Tuesday, 21 June 2011

This is dedicated to all those women ............

Who were

murdered while pregnant.

Holding little hands of children or carrying infants in their arms on the way to be gassed.

To the mothers who gave their children to be hidden, many never to find them again.

To the righteous women - mothers and the nuns in convents, who were hiding and protecting the children in their care.

Or as fighters in the resistance: in ghettos, forests, partisan units.

Nurses, and service women - airwomen, ATS, WRENS

Women going about their business who lost their lives in air raids.

Women who, because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time were prisoners in concentration camps in Asia and in Europe.

Women from all walks of life, ages and from all parts of the World.

May they rest in peace.

And to lives of the few who survived and bravely carried on
This started out as a piece of research on how war had impacted upon the traditional roles of women throughout Europe, which I had chosen as a research topic for my MA. Women do suffer from war – and prior to World War II, when the roles of women were completely reversed – their part in war was mainly passive, or as victims.
A couple of years ago as I was stood at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday all I heard was we remember the men who gave their lives, and I thought, what about the women? There were surely women who had lost their lives, why were they not remembered?
So what started out as a general enquiry has taken quite a few years of my life researching and this tribute is the end result.

It certainly is not an exhaustive list of those who lost their lives, as it is virtually impossible to obtain them all, but for those whose names/stories are not mentioned it certainly does not mean that they are forgotten.
It is a tribute to the many women, ordinary women, who became embroiled within a man’s domain – war. I did not realize the depth of this enquiry and just how many women perished, not just servicewomen but civilian women, women in their own homes, women in foreign lands captured as prisoners and held in prison camps.

I started by searching the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by typing in a random surname and just searching, and from then on searching through the cemeteries and memorials. As more names became apparent it became an enquiry I could not leave.
What saddened me is that there isn’t a lot of research on the way these women died, or where or how. There stories would have been a lasting memorial to their bravery, however there is more to tell about the nurses who gave their lives and the atrocities suffered.

The Australian, Canadian and New Zealanders had very easy access to their rolls of honour and some life stories for their servicewoman, and with all due respect to our own British, life would have been much easier it the main means of research for our women (and men) was in the same format.

There are other wonderful books available telling stories of women’s experiences in War, and how their lives changed because of it. I refer to Kate Adie’s from Corsets to Camouflage and other works. None, as I am aware concentrate on those losing their lives as this is. It is many years since the end of the wars and the contribution made by women of Britain and its commonwealth (and of women worldwide) is long overdue in its recognition.

Though this tribute is for women, it in no way intends to reflect the sacrifice of so many brave men and boys, who too, gave their lives. This tribute should complement that of the men, and shows that when needed, both sexes are brave and contribute to their countries fight for freedom and justice.

Women have proved that they can be relied upon – it was not just a man’s war, women fought too – they fought to keep their families fed, and clothed and maintain what normality they could. They fought too, by working in munitions factories, as land army girls and doing jobs to keep the country going.

They took to uniforms and supplemented the mens’ services in the air force, navy and army; they served as nurses both in civilian and military capacities and they maintained their roles as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers and without their contribution the war effort would have been blighted.

As a woman, I owe these women a great deal. We all do, their sacrifice is important, their stories are our stories and their memories are engraved in our hearts and should never ever be forgotten.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

How war changed the lives of women

The twentieth century witnessed two world wars, these wars not only took the lives of many of our young men and women, but it completely changed the world, not only politically, but morally. They say history teaches us not to make the same mistakes again, but what a heavy price to pay.
Five main themes span the 20th and 21st century.
A woman's place is in the home
Women's work: war work
That's no job for a woman: the services
War babes: stereotypes, pin-ups and prejudice
You have no right: protest and equality
War tends to be the domain of men, men in power, but women tend to be the victims. There were very few women in politics, in any position of power.


During the First World War women’s work and status began to change. Women were actively recruited to do war work and many others volunteered. Women’s branches of the British armed services were not created until 1917.

Images of women were used in propaganda campaigns to recruit men to fight. Some women tried to shame men into enlisting by giving them white feathers.
A minority of women opposed the war for moral, ideeological and religious reasons.
At the end of the war it was clear that women and their work had been vital to the war effort.

It was only after World War I that women (those over the age of 30yrs) were even given the vote.

A Woman's Place is in the Home

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!
With many men away, women became solely responsible for major decisions in the running of the household, often for the first time in their lives.
These decisions were complicated by shortages in food, fabric and materials. Keeping a household running smoothly in wartime involved even more work than during peacetime.

You Have No Right: Protest and Equality

• the women who gave white feathers to men who did not appear to be serving in the forces during the First World War
• women who refused to contribute to the war effort - conscientious objectors - in both the First and Second World War
• women pacifists
• women who campaigned against nuclear weapons through the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Greenham Common
• women who campaign for peace - for example, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan in Northern Ireland.

How war affected women

• Women sacrificed their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and sweethearts to fight for their country
• Women were left behind to keep the home and family going, managing on rations and shortages
• Women were left to mourn for their lost husbands and sons
• Women and children were often homeless from bombings
• Women are seen as “spoils” of war
• Women were allowed for the first time to work outside of the home
• Women, often in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffered the atrocities of the prison camps in the Far East
• Captured women used as “comforts” as prostitutes etc., for Japanese/German soldiers.

No Job for a Woman?

Building rubber tyres
Chimney sweep
Cleaning railway carriages
Glass workers
Brewery workers
Women carrying coal
Timber worker (Women's Land Army)
Shell filling
Caustic soda workers
Howitzer factory

Women trade unionists

Women's trade union membership increased by about 160% during the war, but apart from the National Federation of Women Workers, the Workers' Union (WU) was the only union to make a serious commitment to organising women. By 1918 the WU employed twenty women full time officials and had a female membership of over 80,000.
This was more than any other general union and represented a quarter of the WU's own membership. In 1918 the Equal Pay strike was led and ultimately won by women tramway workers - starting in London and spreading to other towns.

In 1914, the Women's Social and Political Union abandoned the suffrage campaign itself and ardently supported the war effort and urged all women to do the same. Sylvia Pankhurst's organisation was one of the very few to maintain the fight for the vote until its first instalment (to women over 30) was granted in 1918. The National Council for Adult Suffrage also kept up the pressure for the vote in the war years.
This organisation was established in 1916 and held its first meeting at the Daily Herald offices. It was a broad based activist adult suffrage campaigning group linking the left wing of the women's movement with the left wing of the labour movement.

Exclusion of Women

The exclusion of women from combat has revolved around several key assumptions.
First, society argued that women were physically weaker than men. They were said, for example, to lack the upper body strength so important to enable one to haul ropes, wield a sword, shoulder a musket, or load a shell for a sustained period in combat.
To this has been added the psychological argument that women are different from men. They are said to possess characteristics of caring and nurturing, and to be less aggressive than men.
'It is thought that media coverage will focus on female casualties ...'
Armchair generals have also argued that women lack one of the unique qualities of young men in uniform, prized by the armies of all nations - their willingness to take risks, to kill and, in extremis, to sacrifice themselves. Another view, still prevalent, is that the killing or wounding of women is somehow worse than the concept of male battle casualties. It is thought that media coverage will focus on female casualties (the ‘body-bag’ factor) to the discomfort of politicians, who will therefore be wary of sending women in to combat.
Some armies (the Israeli Defense Force for example) also exclude women from front-line service for fear that their male colleagues will accord them special protection or attention on the battlefield, thus undermining combat efficiency.
Before the 20th century, such debate tended to push women who wanted to be part of the armed forces either to conceal their gender, or to gravitate towards the caring roles of nurse or camp follower.
The two world wars, however, proved that, given the chance, the physical and mental fighting qualities needed in the services could be developed equally well, through training, in women as in men.
The use of women in combat by the Red Army, and the 418 female agents trained by Britain's Special Operations Executive to work for European resistance networks (of whom 119 died and three were awarded the George Cross, two posthumously), are two examples of how women have served successfully in offensive land operations.
In the air, the fact that between 1942 and 1945, 12 per cent of the Red Air Force’s fighter pilots, including several aces, were women, speaks for itself.

World War One

Of the two world wars, the first provided the greatest challenge in terms of widescale female participation in the war effort.
British society found itself at war with more than just the Germans. There was a psychological war, too, with the changes in society and its values that total war (the mobilisation of the entire population and all their resources for the war effort) demanded.
Although it was against it until the actual declaration of war against Germany, the Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies became ardently patriotic as soon as hostilities started. On 6 August 1914, two days after the declaration, the women’s suffrage newspaper Common Cause expressed the hope that:
‘In the midst of this time of terrible anxiety and grief, it is some little comfort to think that our large organisation, which has been completely built up during past years to promote women’s suffrage, can be used to help our country through the period of strain and sorrow.’
Women acted as subtle and not so-subtle recruiters for the army. Admiral Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather, which encouraged women to hand a white feather to any young man who had not enlisted.
'Initially, though, active female participation of any kind was frowned upon.'
Reading newspaper accounts of the outbreak of war in 1914, you will find many references to the militant Women’s Suffrage movement, which had been so opposed to the government just months before, now backing the war effort. Christobel Pankhurst made a series of speeches in favour of the war effort, encouraging young men to join the army and women to play their part, too.

