented, as it was quite an event at the time.

I have copies of some of the letters I sent to relatives, which gave an insight into our daily lives there. One amusing titbit was that on Sundays we had a treat of four squares of chocolate!

I would love to share memories and my up to date pictures and experience by arranging a reunion with any of the 'children' that went on that, possibly lifesaving, journey. Please email me at

Margaret Baker, Nee Butler

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