Friday, 2 November 2012

Diary of a war nurse who wanted to have fun

First World War poster
I've always imagined that First World War nurses were rather serious, completely committed, and consequently rather dull - unfair, I know, but probably the result of being made to read Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth before I was ready.
But that's all in the past now because I've just discovered the diaries of a young Weymouth nurse who was exactly the opposite. She flirted with patients, was rude about fellow nurses, and expressed disgust at some of the nursing tasks she was asked to carry out. She jotted it all down in pocket diaries, but as I'm saving them for my book I'll give no more away.
However, it would be wrong to give the impression that she was a shallow girl who wanted nothing but fun, because she had a serious side too as can be seen from these thoughtful reflections written at the end of three of her diaries.
  • "1914 was on the whole a bad year. The great European war began on Aug 4th and so far Germany has had the best of it - has taken nearly all of Belgium and a lot of Poland in spite of all the efforts of the  allies - tho' they say she is bound to be crushed - already the flower of England's manhood has been killed and the war of the trenches seems endless...We all became Red + nurses and I nursed in Sydney Hall (pictured below) - chiefly Belgians ... Let us hope 1915 will see peace restored on earth and the desires of all our hearts granted."
  • "In 1915 the European war raged, and in spite of the allies efforts, at the end of the year we seem not much further. The Dardanelles gamble failed and the troops have now been withdrawn from Anzac and Suvla after most terrible loss of life among the Australians and Naval Brigade. In France there is a deadlock altho' we no longer lack ammunition thanks to Lloyd George ... Our sea power remains unchallenged and may it continue to do so! May 1916 bring peace and the desires of all our heart! (as I said in last year's diary)"
  • "In 1916 the war continued as usual. The big push and battle of the Somme beginning on July 1st was successful up to a point and though we did not advance very far, we took a great toll of the Germans. In November and December the Wait and See Cabinet resigned and Lloyd George and Bonar Law formed a new government of which much is hoped. At the Battle of Jutland - June 1st the biggest naval battle in the annals of the world, we gained a victory but at a great price. In December Germany proposed peace but the allies weren't having any - it seems possible indeed that the war will last forever."
Ready for action: Sydney Hall Military Hospital in Weymouth, 1914

1 comment:

  1. I've just been reading through several pages and browsing through this fascinating blog. How beautifully you are presenting everything Jacqueline and what great research you are doing! It's obvious that this is going to be an excellent book and, I am sure, a very popular one. Jane xx