Sunday, 26 October 2008

Military Medals

In June 1916 the Royal Warrant for the Military Medal was amended so that women could also be eligible for the award. Since 1883 the Royal Red Cross had been awarded to nurses for outstanding acts of bravery and devotion to duty during the course of their work, and was much revered by the profession as a reward for services above the normal call of duty. However, during the Great War the RRC was separated into two classes, 1st class (RRC) and 2nd class (Associate or ARRC) and was issued by the thousand to women who although engaged in some way in the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers, were not necessarily trained nurses. It became an anomaly that due to a 'quota' system, the untrained Commandant of a forty-bedded Red Cross Hospital could receive the RRC for running her small unit efficiently, while the Matron of a 2000-bedded British General Hospital who was working sixteen-hour days on the Western Front went without. When nursing sisters and other women workers in France and Flanders became increasingly subject to the dangers of German air-raids and shelling, many of them showed the most outstanding bravery and disregard for their own safety in order to protect and care for the patients in their charge. The amendment of the Royal Warrant extending the award of the Military Medal to women provided a prestigious alternative to the Royal Red Cross, and one which would recognise a small group of women who had acted with great courage under fire.

During the Great War 135 Military Medals were awarded to women, both civilians and those working in military hospitals. Fifty-five of those awards were to members of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and the Territorial Force Nursing Service, and I've recently put details of these women, with citations for their awards, on the Scarletfinders website. The citations are those written by the officer responsible for submitting the names for consideration, and vary in their content and descriptive quality, but give an excellent picture of the magnificent work and outstanding actions of nurses during the normal course of their work during the Great War.

The pages can be found by following this link:

Scarletfinders - Military Medals awarded to members of QAIMNS and TFNS

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