Sunday 15 March 2009

Great Military Hospitals 1902

Regular inspections of military hospitals had always been carried out, but at the time of the formation of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1902, both the Surgeon-General and the Matron-in-Chief QAIMNS made visits to all large military hospitals to check how the new nursing scheme was working, and to report on any improvements that needed to be made. An increased number of nursing sisters meant that they could be deployed in more hospitals, and take a larger part in the administration of the hospital and in the training of orderlies of the Royal Army Nursing Corps, which was not a universally popular 'improvement'. These reports, all from 1902-3, survive at The National Archives, and I've recently added those for the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, and The Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, and the Cambridge Hospital Aldershot to the Scarletfinders website, and they can be found via these links:

Royal Victoria Hospital Netley

The Herbert Hospital Woolwich

Cambridge Hospital Aldershot

I've already transcribed many of these hospital reports, which total almost one hundred, but the majority are for smaller barrack hospitals which never employed female nursing staff. Some of these small military 'hospitals' were truly awful, but a prize for one of the worst must go to Burnley:

This hospital had been closed about a week before our visit. It was in a most deplorable condition of filth and neglect, and was quite unfit for habitation. The non-commissioned officer in charge was, at the time of our visit, under arrest, and the equipment was removed. If this hospital is ever to be reopened, much will require to be done to make it suitable for sick soldiers. In fact the whole barracks presented a picture of the most abject squalor, and the sight of them must have a strongly deterrent effect upon any man in Burnley who might think of enlisting. They were really disgraceful.

There have been a lot of complaints recently about the treatment of soldiers in hospital today, but thank goodness things have got a bit better in the last hundred years!

Friday 13 March 2009

Nurses and War - some books

I have a booklist on my main Scarletfinders website, but the intricacies of the web somehow result in this blog getting far more search engine hits than my main website. So for anyone searching for some reading material I've repeated some of my favourites from that list here, with additional comments on some of the books.

Military Nursing

Angels and Citizens - British Women as Military Nurses 1854-1914; Anne Summers; Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1988. One of the foundation pieces of writing about military nurses, and essential to the understanding of all that came after

One Hundred Years of Army Nursing; Ian Hay [Sir John Hay Beith] Cassell and Co., 1953. A broad history of the service, the 'hundred years' covering 1853-1953, which is a different hundred to the next book:

Sub Cruce Candida - A Celebration of One Hundred Years of Army Nursing 1902-2002; QARANC Association 2002. This more modern history is based on a photographic archive, showing nurses of QAIMNS, QARANC and the Territorial Army throughout the world, though with particular emphasis on two world wars. It was never published in great numbers and difficult to get hold of now.

Working for Victory? - Images of Women of the First World War 1914-1918; Diana Condell and Jean Liddiard; Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987. A wonderful collection of captioned images, many from the Imperial War Museum photographic archive, which show women at work during the Great War, civilians, nurses, munition workers, women's army - a bit of everything and excellent for uniform identification.

The Roses of No Man's Land; Lyn Macdonald; Michael Joseph Ltd., 1980. Over many years this book had become the most frequently read [and quoted] account of nursing during the Great War, although perhaps because of the track record of the author and the absence of competitors. My own feeling is that it says much about the Great War, and little about the actual lives and working conditions of the nurses, relying heavily on a few primary sources and concentrating on the untrained VAD rather than the professional nurse. Definitely a book written by a non-nurse for non-nurses to read!

Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps; Juliet Piggott; Famous Regiments Series, Leo Cooper Ltd, 1975. This book covers army nursing from 1642 to 1973 in 103 pages, so a very brief flip-through, but very useful if that's what you're looking for!

More to come.