Initially, though, active female participation of any kind was frowned upon. When the distinguished Scottish medic, Dr Elsie Inglis offered to form a women’s ambulance unit, she was rebuffed at the War Office with the words, ‘My good lady, go home and sit still!’
Flora Sandes (1876-1955) couldn’t sit still, and joined a seven-woman ambulance unit in August 1914 that went to aid the Serbs, who were then allies of Britain and struggling against the Austrians. Sandes achieved recognition without disguise, but in a foreign army fighting for a foreign nation’s survival.
Medical staff

There were, in 1914, two uniformed services in Britain that were open to women. The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) was created in 1907 as a link between front-line fighting units and the field hospitals.
During the war, FANYs ran field hospitals, drove ambulances and set up soup kitchens and troop canteens, often under highly dangerous conditions. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery, including 17 Military Medals, one Legion d'Honneur and 27 Croix de Guerre.
'... women volunteers over the age of 23 were allowed to go to hospitals overseas ... '
Then there were the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) of nurses, formed in 1909 to provide medical assistance in time of war. By the summer of 1914 there were more than 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain.
At first the War Office was unwilling to accept VADs at the front, but this pointless restriction was removed in 1915 and women volunteers over the age of 23 were allowed to go to hospitals overseas serving the Western Front, Mesopotamia and Gallipoli.
During the next four years 38,000 VADs worked as assistant nurses, ambulance drivers and cooks. VAD hospitals were also opened in most large towns in Britain. Both the FANY and VAD tended to (or were perceived to) recruit only from the middle and upper classes.

Initially, British female medical staff, were kept away from the traumas of front-line nursing. But two Englishwomen not content to adhere to the rules were Elsie Knocker (later Baroness T’Serclaes) and the 18-year old Mari Chisholm, who tended wounded in the Belgian sector from August 1914. They collected their wounded out of the mud, gave them first aid and drove them to a base hospital 15 miles away, running a gauntlet of shellfire all the way.
'It was decided to use women to replace men doing uniformed administrative jobs in Britain and France ...'
In 1917, they were both awarded the British Military Medal for arranging a truce with the Germans and rescuing a British pilot who had crashed in No Man’s Land. Their war ended in March 1918, when both were gassed in the German offensive and had to return home. Both had achieved recognition as women, but working in the front line, against official British regulations.
Eventually - and only after it was apparent that the war would not be ‘over by Christmas’ (the cry of August 1914) - female branches of the hitherto all-male armed forces were established. This development happened surprisingly late in the war - too late for many impatient women - and stemmed from the heavy losses sustained on the Western Front in 1916. It was decided to use women to replace men doing uniformed administrative jobs in Britain and France - thus releasing the men to fight at the front.
The Royal Navy was the first of the armed services to recruit women. Formed in 1916, the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS - the ‘Wrens’) took over the role of cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, code experts and electricians.
By the war’s end 5,000 ratings and nearly 450 officers had joined, and their success had spawned the army and air force equivalents also.

The World Wars

In January 1917, the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) was established, offering jobs for women to serve as chauffeurs, clerks, telephonists, waitresses, cooks, and as instructors.

When the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service merged in March 1918 to form the Royal Air Force, a female branch, the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF), was immediately created.
'... Britain’s existence had been threatened as never before ...'
Here women worked as clerks, fitters, drivers, cooks and storekeepers. Overall, with official sanction, over 100,000 women served in the uniformed services during 1914-18. Nearly half were connected with nursing, and few were permitted anywhere near the fighting.
The experience of Dorothy Lawrence highlights the prevailing attitude of officialdom to women at the front in 1914-18. In her quest to report from the front, she travelled in disguise to the town of Albert, on the Somme. Here she survived 12 nights in the trenches, before her identity was discovered, and she gained a true picture of the conditions under which the soldiers were fighting. Her bestseller about her experiences reflected a popular post-war desire for social change in Britain.
The picture of the role of women in war altered dramatically in World War Two. Arguably Britain’s existence was threatened as never before, and in December 1941, reflecting the gravity of the situation, Churchill’s wartime government passed the National Service Act (No 2) which allowed the conscription of women.
This was further than any other unoccupied country had gone at this time in mobilising a nation’s labour resources, and further than the Germans could go, as Hitler had promised to keep his females at home, nurturing the little storm troopers of the future.
In Britain, it was initially single women and widows without children, aged between 19 and 30, who were called up. Later the age limit was pushed as far as 43 (or 50 for veterans of World War One). They went into a variety of vital war industries, the Women’s Land Army and the armed forces.
Front line

All the women’s armed forces had been disbanded after World War One and had to be reformed as the war clouds gathered once again. The WRNS was re-established in April 1939.
They were attached to nearly every naval unit at home and overseas, and an élite few were employed in secret naval communications and in decyphering coded German messages. By 1945, 72,000 were in service. The WAACs likewise were reformed as the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1938, and by 1945, these numbered more than 190,000, including 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Windsor, later to become Queen Elizabeth II.
'... significantly Britain, too, became part of the front line.'
The women drove and maintained vehicles, as well as manning anti-aircraft guns. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), formed in June 1939, manned the top secret Radio Direction Finding (radar) stations in the Battle of Britain, and numbered 153,000 by the war’s end.
Women in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) ferried aircraft from factories to airfields, even across the Atlantic. Several were killed in air crashes, including the famous pre-war flyer Amy Johnson. And the FANY - never disbanded - continued, serving under the guise of the Women’s Transport Service.
The recent film Charlotte Gray portrays a particular breed of female warrior during World War Two. These women were right on the front line, often in actual combat, and Charlotte is an amalgam of several real-life heroines who worked with the French Resistance.
Of these, Violette Szabo was a FANY. She volunteered to work for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and was parachuted into France as an intelligence radio officer. Ambushed by the Germans and wounded in the ensuing gunfight, she was captured and died at Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1945. (her story appears later in this work).
The same fate befell her SOE colleague Nora Khan, who originally enlisted as a WAAF and was murdered at Dachau. Both women were posthumously awarded a George Cross, as was Odette Churchill who, despite terrible torture, survived the war.
Women served in most theatres of war, but significantly Britain too, eventually became part of the front line. All of a sudden, after years of official separation from the business of battle, women found themselves not only conscripted, but de facto at the front.
During the Battle of Britain, flight officer Felicity Hanbury was a 26-year old WAAF officer in charge of the WAAF section at RAF Biggin Hill, comprising about 250 airwomen. Perhaps her memoires speak for many. In July 1940 she attended her Assistant Adjutant’s Course and wrote home:

‘Must say this course is very interesting, but I do wish it was over ... I’m longing to get back to Biggin.’

Into the 21st Century

Not much has changed, women are still very often the victims of war, they are still used for prostitution and men’s pleasure, in war and in peacetime. In the recent wars, in some of the poorest countries of the world, where poverty is rife, and where life is not very pleasant, war impacts upon the women and children the most. Already impoverished, their lives are turned upside down whilst the men folk indulge in war, some national, some international and some tribal. Women still give birth, look after children, cook, look after their homes – the normality of life still goes on in very difficult circumstances.

Have any lessons been learnt? In the 21st Century we still have war – nasty, bloodier wars, with weapons and chemicals which could wipe out the whole planet. At the time of writing, British and American troops are still in Iraq, British troops are off to Afghanistan and Iran is seen to be a threat. We are also facing the war on terrorism, terrorists are the “unseen” enemy – sadly there are women terrorists, women suicide bombers (victims) and women victims of the terrible atrocities of these bombers.

Women can’t be ignored, and certainly the part they played in keeping Great Britain and the Commonwealth running in both of the major wars of the 20th Century is a great tribute to “the weaker sex”. It certainly was not easy for many British women trying to feed a family on rations, and wondering whether it was her house that would be hit when the bombs came over. But true British grit and the necessity to survive and look after children spurred many women to do their bit. Patriotism and pride in the country played another part in this – everyone must do their duty.

Many women did war work and run households and volunteered for knitting circles etc., - that hasn’t changed as women juggle careers/jobs with domesticity still in the 21st century and the care of children is still largely the role of women, though men’s roles have changed dramatically. Young women did not leave their homes and were the responsibility of their parents, joining the services gave them an independence, though it was still frowned upon for women to have role reversals.

Yet women proved themselves in many jobs in the armed services, other books and articles cover this and I don’t want to infringe upon someone else’s work – there were jobs in the services that were done better by the women – though the glamour usually was with the men.

As we go through this tribute, we see ordinary women – daughters, sisters, wives, mothers even on ships, in field hospitals, balloons doing dangerous jobs, many survived the wars, many didn’t.

Women did not receive the recognition for awards as men, as they were not classed as service personnel but as auxiliaries. Nurses were however, slightly different, some receiving royal red cross or Florence nightingale awards – the same was not bestowed for women in the army, air force or navy – only men receive the Victoria cross or other medals.

Royal Red Cross Instituted: 1883
The Royal Red Cross was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1883 and was the first example of a British Military Order solely for women. The decoration can be conferred upon members of the Nursing Services, irrespective of rank and upon anyone, British or foreign, who have been recommended for special devotion or competency while engaged on nursing or hospital duties with the Navy, Army or Air Force. Since 1977 it can be conferred on male members of the nursing scheme.
Recipients are designated

Florence Nightingale Medal Instituted: 1912
The medal was instituted by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva in memory of the work of Florence Nightingale, to be distributed annually to trained nurses who, in the opinion of the committee, rendered exceptional service in connection with nursing. During World War I, no distribution was made but after the end of hostilities in 1920, it was decided to award 50 of these medals. All National Red Cross Societies were requested to submit recommendations for consideration by the Committee. In this first distribution, 42 awards were presented, five of which were to British nurses. The award is now made biannually and has been extended to include male and auxiliary nurses.


