Sunday, 15 August 2010

On to the next war

As time goes by, interest seems to be increasing in the nurses who served in the Second World War as part of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and the Territorial Army Nursing Service. My impression is that rather more of these women got married and had families who now are seeking information about the part their relative played during that time. Service records for members of the armed forces during WW2 are still held by the Ministry of Defence, and though they can be made available with the permission of next-of-kin, it's still likely to be some time before they are released into the public domain - perhaps as long as another five years.

During a recent visit to TheNational Archives, I found some nominal rolls of nurses who went to France during the early days of WW2 as members of Q.A.I.M.N.S., its Reserve, and the Territorial Army Nursing Service, to staff British General Hospitals, Casualty Clearing Stations and Ambulance Trains. Of course, as the Germans pushed the British up to the coast and out of France during May and early June of 1940, these nurses were forced to shut up shop and retreat to the Channel ports where they were evacuated back to the United Kingdom. For the majority, this was just the start of their wartime experiences, and they were soon going overseas again to serve in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Iraq, India, Malaya, Sicily ... wherever British medical units were to be found.

I've now transcribed many of the nominal rolls, and they can be found on the Scarletfinders website. They only provide a brief snapshot, but it may prove exciting to find that your grandmother or great-aunt was one of the first British women to set foot in France following the outbreak of war.

Nominal Rolls of members of Q.A.I.M.N.S. and T.A.N.S. with the British Expeditionary Force in France, 1939 - 1940

Also on the web site are many accounts written by these women as they evacuated their casualty clearing stations and hospitals during May and June of 1940 - they can be found here:

WW2 accounts of members of Q.A.I.M.N.S. and T.A.N.S.