Hannah Billig

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Captain Hannah Billig, MBE, GM (4 October 1901 – 11 July 1987) was a British-Jewish doctor who worked in the East End of London. Her popularity with her patients, and her war-time efforts, led to her being called "The Angel of Cable Street".

Childhood[edit]

Billig was born at 41 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, in the East End of London, and grew up around Brick Lane. Her parents, Barnet and Millie Billig, were refugees from Russia, escaping from anti-Jewish pogroms. Four of their six adult children became doctors.

Early medical career[edit]

Her success at Myrdle Street School won her a scholarship to the University of London to read medicine. She trained at the Royal Free Hospital and the Royal London Hospital, and qualified as a doctor in 1925. She worked for two years at the Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood Street. In 1927, she set up a small clinic near Cable Street. In 1935 she moved her surgery round the corner to a Georgian townhouse at 198 Cable Street, where a blue plaque commemorates her work. She was also on call as a police doctor. She used to cycle to her patients, with her black bag; later she drove a Morris Cowley car.

World War II[edit]

During the Blitz, Billig was the doctor in charge of the air raid shelters in Wapping. During bombing raids, she tended the sick and injured in the underground shelters. On 13 March 1941, Billig was attending to residents of Orient Wharf in Wapping following a bomb blast. An explosion threw her out of the shelter and broke her ankle. After bandaging it herself, she helped to get the others out of the rubble, and cared for them through the night.[1]

Awards[edit]

For her courage and bravery, Billig was awarded the George Medal. In 1942 she joined the Indian Army Medical Corps as a Captain and was posted to Calcutta. For her work with injured soldiers and refugees in Assam, Billig was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1945.[2]

Later years and death[edit]

Billig returned to Cable Street and worked within the new National Health Service until her retirement in 1964. She then moved to Caesarea on the Israeli coast, where she treated local people for twenty years. She died there on 11 July 1987, aged 85.

References[edit]