'War is men’s business, not ladies',' we are told in Gone With the Wind, but the total wars of the 20th century have dismembered this concept and forced us to acknowledge that it is just as much the concern of women.
Professor Margaret Randolph Higonnet argues that the advances in military technology and strategy have blurred the boundaries between war zones and the home front, whilst mass communication and psychological warfare have affected all sectors of nations at war.
'Now, it is accepted that women are as competent as their male colleagues in many uniformed roles ...'
Breaking with the past, in 1914-18 women displayed independence by taking over men’s jobs and risking their lives as nurses and ambulance drivers at the front. But in 1919, their organisations were largely disbanded as men again took full control of the business of soldiering.
By World War Two, they had gone into combat in the Soviet Union and joined resistance movements throughout Europe, and the male-female distinction in total war lost any meaning.
As most historians have themselves in the past been men, we should not be surprised that there has been relatively little interest in the female perspective of historical events or personalities until recently. The tide has now turned, and modern historians are devoting a great deal of time and attention to this hitherto unresearched field.
We are now discovering that there has, perhaps surprisingly, been a long tradition of women serving in the armed forces of their country, alongside men, and that their contribution has not been limited to nursing - scooping the wounded, angel-like, to safety and recovery.

And so we start our tribute to these women ……….. and may their lives given in sacrifice, be a treasured memory and a tribute for women everywhere. From their sacrifice we have our freedom.


NURSES - The Rose in No Mans Land

Some of the war’s bravest women have been nurses. War and nurses do not by their very nature go together, yet the need for these gentle women was never greater. This is our tribute to their bravery.

There's a rose that grows in no-man's land
And it's wonderful to see,
Tho' it's sprayed with tears
It will live for years
In my garden of memory
It's the one red rose the soldier knows,
It's the work of the Master's hand;
In the War's great curse,
Stands the Red Cross nurse
She's the rose of no-mans land.

The Rose of No Man's Land
There's a Rose that grows in No Man's Land and it's wonderful to see. Midst the War's Great curse stands a Red Cross Nurse, She's the Rose of No Man's Land and she means the world to me. Out of that Heavenly splendour down to the trail of woe, God in his Mercy has sent her Cheering the world below . We call her the Rose of Heaven and we've learned to love her so.

The influence of women is an essential factor in the welfare of humanity, and it will become more valuable as time proceeds” (Jean Henri Dunant Founder of the Red Cross Movement)

By the start of the First World War, all the prudery of the Victorian and Edwardian era was put aside as women chose to care for the sick and wounded and nursing became very fashionable again.

Women, except those who were wealthy, rarely travelled, so the idea of travelling abroad appealed to the QA sisters and most of them had no idea where they were being posted to.

World War I saw hospitals and casualty clearing stations in Egypt, Gaza, Jerusalem, in Baghdad and Basra, Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria. Nurses were found in Dar Es Salaam with mosquito boots, veils and the much needed quinine, they were found in the sub arctic waters on hospital ships.

The sisters from the QA’s were the vanguard for the first few weeks, followed in large numbers by the territorial nurses.

In Britain several thousand women volunteered for the Voluntary Aid Detachments, they were trained by the British Red Cross or St John Ambulance; many were society women who flocked to local hospitals intent on doing their bit for the war effort, though VAD’s did serve abroad (as will be discovered later).

My tribute starts with nurses, and some of the saddest and most barbaric acts, especially by the Japanese Imperial Army, were inflicted on these gentle and brave women. As I was typing in data, I was interested to know why so many nurses died on the same day – I could envisage a battle somewhere and a hospital attacked; what I couldn’t envisage was
the barbarity of Banka Island and the fate of the 65 nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service on the 14th February 1942, or the torpedoing of hospital ships sealing the fate of many brave nurses.

In both world wars, nurses have been there in the front line, caring so lovingly for their patients, enduring not only battle, but hunger and disease, working in conditions alien to their very training, doing an almost impossible job.

These were nurses from various hospitals in the commonwealth drafted in to the services and also the voluntary nurses who joined the VAD (voluntary aid detachment) of British Red Cross Society or St John Ambulance. War does not respect age, qualification nor gender. I think of all the women in this tribute my utmost respect is for these nurses.

Nurses are not by nature combatant and under the Geneva conventions were protected, it must have been very difficult for them to undertake their vocation in such circumstances. As you read their stories elsewhere you will see how the Geneva Conventions were disregarded and in some circumstances women abandoned by the powers that be.

I don’t think any tribute to nurses could be done without mentioning the pioneer of army nursing, Florence Nightingale, whose work in the Crimean War inspired so many as to how important nurses are in wartime.

In March 1854 the Crimean War began. Britain, France and Turkey declared war on Russia and invaded the Crimean Peninsula. The allies defeated the Russians in September at the battle of the Alma but reports in The Times newspaper criticised the British Army’s medical treatment of the wounded soldiers.

In response, Sidney Herbert, the Minister of War, who knew Florence Nightingale socially and through her work as a nurse, appointed her to supervise the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. (The British Army fought the Russians in the Crimean Peninsula but the wounded were taken across the Black Sea to hospitals in Turkey.)
On 4 November 1854 Florence Nightingale and her party of 38 nurses arrived at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari. Conditions were very bad. The men were unwashed and were sleeping in overcrowded, dirty rooms without blankets or decent food. In these conditions diseases such as typhus, cholera and dysentery spread quickly. As a result, the death rate amongst wounded soldiers was very high.

Only one in six died from their war wounds; the other five in six died from infections and disease. To begin with the army doctors did not want the nurses there and did not ask for their help, but within ten days more wounded soldiers arrived from the battle of Inkermann and the nurses were very busy.
Florence Nightingale realised that if female nurses were to be accepted then they had to do a very good job. It was very important that the women recruited to become nurses should be well suited to the work.

A brave nurse - Edith Cavell

Up until 1907, nuns had been responsible for the care of the sick, and however kind and caring they were, they were untrained. When Edith Cavell returned to Brussels after a short break, Dr. Antoine Depage soon transferred her to more important work.
Dr. Depage wanted to pioneer the training of nurses in Belgium along the lines of Florence Nightingale. Edith Cavell, now in her early forties, was put in charge of a pioneer training school for lay nurses, 'L'Ecole d'Infirmiere Dimplonier' on the outskirts of Brussels. It was formed out of four adjoining houses and opened on October 10th, 1907.
Edith rose to the responsibility immediately; despite her own early record of unpunctuality, she kept a watch before her at breakfast and any unfortunate woman more than two minutes late would forfeit two hours of her spare time.
The work was quickly established, despite some resistance from the middle classes. Edith writes home .... "The old idea that it is a disgrace for women to work is still held in Belgium and women of good birth and education still think they lose caste by earning their own living."
However, when the Queen of the Belgians broke her arm and sent to the school for a trained nurse, suddenly the status of the school was assured.

By 1912, Edith was providing nurses for three hospitals, 24 communal schools and 13 kindergartens. In 1914 she was giving four lectures a week to doctors and nurses alike, and finding time to care for a friend's daughter who was a morphia addict, and a runaway girl, as well as her two dogs, Don and Jack.Edith often returned to Norfolk to visit her mother, who since her husband's death was living at College Road, Norwich. They also had holidays together on the North Norfolk coast. She was weeding her mother's garden when she heard the news of the German invasion of Belgium.
She would not be persuaded to stay in England. "At a time like this", she said, "I am more needed then ever".By August 3rd 1914, she was back in Brussels despatching the Dutch and German nurses home and impressing on the others that their first duty was to care for the wounded irrespective of nationality.
The clinic became a Red Cross Hospital, German soldiers receiving the same attention as Belgian. When Brussels fell, the Germans commandeered the Royal Palace for their own wounded and 60 English nurses were sent home. Edith Cavell and her chief assistant, Miss Wilkins remained. The initial German advance was successful and the British retreated from Mons and the French were driven back, many in both armies being cut off. In the Autumn of 1914, two stranded British soldiers found their way to Nurse Cavell's training school and were sheltered for two weeks. Others followed, all of them spirited away to neutral territory in Holland. One from the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment recognised a print of Norwich Cathedral on the wall of her office; she was always delighted to receive someone from her beloved Norfolk, asking a private Arthur Wood to take home her Bible and a letter for her Mother.
Quickly an 'underground' lifeline was established, masterminded by the Prince and Princess de Croy at a chateau at Mons. Guides were organised by Philippe Baucq, an architect, and some 200 allied soldiers helped to escape. (The password was 'Yorc' - Croy backwards). This organisation lasted for almost a year, despite the risks. All those involved knew they could be shot for harbouring allied soldiers.
Edith also faced a moral dilemma. As a 'protected' member of the Red Cross, she should have remained aloof. But like Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the next war, she was prepared to sacrifice her conscience for the sake of her fellow men.
To her, the protection, the concealment and the smuggling away of hunted men was as humanitarian an act as the tending of the sick and wounded. Edith was prepared to face what she understood to be the just consequences. By August 1915 a Belgian 'collaborator' had passed through Edith's hands. The school was searched while a soldier slipped out through the back garden, Nurse Cavell remained calm - no incriminating papers were ever found (her Diary she sewed up in a cushion).
Edith was too thorough and she had even managed to keep her 'underground' activities from her nurses so as not to incriminate them. Two members of the escape route team were arrested on July 31st, 1915.

