Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Very Last Page

     More than seven years ago I transcribed the official war diary of the Matron-in-Chief in France and Flanders, which covers the years from 1914 to 1920 and is held at The National Archives under the references WO95/3988, 3989, 3990 and 3991. It comprises around 3,400 pages, and fills, to the top, four archive boxes. The first entry is written by Maud McCarthy on Wednesday, 12th August 1914, the day she reported to No.2 General Hospital at Aldershot, to prepare for embarkation for France, and the last on March 31st 1920. Dame Maud wrote each page herself, in longhand, from the first day until the 31st August 1916. From 1st September 1916, the diary was typed by her office staff from her notes, either written or dictated, and other than short leave, and a period of absence between March and August 1917, when she underwent two operations for appendicitis, the diary was ‘hers’ until the day before she finally returned to England on August 5th, 1919.

     From that date until March 1920 the diary continued in the same form, written by her replacement, Principal Matron Mildred Bond, and reported on the hundreds of demobilisations of nurses, the slow run-down of hospitals and casualty clearing stations in France and Flanders, and the rise of medical units serving the British Army of the Rhine. A transcription of the diary up to March 1919 has been on my website Scarletfinders for the past six years. However, at that time I stepped back from transcribing the final year as in the main it's a catalogue of nurses' names and details of demobilisations and lacks the interest of the wartime years.

     Eventually I felt it might be useful, both to family history researchers and also to anyone who might, in the future, feel the need to research the nursing services in the immediate post-war period. So the final year is now complete, and although it won't go on the website, I'll happily send a copy to anyone who feels the need to read it - somehow I sense there won't be a rush, but do feel it's a good job finally done and dusted.

The National Archives WO95/3991 - The Final Page!


  1. You could always upload the transcription to Scribd.

  2. Thanks - I'd never even looked at Scribd before! I think that if I put it online the right place would be carrying on from the main part of the diary which is on my website already. But it is a very long piece, most of which is pretty boring. So will sit on it for a while longer I think.