Sunday, 24 January 2010

Demobilization - the replies

The War Office were not slow in responding to the letter of 19th March 1919 from 'Members of Q.A.I.M.N.S.' and this reply appeared the following day:

War Office Explanation
In reference to the letter from members of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) which appeared in The Times of yesterday, complaining of the summary dismissal of nurses, a representative of The Times made inquiries at the War Office. It was stated there that urgent demands for the demobilization of nurses and doctors have been made in the Press and in Parliament, in consequence of the prevalence of the influenza epidemic. In view of these demands the demobilization of nurses has been proceeding as rapidly as possible. They have been given, it is true, only 48 hours' notice; but it is pointed out that on demobilization they are entitled to a gratuity. Their contract binds them to serve for as long as they may be required, and on signing they drew an extra £20. During their service they are treated on the footing of officers. They serve for gratuity as do officers, their gratuity being a certain amount for each year of service, and varying according to rank. Roughly, the lump sum to which a nurse is entitled on demobilization is about £40. It is understood, however, that a revision of the gratuity with a view to increasing the scale is now before the Financial Secretary. This gratuity is substituted for one month's wages and allowances, and on assessment is forwarded to the demobilized nurse.

The letter also alleges that the extra £20 added to the wages in September 1916 had to be refunded; but it is stated in reply that no nurse demobilized by the War Office was called upon to refund any sum. A further complaint is raised as to holidays. The Q.A.I.M.N.S. nurses were given leave in accordance with the Pay Warrant, this being 14 days for each six months' service, but in view of the extraordinary urgency for nurses in other than military hospitals, especially having regard to the influenza epidemic, no nurse was allowed leave just before demobilization. In other words, if the circumstances had been normal the holidays would have been normal. Comparatively few complaints have been made to Headquarters about the procedure that has been adopted in connexion with the demobilization of the nurses.

And on April 2nd this letter appeared from a former member of the Reserve, Mary Hine, seemingly satisfied with her lot:

Sir, - May I be allowed to comment on the letter re the 'scandalous' treatment of Army nurses which appeared in The Times of yesterday? I have been a member of the Territorial Force Nursing Service since 1914, and although I am well aware that the Army is competent to speak for itself, I feel it is only fair to let the general public know how well I consider we have been treated, and how little cause there is for grievance. Sisters and nurses in the Army rank as officers. They are thus, according to King's Regulations, liable to be demobilized at 24 hours' notice, and are entitled to no unemployment pay. When the armistice was signed our matron warned us that we might be mobilized any day, and advised us to look for other posts at once. Some of our members procured posts and have already been released. One has only to glance down the columns of the nursing papers to see the great demand there is for nurses. Surely some post can be accepted until something really suitable is found, to keep a homeless nurse from want. But why, after being in Army employ for so long, should there be no savings to fall back on? Comparing it with civil pay the Army pay has been good. In 1916, in consideration that we agreed to remain in the Army for as long as our services were required, an additional annual £20 was added to our salary. We have also good allowances, half-fare vouchers, and upon occasion, warrants, which in these days of expensive travelling are a great help. It has also been regular employment - another help to saving. The yearly gratuity is assured, in the case of a sister £10, and in that of a nurse £7. 10s., both of which I hear may probably be increased.
Furthermore, we joined the Army not only for a livelihood, but also from a sense of loyalty to our country, as our menfolk have done. It is a privilege not granted to all to have been allowed to serve at the front. Extra field allowance has been paid. Why then grumble at the hardships endured? The Army seems to have been a home for many homeless nurses, but, devoted and self-sacrificing as they may have been, it cannot continue to be so indefinitely, and surely nurses themselves must realize this.

A rather better explanation of the situation from Miss Hine, I think, than from the War Office!

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