Five days later, Nurse Cavell was interned. During her interrogation she was told that the other prisoners had confessed. In her naivety she believed them and revealed everything. Many people think that Edith 'shopped' her compatriots simply because, like George Washington, she could 'never tell a lie'. This was far too simplistic an explanation. Edith was willing to abuse her position in the Red Cross to help her fellow countrymen in need.
She would have equally protected her colleagues at the risk of compromising her own conscience even though this would have been painful and contrary to her upbringing. She was trained to protect life, even at the risk of her own. "Had I not helped", she said, "they would have been shot". The explanation is that Edith simply trusted her captors, was glad to make a clean breast of it and willingly condemned herself by freely admitting at her trial that she had "successfully conducted allied soldiers to the enemy of the German people".
Herein lay her 'guilt', and this was a capital offence under the German penal code. She was guilty, so they must shoot her. The German military authorities, having sentenced Edith and four others to death, were determined to carry out the executions immediately.
Despite the intervention of neutral American and Spanish embassies, Miss Cavell and Baucq were ordered to be shot the next day, October 12th, at the National Rifle Range (The Tir Nationale). A German Lutheran prison chaplain obtained permission for the English Chaplain, Stirling Gahan, to visit her on the night before she died.
His account of her last hours is very moving. They repeated the words of 'Abide with me', and Edith received the Sacrament.She said, "I am thankful to have had these ten weeks of quiet to get ready. Now I have had them and have been kindly treated here. I expected my sentence and I believe it was just. Standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone".Edith was magnanimous in her death, forgiving her executioners, even willing to admit the justice of their sentence. This sentence was carried out hurriedly and furtively in the early hours of October 12th.
Two firing squads, each of eight men, fired at their victims from six paces. Stories were told that the men fired wide of Edith, that she fainted and was finally despatched by a German officer with a pistol. Reliable witnesses report nothing of this and it seems the executions were carried out without incident.

Amongst the Wounded -another article from Lady Randolph Churchill


BEFORE the first fortnight of August, 1914, was over there appeared in the morning paper a modest little paragraph announcing that first Army Nursing Unit had left for the Front. Ten surgeons, ten dressers, and twenty nurses garbed in grey with that dash of red upon the shoulder capes, formed the detachment which under Sir Alfred Keogh, left London for Belgium "for general service with the Allied troops."
Since then the Red Cross Society has been sending detachments to the Front, grappling with all the horrors that spring upon an army in modern warfare.
Not one of the nurses of the Red Cross Society and St. John Ambulance Corps, or a member of any War-Nursing Community, asked in such time of the nation’s need for a tribute of gratitude from anyone—least of all from the wounded warrior himself! Lady Norman, writing from Auxiliary Base Hospital under the British Cross in Northern France, put it in this way: "one thing we cannot stand is their gratitude. Fancy being grateful for what is, after all, an absolute right—to be looked after when they fall. And they never complain, they are never anything but good and patient and thankful.

I do not know how a man can be good and patient and thankful with only one leg for the rest of his life and all that this crippled condition means. Yet they are, and one learns to know from them what bravery is."
"What we do is nothing," said a Red Cross worker the other day, and the ring in her voice was almost fierce. "You begin to know just a little of what war means when you see those heroes brought in and laid on the grey receiving blanket, their clothes all torn and muddy and covered with smears and splashes of blood; when you hear them call to each other in semi-delirium, as if they were still in the trenches; when you see how they smile and thank you while they are twisted by cruel pain. Is not this the very least we can do for these wonderful men who are doing much more than laying down their lives for us? Why, the horrors of war are unspeakable, and those brave fellows romp through it all as if it were a picnic."
The speaker was a young girl, and her outlook on life had assumed a new and marvellous focus. For one of the first lessons the Red Cross worker learns is that Courage and Gaiety have a way of travelling hand in hand, and this lesson well learnt does much to relieve the inevitable tension of hospital work.
Take, for example, the description written by Miss Cicely Hamilton, the authoress. Nothing could be more amusing reading than her account of her experiences in the making of a Red Cross Hospital. With entire good humour she tells first of countless skirmishes with red tape officials down on both sides of the Channel. Then she racily narrates how one numbers, packs, and registers in bales and cases the entire hospital equipment and resignedly says good-bye to it while it certainly makes the "Grand Tour," finally arriving when and how it feels inclined, and not in the least when you arranged or expected it! The bales are then checked off and search parties sent out after the "missing," for items such as bedsteads, drugs, and instruments will be found still to be enjoying the pleasures of the "Grand Tour."
Miss Hamilton goes on to tell how the hospital staff finds the plumbing incomplete, and how many other inconveniences, not usually thought trifling, crop up to hinder the great work. And which the ordinary householder would be holding up hands of horror, these brave women work away, with smiles and joking comments, establishing a thoroughly efficient hospital in the midst of what seemed to the mere onlooker only hopeless chaos.
There are some who hold that only fully trained professional nurses should be allowed to assist in the care of the wounded, and we gladly pay our tribute to women like Dr. Mary Garrett Anderson, Dr. Flora Murray, Dr. Elsie Inglis, and many other splendid women surgeons and doctors, and fully qualified and certificated nurses. At the same time, we must recognize that the Red Cross Societies of the Allied Nations have found it possible to make use of personal service from girls and women of the leisured classes who have worked sufficiently to form an invaluable National Nursing Service.

"What a marvellous sisterhood this Red Cross makes!" exclaimed a Japanese nurse, through her interpreter, on her arrival at Liverpool with the Japanese Red Cross Unit; and this remark has been frequently echoed during the later phases of the war.
The President of the British Red Cross Society, as everyone knows, is Queen Alexandra, and magnificent devotion is being shown not only by Japansese Red Cross nurses, but by Her Majesty’s Imperial Service Sisters and Naval Nurses.
For in days of peace, as ardently as now, the Queen Mother has given to the nursing efforts of England’s Women an earnest, sincere, and whole-hearted interest. Nothing that Her Majesty could do to further the growth of this public service has been left undone.
When the new King George V Red Cross Hospital was fitting up a mortuary chapel, Queen Alexandra sent a brass cross and two beautiful vases for the altar, with a few tender words as an accompanying message. It is these little watchful kindnesses which so endear the Queen to the hearts of the people. She never needs to be told what is wanted.
"How did she know? " is not an uncommon exclamation where Queen Alexandra is concerned; committees and private individuals are alike astonished. "A heart at leisure from itself" gives true intuition.
Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland, has rendered splendid service to the nation during the war. In August, 1914, the "Millicent Sutherland Ambulance" began its work at Namur in Belgium. It consisted of only eight trained nurses and one surgeon, Mr. Oswald Morgan, of Guy’s Hospital, who has remained as head of the Unit ever since.
During six weeks of German occupation one hundred wounded French and Belgian soldiers were tended in the Convent of Notre Dame. In time the wounded were removed to Germany, and the Ambulance was sent by the German Director of Medical Services to Maubeuge, and after many vicissitudes passed safely to England through Holland at the end of September, 1914.
At the end of October the Duchess went to Dunkirk with some Ambulance cars. She arrived at the height of the Yser fighting, when thousands of wounded French and Belgians were pouring through the town. The hospitals were filled to overflowing, and the Duchess was asked to start an auxiliary hospital in a building at Malo-les-Bains, close to the sea. This she consented to do, and, after many difficulties and owing entirely to the generosity of British and American friends, funds were secured to run a hospital of 100 beds which was added to the convoy of seven Ambulance cars, already at work day and night.

The whole Unit retained its original name of the "Millicent Sutherland Ambulance," and hospital continued its work at Malo until the third bombardment of Dunkirk in the spring of 1915, when it was considered wise to move wounded to Bourbourg, some twelve miles outside of Dunkirk.
At Bourbourg the hospital became a Tent Unit, was well known as the Camp in the Oat Field " It excited a great deal of interest, as the wounded were largely treated in the open airand so remarkably well.
During a whole year leading members of the British Army Medical Service have visited the hospital, and British physicians have occasionally come from the Front in consultation. All have expressed great approval of its organization and efficiency.
The Duchess herself has acted as Directress in station to all matters of supplies and the pecuniary import of the hospital, which has been recognized by the British Red Cross since last April.
The Duchess of Westminster, another hard-working Duchess, started a hospital at Le Touquet in October, 1914, where it has been running ever since in the Casino. Originally equipped for 250 men and 10 officers in May, 1915, the officers’ accommodation was increased to forty beds, and in August, by request of the Army Medical Authority, it was converted entirely into an officers’ hospital. Up to the time of the conversion 8800 men and 286 officers passed through, and since then 985 officers have been tended there. This hospital is thought to be one of the best in France, and the Duchess has superintended it entirely herself.
Lady Wimborne’s house in Arlington Street is made the first Head-quarters of the Allies’ Field Ambulance Corps.. The new Viceroy of Ireland and his beautiful young wife are very interested in ambulance work. Before they [left] to take up their duties in Ireland, fleets of these wagons of mercy, each with its Red Cross sign on the grey canvas cover, could be seen daily in the courtyard before their house.
The leaders of the nursing service do not forget the kitchen in these days of sound, practical common sense. The new "flying kitchen" goes on to the field of battle with each ambulance convoy. Hot beef-tea, soup, coffee, cocoa, and milk are given to the wounded and exhausted men, and the huge water tank and boiler that form part of each "kitchen" are invaluable when new dressings are needed on the way to the clearing hospital. These kitchens are of necessity costly things. The car must be prepared to face near unceasing work and very hard wear, and consequently the cost of each works out at £ 600. Lady Wantage presented one such car to the Red Cross Society, and the Duchess of Devonshire gave another. The women of various counties clubbed together to meet the expense of providing others, Hampshire and Shropshire being among the first to lend help in this very practical direction.

