Monday, 29 March 2010


I really like lists - as a child I combatted boredom by reading the telephone directory and railway timetables - at least that's how I remember it now, although I do hope not too much energy was expended that way. Now when I find a list at The National Archives I have an overwhelming urge to DO SOMETHING with it. But what to do? And how useful would it be? I've recently come across a document with details of women who served as untrained nurses at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, during the second half of the nineteenth century; and just last week I came across nominal rolls of all the members of QAIMNS, the Reserve and the TFNS who went to France with the British Expeditionary Force in the autumn of 1939, and returned after the evacuation in May 1940. Would the time and energy taken in putting these lists online be worthwhile, and for whom? The Imperial War Museum has lists of all the women who served with the Scottish Women's Hospital, with place and date of service, hidden away from all but those who visit - I have copies, but are they generally useful? Of course the ultimate lists are the Royal Red Cross Registers at The National Archives. Now becoming over-used and fragile, they need proper indexing, digitising and removing from the reading rooms, but will it ever get done? I think there are about twenty thousand entries altogether, and compiling a proper database could keep me out of trouble for at least two or three years, but would anyone ever say thank you?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Happy Hospital

I've just started another blog about the life of a Territorial Force general hospital during the Great War. It's based on the hospital magazine of No.3 London General Hospital, Wandsworth - the Gazette - which was probably the finest of all hospital magazines at that time. The hospital employed many men as hospital orderlies who were members of the Chelsea Arts Club, and with so much talent on offer, their journal could hardly fail. The Gazette includes articles, poetry, art, cartoons, photographs and humour, and is both entertaining and informative about every aspect of a large military hospital. How did those Chelsea Arts Club men come to be there? All will be explained in time ...

The Happy Hospital - Scenes from the Third London General Hospital Wandsworth

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Uniform 1942

As a little interval from the Great War and a step into the next war (which I seem to do increasingly these days) I came across this uniform book in a file at The National Archives, dated 1942. I wonder how many nurses looked this slim, elegant and sophisticated, as they went about their duties under the immense pressures of the Second World War? And the price of the Mess Dress is fairly mind-boggling for the time!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Royal Red Cross and Miss Nightingale

My main aim with my website has always been to make available transcriptions of original documents relating to military nurses, most of which are Crown Copyright documents held at The National Archives, Kew. I started doing it because I was well aware that most of this information was not easily available elsewhere, and also, in part, to cut through the mass of material on the internet about nurses which is inaccurate, poorly presented, and in some cases, just plain wrong. I really want to change the mind-set which says 'It's only nurses - anything will do - no-one will ever know the difference.' I've tried to achieve this by quiet presentation of accurate and original material, rather than direct criticism of others' work, but as old age approaches, and grumpy old woman status becomes firmly stamped on my personality, I become increasingly sensitive to the way that totally incorrect facts are replicated via the web and quickly get accepted as historical fact. During the past couple of weeks, two separate people have contacted me with queries about the award of the Royal Red Cross, and both were quite emphatic in stating that Florence Nightingale was the first awardee. As I know this to be untrue, I pointed out that it wasn't so, but one of these two assured me that they were right and I was wrong - they'd read it on the web - and the other didn't bother to reply at all. So for anyone else out there who is thinking of asking:

Florence Nightingale was NOT the first recipient of the Royal Red Cross; nor the second, third, fourth or fifth. In fact she comes in at number seven, behind a bevy of well-connected ladies, headed by the Princess of Wales (No, not THAT Princess of Wales). Hopefully Google might be kind to me in the future and pick up this posting, which could just start chipping away at the mass of hits that give the wrong answer ... before I get any grumpier ...