Recently I've been doing some research on the women who joined the Army Nursing Service between 1881 and 1902, before it was superseded by QAIMNS. They were required to be 'ladies' but the quality of their nurse training varied greatly. Alicia Barker, the daughter of a gentleman farmer from Wexford, Ireland, supplied a total of thirteen testimonials from various sources in order to prove herself acceptable to the War Office. They are listed in her files as:
The Hon. Lady Superintendent, Nursing Institution, Cork: 'most vigilant, faithful, with tact ... ladylike, clever, well-educated ... a truly valuable worker'
The Matron, South Infirmary and County Hospital, Cork
Dr. H. Borby, Professor of Midwifery, Queen's College, Cork: 'kind and gentle in her manners ... very anxious to have the instructions of the Surgeons carefully carried out'
Dr. C. R. Townsend, Senior Physician, South Infirmary, Cork: 'a first class nurse'
Dr. H. A. Townsend, Senior Surgeon, South Infirmary, Cork
Mr. J. G. Curtis,H.M. Factory Surgeon, for Cork
Dr. A. W. Sandford, Cork
Mr. P. O'Sullivan, House Surgeon, South Infirmary, Cork
The Lady Superintendent, City of Dublin Hospital: 'is an excellent nurse, most conscientious'
Mr. H. G. Croly, FRCSI, Ex-President RCSI
Dr. J. Hawtrey Benson, Examiner in Clinical Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin: 'one of our best Staff Nurses'
Mr. H. J. Broomfield, College Anatomist, RCSI
Dr. G. F. Duffey, Physician, City of Dublin Hospital
With the great and the good of Ireland's hospitals on her side could she have failed to be accepted? Of course not. Well not when she first applied in 1897, but when wanting to transfer to QAIMNS after its formation in 1903 she was initially turned down on the grounds that she was 'delicate, nervous, and otherwise not satisfactory.' But on appeal the decision was overturned, and Alicia Barker continued in QAIMNS, serving throughout the Great War, finally retiring in October 1918 at the age of 54.