It was Lady Limerick who had the brilliant idea of planning a Free Refreshment Buffet for travelling soldiers and sailors at London’s Bridge Station, and helped to start the Buffet with funds raised on Shamrock Day. Here the travelling soldier or sailor can get a free al at any hour between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.—hot tea, coffee, or cocoa, sandwiches, cake, and cigarettes, and for those who are going to the Front letter paper and pencils are provided.
An average of 1200 men or more are thus fed per day. The authorities are immensely pleased with this scheme, as the men are kept away from the public-house, and the men also greatly appreciate the interest shown in them by the thirty or forty lady workers.
These canteens arc now being established at most of our big railway stations, and are doing invaluable work.

Heroines of the First World War - an article by Lady Randolph Churchill

THOUGH women play so large a part in every war, and one instinctively thinks of them as nurses for the wounded, one does not associate them with the actual horrible work of fire and slaughter. Yet there is no more interesting phase of the women’s part in this war than that which relates to their activity in the actual firing line. The world, which has hitherto regarded battle as essentially a man’s business, has lately learnt with something of a shock that in Belgium women have come to look upon it with supreme indifference.
Familiarity has bred such stoicism in the face of danger that women have been known to milk their few remaining cows within range of constantly-dropping shells, and to trudge miles along dangerous roads, bearing baskets of provisions for the husbands, sons or brothers they expected to find in every trench they passed.
One British war correspondent, indeed, told how here and there he had seen family parties sitting on newly turned earth at the bottom of the trenches—father, mother and children, some mites in arms, talking earnestly to each other and sharing the scantiest of meals. Even during the raging battle of Mona women and girls found their way fearlessly into the trenches with food and fruit for the fighting men. One girl, hardly more than seventeen, faced the terrific noise of conflict at the peril of shell and bullet quite undismayed.
There is a pathetic story of an old woman, seventy years of age, who arriving at Antwerp at the eve of its fall, approached one of the outposts, and told how she had come on foot from Liège to see her son. And she found him, poor devoted soul—a son who had acted as orderly to General Leman, the gallant defender of Liège, and, when he thought his master was dead, had posted off to Antwerp to strike another blow to the enemy.
In Russia, many of the peasant women, used in times of peace to the hardest physical labour in the fields, have an enduring strength which is uncommon among Western races, and quite large numbers of them have not only helped to dig trenches, but have, under various disguises and pretexts joined the fighting forces.
A Petrograd writer assures us that the most successful conspirators were the masculine-looking peasant women of the northern provinces. Surely the veteran of them all must be Nadezlda Ornatsky, woman of Archangel, who posed as aman during a large part of the Russo-Japanese war of ten years ago, and so had little difficulty in reassuming the part of a private in August, 1914. Only after the battle of Lubin-Krasnik was her sex discovered.

Another Russian named Linba Uglicki was actually present at four different East Prussia or Polish engagements, and was slightly wounded. It is said she feared nothing but the ordeal of crossing bayonets with the foe. Pride of family is a strong emotion among all Russian peasantry and it drove another woman to take up arms when her husband shirked his military summons. She impersonated the coward to preserve the family reputation from tarnish, and at Gumbinnen the action cost her her life.
Perhaps the most thrilling story of this nature relates to the adventures of Lyubov Ouglitsky, called the "Augustovo Amazon," a twenty-one year old girl from Smolensk. Lyubov--whose name means love--has taken part in four big battles, in her masculine disguise, and had not sickness intervened, she no doubt would still be on the firing-line.
Her rôle as a man is made more astonishing by the fact that she is described as "pretty, with expressive gazelle eyes, but somewhat too strongly built." When war was declared she went boldly to Smolensk, where she impersonated her reservist brother, who had died a few days previously. She enrolled in the 7th Army Corps and finally found herself in Rennenkampf’s army. When Rennenkampf first inspected his men he spoke among others to Lyubov, asked the name of her village, and said, "Well, you’re a fine lad!"
This "Augustovo Amazon’s" first battle was Gumbinnen when the Germans were driven back. After General Rennenkampf evacuated East Prussia he fought a rearguard action at Kalwarja Ille. Ouglitski’s battalion here lost half its men in killed and wounded. The girl warrior took part in a fierce fight for a village, which ended in the village being destroyed. She says she was not terrified as long as the Germans were on the offensive. But when her shattered battalion was ordered to charge with the bayonet a fearful dread seized her.
"I was terribly afraid of having to kill a man. To shoot I did not mind," she said. "I may have shot several men, but the idea of using my bayonet overwhelmed and horrified me. I realized that if I now killed a man in this way I should know it, and I should remember it to my last day. I prayed that I myself might be shot."
Mlle. Ouglitski fought at Augustovo in September, 1914, also shortly afterwards in a desperate struggle the Niemen. After the last fight she thought of deserting, but feared she would be captured or shot. She kept the secret of her sex by pretending to be particularly rough and callous.
"At times my heart bled with compassion which I could not express," she said. Finally her solitary career was ended by a slight wound front a shell splinter.

"There are at least a score of women fighting on our side," declared this undaunted soldier, and the many other instances of which one has heard certainly seem to bear out her statement. A woman who passed as Private Norman Nesmetooft was killed outside Suvalki. On the day before her death she made a forced march with her battalion of 42 versts (about twenty-six miles).
It is given to few women to don male attire and fight side by side with their brothers, but since the war began many have shown in more legitimate fields a quiet heroism, a staunch cleaving to duty, for which no praise is too high. What of the two Belgian girls who were on duty at the telephone switch-board when Louvain’s day of terror began? Similar cases have been related in peace as well as in conflict, but no records of war heroism can rank above this tale of duty well done.
Nearer and nearer, it is recorded, came the thunder of the German guns. Shells began to burst on the outskirts of the town, then in the very streets. Ominous flames crackled, leaping around the houses. Shrapnel bullets were raining on all sides of the telephone exchange, tiIl the two operators stayed unflinchingly at their posts. Whatever peril might threaten from s[illegible] or flames, they never thought of seeking safety in flight, for well they knew that along the line which they were serving were passing the orders the Belgian staff directing the safe retreat of the Belgian forces. It was only when they could do no more good, when the wires had been cut or, carried away by shells, and their building threatened to collapse, that Valerie di Martinelli and Léonie Van Lindt crept out of the exchange.
Antwerp yielded an equally striking example of the war heroine in two sisters who had only had a week’s training as nurses, but must have been exceptionally well endowed by nature with iron nerves, They were English, and it often happened in the hospital in which they served that there was no time to give anesthetics, and that all that could be done was to hold the patients’ hands under the most excruciating operations. The men in their agony would crush their fingers harder and harder, but they never uttered a sound.
Other British women, in breeches and great boots, went out under heavy fire near Nieuport, we are told, with the equanimity that one would associate with an afternoon drive in the park. They moved about among the great holes which the shells were tearing in the ground, seeking and caring for the wounded with as much ease as if taking tea in their own drawing-rooms. Lady Dorothie Fielding, the daughter of the Earl of Denbigh, worked at a small cottage hospital with her motor ambulance with shells flying round; and Miss Jessie Borthwick, a niece of the late Lord Glenesk, nursed the wounded in
Belgium under conditions that would make the stoutest heart quail, with the result that at Oudecappelle she herself was wounded. Later, at Dixmude, she tells us she came across some German soldiers who from cellars fired on her and her companions as they rushed about with stretchers!

"It was a full moon and the country was flat with very few trees, so we had to lie flat and crawl along till we got to the trenches. The rifle fire was incessant, but we picked out all the men it was possible to move. That night, too, we had to burn piles of the German dead, for they had been throwing them into the river and spoiling water." Little cause for wonder after this that in an outburst of admiration the colonel of the Belgian Carbineers made Miss Borthwick a corporal, another corporal cutting off the stripes from his own coat for her adornment and honour.
Side by side with this is the story of Mrs. St. Clair Stobart, who went to Belgium with a complete hospital equipment and who, while endeavouring to get to Holland from Brussels, was imprisoned by the Germans and searched six times, narrowly escaping from being shot as a spy.
In Antwerp Mrs. Stobart nursed the wounded amid a rain of shells, and when this fire endangered the lives of her ninety odd patients, Mrs. Stobart and her assistants, who included Miss S. Macnaughten, the novelist, carried their charges down into the cellars on their backs. This gallant band of twenty eventually rode out of Antwerp, through blazing streets, in London omnibuses laden with ammunition and driven by British soldiers.
Since then the merciful work has been carried on untiringly under more peaceful conditions near Cherbourg, where a beautiful château, lent by the owner, has beenturned into a large hospital for French wounded. More recently Mrs. Stobart has organised relief expeditions to nurse the Serbian wounded.
Even the doubtful excitements of trench work and actual "under fire" experiences were denied to Miss Margaret C. Ryle, the young daughter of an English bishop, who at the outbreak of war was in Russia, acting as coach to a girl preparing for Cambridge. Miss Ryle offered herself to the authorities for hospital work, passed the necessary examination, of course in Russian, and, after a probationary period in a base hospital at Moscow, was transferred to the hospital train service running to and from the front and Moscow--most trying and exhausting work, consisting as it did of tending wounded straight from the battlefield, hampered by the restrictions of a long journey. A hospital train was being fitted up for Serbia, where the condition of the wounded was at that time truly appalling, and Miss Ryle accompanied it to Nish. A few days later she died from the effects of a mountain fall while going about her duties.
Serbian hospital work claimed another gallant victim last July, when Mrs. Percy Dearmer died of enteric contracted while nursing the wounded. She was a woman writer who had made a name for herself by her delightful children’s books, plays, and novels. Three months later her younger son, of the R.N.V.A., gave his life also for his country.

