Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Gifts for the Nurses

While it's well known that soldiers in France and Flanders received a Christmas gift in 1914, it was something also extended to nurses on active service. A present from Princess Mary was given to women abroad, a card from the King and Queen, and an extra present from Queen Alexandra to members of her own service with additional items from other sources such as the Daily Express. Maud McCarthy, the Matron-in-Chief, wrote about the distributions of these gifts, sometimes a difficult undertaking, in her war diary (TNA,WO95/3988):


Christmas Day
Received the King and Queen’s cards. The little Company at Headquarters were paraded. D.M.S. addressed them and presented the cards to all officers and men. In the afternoon visited the little Red Cross Hospital; gave the Nurses Princess Mary’s gift.
Sent a telegram to Queen Alexandra:
The members of Your Majesty’s Military Nursing Service respectfully offer their heartfelt thanks for the beautiful gifts which are being distributed, and offer you every possible good wish for Christmas”

And one to Princess Mary:

The Q.A.I.M.N.S. and Reserve thank your Royal Highness for their Christmas gifts and wish you every happiness.”

Miss Barbier and I dined with Colonel Leishmann and Major Burrell. Letter from Matron-in-Chief saying gifts were coming from Lady Galway – turkeys and puddings – Princess Mary’s book for everyone – wallets and soap from the Daily Express, so that I am returning to Boulogne to arrange about their distribution. It is not noted where they are arriving but I presume Boulogne.

To A.D.M.S. office, then to supply stores to find no gifts had yet arrived ....
Miss Wohlmann came to see me wearing Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift, a beautiful fur lined cloak with fur collar, a muff, a hood which I didn’t see, which she had received enclosed in a bag tied with ribbons and containing also her photograph and a letter in her own hand writing – Miss Steenson also came from her ship.
Left Abbeville early for Boulogne in order to meet Miss Sydney Browne R.R.C., Matron-in-Chief T.F.N.S. who was arriving with gifts from Her Majesty Queen Alexandra, with gifts for the Territorial Nursing Staff. Instructions were sent from the War Office requesting that every facility should be given.

Saw Miss Browne off, then distributed Queen A’s gifts at all the hospitals. Had lunch and then Miss Barbier and I returned to Abbeville, arriving 5pm, to find many letters awaiting me, as well as nurses being required at 10 Stationary, 4 Clearing, 13 General, 3 Ambulance Train, to fill vacancies made by Sisters being laid up with influenza.
A large number of beautiful gifts – writing cases and needle cases for the nurses have arrived from the Daily Express which I have acknowledged and will distribute without delay.

And this extract is from the personal diary of Nursing Sister Jean Todd, R.R.C., Q.A.I.M.N.S.:

1st January 1915 
No.9 General Hospital (Rouen)
Well, well. Five months war and nearly five months in France and one Christmas over. Wonder what will have happened by next Christmas, and what a marvellous Christmas it has been. The gifts we have had. Queen Alexandra sent us fur-lined capes – grey, down below the waist – quaint hoods and muffs and a Christmas card. The King and Queen their photographs and a message. Princess Mary acid drops and note paper in a special box, and then all kinds of gifts from Newspapers – plum puddings, parcels of clothing – and friends and relatives all sending things. It was lovely… I was far too busy seeing to food for the surgical walking cases to open parcels or read letters, so when anything fresh came… they just joined the pile on our beds.


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