Sunday 25 January 2009

In All Those Lines

Some months ago I was sent a copy of this book to read. It is based on the diaries of Elsie Tranter, a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service, who worked in a variety of hospitals in France during the Great War. The original of the diary is held at the State Library of Victoria, and it's been dusted off, edited and published by Jennifer Gillings and Julieanne Richards. And what a worthwhile job they've made of it.
Unlike some similar memoirs, it's not simply a catalogue of wounded, dead and dying; of hardship and despair. Elsie Tranter makes her wartime journey very much more interesting than that, giving accounts of the places she visits on her travels, and a great deal of information about her life in general and her leisure time, well-balanced with stories of the soldiers she cares for and her life as a professional woman in wartime. There are many tiny incidents included which give insights into a nurse's life in France not normally found elsewhere, and which make this a unique account of that time. It also demonstrates that nurses with an adventurous spirit could find all sorts of ways to bypass certain rules, regulations and restrictions which were rife in France. She spends a good deal of time catching midnight trains and hitching lifts on lorries to visit places she should not really have been in. It's definitely the story of an Australian!

'In All Those Lines - the diary of Sister Elsie Tranter 1916-1919'
Edited by J. M. Gillings and J. Richards and published by the editors, 2008: ISBN:9780646495590

Sunday 11 January 2009

Honours and Mentions

Several times recently people have contacted me to say that I've failed to include their relative in a list of awards of the Royal Red Cross that I have on the Scarletfinders web site. Initially I found this a bit puzzling as I don't have any details of RRCs on there, but eventually the penny dropped. I recently put up a couple of pages on awards of the Military Medal to members of QAIMNS and the Territorial Force Nursing Service, and that seems to have caused some confusion in people's minds between the two. I wrote a fair bit about Military Medals here in October last year, but just to clarify the vast differences in the numbers of awards I've been checking some of the figures.

During the course of the Great War, there were only 135 Military Medals awarded to women - all nationalities, all theatres of war. Of these, 87 were to nurses working with either QAIMNS or the TFNS in France and Flanders. As for the Royal Red Cross (1st Class) and Associate Royal Red Cross (2nd Class) there were simply thousands in total, not only to nursing staff, but to any woman who had done good work in any capacity concerned with the care of the British soldier. The number awarded to nurses working in France and Flanders under the auspices of the War Office alone was 264 for the RRC and 919 for the ARRC, with another 1755 mentioned in dispatches. When you start adding those women working in the UK and other areas of war, the list starts to look endless. So sheer numbers have excluded the inclusion of a list of RRC awardees on the website, although I do have a complete digital copy of the relevant volumes of the RRC Register, and should be able to find any individual entry if needed. Perhaps at some time in the future I will settle down and organise an online index of the RRC Registers, but I really hope that The National Archives do it first!