Like Serbia, France has claimed an English victim. In the soldiers’ cemetery at Le Mans lies a nineteen-year-old girl, Miss Bell, who was tending the wounded in the firing line when a shell broke both her legs.
Chief among British nurses, however stands the heroic figure of Miss Edith Cavell, who for many years was head of a nurses’ training establishment in the Rue de la Culture at Brussels. When the capital of Belgium fell into German hands, Miss Cavell remained at her post, tending the enemy’s wounded with the same care bestowed upon those of the Allies. It was while she was actually engaged in bandaging a German’s injuries that the Kaiser’s soldiers rushed into the house and arrested her on a charge of sheltering English and Belgian soldiers and enabling them to get safely over the frontier. Despite the most persistent efforts made to save her by the American and Spanish ministers in Brussels, Miss Cavell languished ten weeks in prison, and was then tried by court-martial and executed in the middle of the night, within nine hours of her conviction.
Fortified by a life spent in ministering to others, the doomed nurse behaved throughout with a fine, quiet courage that never failed.
"I have seen death so often," she said to the clergyman who prayed with her during the last hours, "that it is not strange or fearful to me." And again, shortly before the end: "I realize that it is not enough to be patriotic. I must also bear my enemies no resentment for their treatment of me."
The news of her heroic death evoked wild outbursts of indignation not only in this country, but among neutrals, and even in the breasts of the Germans themselves. It is said that the firing party visibly trembled, and with one accord fired over her head, so that their officer had to do the deadly work himself by means of a revolver held to her ear. A memorial service, attended by Queen Alexandra in person was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral on October 29th, 1915, and the public subscribed lavishly to the Cavell Memorial Fund which was at once opened.
"What Jeanne d’Arc has been for centuries to France," said one writer in the press, that will Edith Cavell become to the future generations of Britons."
Another English nurse who deserves mention is Miss Violetta Thurston, who was ordered by the Germans to leave Brussels, where she had been doing excellent work. She was sent across Germany, having a tedious and uncomfortable journey, and when at
Copenhagen she offered her services to the Russian Red Cross. Her offer was accepted, and she went to Lodz, where she was posted to a hospital in what was once a girls’ day school. Writing home, she said:

"It is crammed with wounded men, lying on stone floors, either on filthy mattresses or on straw, with no sheets and only one blanket each. There is no heating, as there is no coal, and it is frightfully cold . . . .For a week we have been heavily bombarded; shells are bursting all round us, most of our windows are broken.
The cannons stopped for a bit yesterday, but have now begun again with renewed force. We have had to move all our wounded from the top floor on account of the shells. A shell burst in front of us in the street to-day, but neither of us was hurt. It is extraordinary how one gets used to it."
Subsequently Miss Thurston went to Warsaw, making her journey in an ambulance wagon, with shells continually bursting near and bombs being dropped from aeroplanes.
Miss May Sinclair, the novelist, has published a glowing tribute to the workof the women of the Motor Field Ambulance, in which she states:
"When we were in Ghent I have known them to work all day and half the night among the refugees at Termonde, on the ambulance trains as they arrived loaded from Antwerp, in our last appalling week; in the dressing-stations at Alost, at Quartrecht, at Zeele and Lokeren and Melle, wherever and whenever the wounded were brought in. They have gone out with the stretchers over the great open battlefield at Melle and brought in the wounded with their own hands; for hours and days and nights at a time, under rifle-fire and shrapnel, they have done this. I saw them, after such a hard day’s work, start off at twilight to bring in two wounded Germans whom the last ambulance had left there on that horrible field, and they brought them in under the German fire.
"At Fumes and Dixmude they have worked all night looking after their wounded, sometimes sleeping on straw in a room shared by the Belgian troops when there was no other shelter for them in the bombarded towns. Mrs. Knocker has driven a heavy ambulance car in a pitch-black night, along a road raked by shell-fire and broken here and there into great pits, to fetch a load of wounded, a performance that would have racked the nerves of any male chauffeur ever born. She has driven the same car, alone, with five German prisoners for her passengers. The four women are serving regularly now at Pervyse, the town nearest to the firing line. It is more than two months since Mrs. Knocker established her dressing-station there in a cellar only twenty yards behind the Belgian trenches. In that cellar, eight feet square and lighted and ventilated only by a slit in the wall, she and Miss Chisholm (a girl of eighteen) lived for three weeks, sleeping on straw, eating what they could get, drinking water that had passed through a cemetery where 900 Germans are buried. They had to burn candles night and day. Here the wounded were brought as they fell in the trenches, and were tended until the time ambulance[s] came to take them to the base hospital at Fumes."

The Bretons were also said to be wonderful. "I want to thank the little Breton nurse who has been so good to us," writes a grateful private of the Leicesters of the lady who attended to him and his wounded comrades at a hospital in the north of France. "Never," he says, "was a woman born kinder, tenderer, or more patient and lovable. I saw her first in a field hospital, singing a wounded Highlander to sleep rather than that he should disturb the rest of us with his bagpipes.
The next moment she would be hunting for a priest to come and comfort a lad who had been shot to pieces, but was still conscious, and was crying for the padre, and when the chaplain had gone she continued to soothe him with those Christian phrases which a good woman can employ with far better effect than any minister.
He was lying next to me, and I heard her speaking of loved ones he was about to rejoin in the other world when he died in her arms. Later she had to hasten to another bed where a young lieutenant is dying—a shell has torn part of his head away. He is just able to utter one word—’ Mother.’ At once an inspiration comes to the nurse’s fine soul; she searches the pockets of the dying boy, finds the photograph of that loved one, puts it gently in his hands. Though blind, he realizes what it is, gives one last cry of’ Mother,’ and dies."
Another French heroine was Marie Masson, who belonged to a village, the inhabitants of which, though only civilians, had resisted the German advance. The Germans were driven off, but they came back. They returned on November 9th, "drove all of us into the church"—said the informant—and an officer, standing by the altar, announced in guttural French that the village was to be punished. "A woman," said he, "betrayed us by telling us there were no French troops in the place, whereas the houses must have been full of them; if she doesn’t confess we shall kill every inhabitant." Groans filled the church. Cries were raised that if the "piou-pious" were in the village they certainly were not hiding in the houses. The officer would not believe them, and proceeded to announce that as an example and a warning he would have a man and a woman shot in the presence of the population.
At this point up stepped Madame Marie Masson, twenty-eight years old, who had a husband and two brothers with the colours. She turned her face to the German officer and the altar, and said, "There were no French in the houses, but here am I; take me, and do your worst." The German soldiers thereupon seized her and an old man who stood by her. Everybody was ordered out of church. The couple were marched away and placed against a wall, while the German troops surrounded the inhabitants and compelled them to witness the double execution.
The German officer in a loud voice asked if the father and mother of the young woman were in the crowd. They came forward and were forced to remain in the forefront of the populace so that they might miss nothing of their daughter’s last moments. Eight constituted the firing party, and in all sixteen shots were fired. The pair died, unbandaged, facing death without flinching.

A happier story is that told in relation to the work performed by the English Yeomanry Corps of Nurses in France. The Belgian nurses were being continually shelled, but one of them went steadily backwards and forwards–even after a shell had burst within twenty yards of her, killing three men and wounding several others.
Finally the officer in charge of the section was so touched, that, lacking any other way of showing his gratitude, he picked a few snowdrops which were growing on a little ledge in the trench, and, making up a bouquet, gravely presented them to her.
No doubt most, if not all, of these stories are common knowledge to our readers; the facts have certainly been set out in the newspapers, but linked together here they revive our recollections of women’s gallant deeds. They also serve as proof that the warring nations have good reason to be proud of their "heroines of the firing-line."

Hospital Ship HS Glenart Castle

Hospital Ship HS Glenart Castle Torpedoed 26th February, 1918

Katy Beaufoy, Acting Matron
Rebecca Rose Beresford, Staff Nurse
Edith Blake, Staff Nurse
Elizabeth Edgar, Staff Nurse
Jane Evans, Sister
Charlotte Henry, Staff Nurse
Rose Elizabeth Kendall, Sister
Mary McKinnon, Staff Nurse

Katy Beaufoy - HS Glenart Castle

Katy Beaufoy - HS Glenart Castle

Miss Katy Beaufoy, the matron on the torpedoed hospital ship, Glenart Castle, was a Birmingaham lady . She was a daughter of the late Mr Thomas Beaufoy, for many years an official of the Birmingham Post Office , and a sister of Mrs J Howard Kirk, of The Grange Shirley, where she made her home
Miss Beaufoy was matron of the Military Hospital at Exeter when the South African war broke out, and she volunteered for active service, and served throughout the war.
For three years she was assistant matron of the Queen of Italy's Polytechnic in Rome, for the training of young Italian nurses, for which she was decorated. Miss Beaufoy volunteered immediately the present war broke out, and for the early months of the war was at Devonport Military Hospital. From there she was sent to Ras-el-Din Hospital at Alexandria. She had her first ship, the Ionian, at Mudros, after which she was appointed matron of the New Khedivial Hotel at Alexandria.

In June 1916, she was appointed matron of the Dover Castle, in which she continued for fifteen months, only being absent for a few days when the vessel was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. After being on shore for a short time she was given the Glenart Castle on her first voyage,from November to February and was in her when she was torpedoed on February 26.

Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service

Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service

Although a formal military nursing service did not exist in the army prior to the latter half of the 19th century, recent extensive research suggests that nursing care was provided to the army during the reign of Elizabeth 1st and the English Civil War.

During the 18th century military hospitals had Matrons and nurses working in them but the training and standard of care was not of a high standard. With the Crimean war and the widespread reportage of the war in the national press the plight of the sick and injured soldiers in the deplorable hospitals in the East caused public alarm.
After the Crimean War there were great reforms within the Army Medical Services but it was not until 1881 that an advertisement appeared in the Times and Daily Telegraph appealing for ‘Nursing Sisters to be trained in military hospitals....’.
Not long after that nurses accompanied the army on campaign, in Egypt and the Sudan. In 1887 Princess Christian, Queen Victoria’s daughter, gave her name to the Army Nursing Service Reserve and these ladies served during the Anglo-Boer War.
In 1902 the Indian Nursing Service and the Army Nursing Service were combined and following the death of Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra became the President of the newly formed Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. This Corps was formed on 27th March 1902. The Queen chose the cross of the Order of Dannebrog as the basis of the badge of QAIMNS and the motto Sub Cruce Candida, Under the White Cross, was adopted by the Corps.
Military nurses served in nearly all theatres during World War 1 and many lost their lives. In 1916, when the Military Medal was instituted as an award for bravery, some of the first awards went to military nurses. With the war’s end military nurses took on a new responsibility, that of the care of soldiers families and Queen Alexandra’s Military Families Nursing Service was formed.
During World War 2 nurses once again found themselves serving all over the world and many suffered the hardships and deprivations of the Far East prison camps.
After World War 2 there was much reorganisation within the army medical services and on 1 February 1949 the name was changed to Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. In July 1950 a further change took place when non-commissioned ranks were admitted to the Corps and nurse training within the Corps commenced. At this time the Corps was an all-female organisation, male nurses being members of the RAMC.


1914 - 1918
BERRIE, Charlotte
BLAKE, Edith
THOMSON, Elizabeth Robertson
WILSON,Myrtle Elizabeth
1939 - 1945
AIREY, Freda
ATKIN, Joyce Kathleen
AYERS, Eileen Norah
BALFOUR, Audrey, Margaret Craig S.R.N.
BATEMAN Edith Mary
BLACK, Charlotte Florence
BOYD-ROBERTS, Sylvia Caldwell
BRAND, Mary (Gold Medalist,Queen's Hospital,Birmingham)
BURROWS, Isabella
CARROLL, Edith Katherine
CASSON, Florence Rebecca
CLEMENT, Nadia Mathilda
CLEWETT, Catherine Hilda S.R.N., C.M.B
CRIBB, Cecelia Maude
CURRAN, Jane Simpson Annand
DALGARNO, Elsie Alice
DANN, Elizabeth Doritha
DERVAN, Gertrude
DEWAR, Alice Whitehead
DIXON, Sarah Elizabeth
DORAN, Teresa
DOWLING, Beatrice Olivia
DUNLOP, Doreen Violet
ESSEX, Rosemary Nancy
FINLEY, Margaret Raven
HOBBES, Florence Narrelle Jessie
HUMPHREY, Muriel Christine
JONES, Violet Maud Evelyn
LADKIN, Ellen Amelia
MONTGOMERY, Helen Louise
PEDLOW, Edith Doreen
REED, Margaret Ellen
RUSSELL, Winifred
SYMONDS, Lorna Sybil
TOMBS, Dorothy Helen
WELLS, Brenda Irene S.R.N., S.C.M., S.R.F.N
WEST, Cicely Lucy May (RRC)
WIGHT, Rosetta Joan
the Military Medal
Ethel Garrett
Sister Ethel Garrett was awarded the Military Medal (MM) during the First World War for her brave actions during an enemy air raid on Number 37 General Hospital which was attached to the Serbian army. Together with QA Reserve sisters Rebecca Calhoun and Margaret Smith Dewar they tried to provide cover for their patients. Sister Dewar was struck in the chest by a piece of bomb casing that had exploded nearby as she knelt over a wounded soldier. Sister Calhoun went to her aid but she died in her arms. She herself did not escape injury during this air raid and was hit by a bomb splinster as she attended patients. Sister Garrett attended a soldier who had been wounded by a German bomb and had sustained a compound fracture of his skull. She risked her own life to administer life saving first aid. Whilst she was doing this 14 bombs fell within an 80 yard radius of their location.
Ethel Garrett was a member of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve QAIMN(R) and served at No 37 General Hospital at Vertekop, Solonika during WWI. She was also awarded the French Croix-de-Guerre and the Serbian Military Medal For Valour from the Crown Prince of Serbia (also awarded to Sister Calhoun and was the first time it was awarded to women). She died in February 1972. She was 89 years old.

During The Great War 65 Military Medals were awarded to military nurses. Nursing Sisters of the QAIMNS had no rank structure during the Great War so were awarded the Military Medal rather than the Officer equivalent of the Military Cross (MC).
In his book Wartime Nurse: One Hundred Years from the Crimea to Korea 1854-1954 Eric Taylor documents two nurses who were involved in a bombing during the First World War that killed one QA and badly injured another. They administered emergency first aid during the air raid and ensured their safe evacuation before reporting back to duty in the operating theatre. They were awarded the Military Medal for displaying the most wonderful courage. Unfortunately the names of the QAIMNS nursing sisters are not cited.

Territorial Nursing Service

The Territorial Force equivalent to the regular army's QAIMNS.
Formed in 1908, and under the administrative arrangements of the County Associations. The TFNS outgrew its regular army sister.

Formation of the QAIMNS Reserve and the Territorial Force Nursing Service quickly followed and in the first week of WORLD WAR I, 1914-18, these nursing services mobilised for duty with the Expeditionary Force, serving through the war years on every front, in every campaign.

Another war over, the inevitable changes of a post-war period followed, but this time bringing less spectacular transitions. Valuable additions were made to the parent QAIMNS through the Military Families Nursing Service and Queen Alexandra’sMilitary Nursing Service India


1914 – 1918


1939 – 1945

ANDERSON, Jean McVicar
DAVIES, Annie Mildred
GALE, Margory Eveline
INGHAM, Alice Ann S.R.N., S.C.M.
MacGREGOR, Annie
MAIN, Iris Hannah Isabell
WILSON, Edith Mary

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service

1914 – 1918

BALDWIN, Dorothy Mary Yarwood
TOMLINSON, Phyllis HMS Ganges

1939 – 1945

GRIBBLE, Kate Ellen

Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service


The Volunteer Nurses - VAD's

In 1909 it was decided to form Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) to provide medical assistance in time of war. By the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain. Of the 74,000 VADs in 1914, two-thirds were women and girls.

Katharine Furse took two VADs to France soon after the outbreak of the First World War. After establishing a hospital at Boulogne, Furse returned to London where she became Commander-in-Chief of the organisation. During the next four years 38,000 VADs worked as assistant nurses, ambulance drivers and cooks. VAD hospitals were also opened in most large towns in Britain.

At first the military authorities were unwilling to accept VADs on the front-line. However, this restriction was removed in 1915 and women volunteers over the age of

twenty-three and with more than three months experience, were allowed to go to the Western Front, Mesopotamia and Gallipoli. Later VADs were sent to the Eastern Front.

Some women went to the Western Front as letter writers for soldiers who were either too ill or too illiterate to write their own letters. May Bradford, the wife of John Rose Bradford, Physician to the British Expeditionary Force, later recalled how she educated men on the treatment of women: "To one man I said, 'Shall I begin the letter with my dear wife?' He quietly answered: 'That sounds fine, but she'll be wondering I never said that before.'

(1) Letter from Katharine Furse, B.R.C.S., the Commandant-in-Chief, Women's Voluntary Aid Detachment, to serving VAD nurses (1914)

This paper is to be considered by each V.A.D. member as confidential and to be kept in her Pocket Book.

You are being sent to work for the Red Cross. You have to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, your patience, your humility, your determination to overcome all difficulties.
Remember that the honour of the V.A.D. organisation depends on your individual conduct. It will be your duty not only to set an example of discipline and perfect steadiness of character, but also to maintain the most courteous relations with those whom you are helping in this great struggle.

Be invariably courteous, unselfish and kind. Remember that whatever duty you undertake, you must carry it out faithfully, loyally, and to the best of your ability.
Rules and regulations are necessary in whatever formation you join. Comply with them without grumble or criticism and try to believe that there is reason at the back of them, though at the time you may not understand the necessity.

Sacrifices may be asked of you. Give generously and wholeheartedly, grudging nothing, but remembering that you are giving because your country needs your help. If you see others in better circumstances than yourself, be patient and think of the men who are fighting amid discomfort and who are often in great pain.

Those of you who are paid can give to the Red Cross Society which is your Mother and which needs more and more money to carry on its great work. their Mother Society and thus to the Sick and Wounded.

Let our mottos be 'Willing to do anything' and 'The People give gladly'. If we live up to these, the V.A.D. members will come out of this world war triumphant.
(2) Catherine Cathcart-Smith was 24 when she joined the VADs in 1914. She was interviewed about the war in 1993 when she was 104 years old.

I wanted to do my bit for the war so I volunteered to drive an ambulance. We had to meet the troop trains at the big London railway stations - Waterloo and Victoria. The trains had hundreds of wounded soldiers packed on them. Their wounds were were frightful. Young men with no arms or legs. Many had been gassed. Others blinded. I had two nurses with me, we made a good team. One day I saw this young man on a stretcher. It was my brother, so I said to the soldiers who were carrying him: "Put him in my ambulance, I am his sister." When he died the next day I was with him, holding his hand.
(3) Naomi Mitchison wrote about why she became a VAD in her autobiography All Change Here (1975)

In 1915, with Dick away I became more and more impatient with Oxford and my own non-involvement. Girls I knew had gone to do 'war work'; one or two were even in munitions factories. And at least I had passed first aid and home nursing examinations and what was more Sister Morag Macmillan had chosen me as the one to whom she could teach massage, feeling the hands of half a dozen girls and rejecting them before taking me on. Whether she knew I had some capacity as a healer which might be brought out is something else again; had she sensed that she would wisely have
said nothing about it.

I nagged and nagged and finally went off to be a VAD nurse at St. Thomas's along with May Douie, an Oxford friend whom I did not know very well. I had no idea what a hospital was really like; I doubt if I had ever been inside one. Our friends and relations would never find themselves in a hospital; they went to nursing homes, especially the Acland at Oxford, though there might well be arrangements there for almost free treatment in certain cases. Some nursing homes or small, special hospitals were quite well endowed. So St. Thomas's was something of a shock; the size, the long, clattering corridors and staircases and the huge, undivided wards. Everything was, no doubt, sanitary, but there were no frills.
Of course I made awful mistakes. I had never done real manual household work; I had never used mops and polishes and disinfectants. I was very willing but clumsy. I was told to make tea but hadn't realised that tea must be made with boiling water. All that had been left to the servants.
Once when lifting a heavy patient my collar stud flew out and my stiff collar opened. Oh, dear! At that time we all wore stiff white cuffs, collar and belt into which we stuck our scissors, so much needed for bandages, dressings and sewing. One's blue skirt was ankle length with a long white apron over it. I ought to have had a proper uniform coat to go out in, but my mother had economised on that, thinking my own old one would do as well, but again I got an official scolding.
(4) Vera Brittain describing a field camp hospital in Etaples in 1918 in her book A Testament of Youth.

I am a Sister VAD, and orderly all in one. Quite apart from the nursing, I have stoked the fire all night, done two or three rounds of bed pans, and kept the kettles going and prepared feeds on exceedingly black Beatrice oil stoves and refilled them from the steam kettles utterly wallowing in paraffin all the time. I feel as if I had been dragged through the gutter. Possibly acute surgical is the heaviest type of work there is, I think, more wearing than anything else on earth. You are kept on the go the whole time but in the end there seems to be nothing definite to show for it - except that one or two are still alive that might otherwise have been dead.
The picture came back to me of myself standing alone in a newly created circle of hell during the 'emergency' of March 22nd 1918, gazing half hypnotized at the disheveled beds, the stretchers on the floor, the scattered boots and piles of muddy clothing, the brown blankets turned back from smashed limbs bound to splints by filthy bloodstained bandages. Beneath each stinking wad of sodden wool and gauze an obscene horror waited for me and all the equipment that I had for attacking it in this ex-medical ward was one pair of forceps standing in a potted meat glass half full of methylated spirit.

The cold is terrific; the windows of the ward are all covered with icicles. I'm going about in a jersey and long coat. By the middle of December out kettles, hot water bottles and sponges were all frozen hard when we came off duty if we had not carefully emptied and squeezed them the night before. Getting up to go on duty in the icy darkness was a shuddering misery almost as exacting as an illness.

Our vests, if we hung them over a chair, went stiff and we could keep them soft only if we slept in them. All the taps froze; water for the patients had to be cut down to a minimum and any spilt in the passages turned in a few seconds to ice.
(5) Lesley Smith worked as a VAD at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton during the early stages of the First World War. Later she was posted to a field hospital on the Western Front.

Day after day we cut down stinking bandages and exposed wounds that destroyed the whole original plan of the body.
One man had both buttocks blown off, one arm had been amputated at the elbow, and he had a host of smaller wounds from flying metal. Another lay propped on sphagnum moss to absorb the discharge from two large holes in each thigh.
(6) In May 1917 Florence Farmborough, a Red Cross nurse, saw British VAD nurses working in Podgaytsy Hospital in Russia.

I was surprised and not a little perturbed when I saw that tiny bags, containing pure salt, are sometimes deposited into the open wound and bandaged tightly into place. It is probably a new method; I wonder if it has been tried out on the Allied Front.

These bags of salt - small though they are - must inflict excruciating pain; no wonder the soldiers kick and yell; the salt must burn fiercely into the lacerated flesh. It is certainly a purifier, but surely a very harsh one!

At an operation, performed by the lady-doctor, at which I was called upon to help, the man had a large open wound in his left thigh. All went well until two tiny bags of salt was placed within it, and then the uproar began. I thought the man's cries would lift the roof off; even the lady doctor looked discomforted. "Silly fellow," she ejaculated. "It's only a momentary pain. Foolish fellow! He doesn't know what is good for him."
(7) On the outbreak of the was Enid Bagnold joined the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) and worked as a nurse at the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich. Her account of this experience, Diary Without Dates in 1917 was so critical of hospital administration that the military authorities arranged for her dismissal.

It was the first time I had a man sing at his dressing. I was standing at the sterilizer when Rees's song began to mount over the screen that hid him from me.

It was like this: "Ah... ee... oo, Sister!" and again: "Sister... oo... ee... ah!" Then a little scream and his song again.

I heard the Sister's voice: "Now then, Rees, I don't call that much of a song. " She called me to make her bed, and I saw his left ear was full of tears.

Oh visitors, who come into the ward in the calm of the long afternoon, when the beds are neat and clean and the flowers out on the tables and the VAD's sit sewing at splints and sandbags, when the men look like men again and smoke and talk and read... if you could see what lies beneath the dressings!
(8) Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone (1929)

It was my business to sort out the wounded as they were brought in from the ambulances and to keep them from dying before they got to the operating rooms: it was my business to sort out the nearly dying from the dying. I was there to sort them out and tell how fast life was ebbing in them. Life was leaking away from all of them; but with some there was no hurry, with others it was a case of minutes. It was my business to create a counter-wave of life, to create the flow against the ebb.

If a man were slipping quickly, being sucked down rapidly, I sent runners to the operating rooms. There were six operating rooms on either side of my hut. Medical students in white coats hurried back and forth along the covered corridors between us. It was my business to know which of the wounded could wait and which could not. I had to decide for myself. There was no one to tell me. If I made any mistakes, some would die on their stretchers on the floor under my eyes who need not have died. I didn't worry. I didn't think. I was too busy, too absorbed in what I was doing. I had to judge from what was written on their tickets and from the way they looked and they way they felt to my hand. My hand could tell of itself one kind of cold from another. My hands could instantly tell the difference between the cold of the harsh bitter night and the stealthy cold of death.
(9) Poem sent out by Katharine Furse to all VAD nurses (1914)

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame.
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of working, and each in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are.
(10) May Bradford later wrote about her experiences as an official letter writer on the Western Front.

One day a youth was brought in with both eyes shot away. After all his messages to his wife and children had been written down, he put up his hand to try and find mine. "Sister", he said, "is it a fine day, and are the birds singing?" I pictured it all to him. "Well," he answered, "I have much to live for still."

With the fighting and the bombing of the war years, nurses and first aid workers were very much in demand, both in this country and overseas. There were plenty of nurses in 1939 because this was one of the few professions open to women, but still more were needed. Trainees were rushed through short courses before going to work in the hospitals or being sent to field hospitals overseas. Some worked on the front line, others brought injured soldiers home in air ambulances. Nursing stations were set up in London's underground system, where thousands of people sheltered from the bombing raids every night.
On the streets, St. John's Ambulance members gave first aid to bomb victims, some of whom were very badly wounded. Ambulances and hospital staff were all overworked. Sometimes people with limited knowledge were called upon to tend to patients who had lost limbs, or who were trapped under rubble from fallen buildings.

The Red Cross and Order of St. John were also responsible for sending aid parcels to prisoners of war held in prison camps abroad.
In the field hospitals overseas, medical staff worked long hours treating soldiers straight from the battlefield. Conditions were hard and many patients died from their wounds, but nurses did all they could to make them as comfortable as possible.
In spite of difficult working conditions and long hours, the nurses always tried to smile and joke with their patients to keep their spirits up. Many wounded men were grateful for their cheerfulness and care.