Friday 29 January 2010

An exceptional nurse

Prior to the outbreak of war, members of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service were considered an elite among nurses, both by themselves and others. As the numbers of nurses grew during the war, there were many members of QAIMNS Reserve and the Territorial Force Nursing Service who might not have been considered for QAIMNS pre-war, on account of some perceived deficiency in their background, education or training. But as the war progressed it became evident that some of those elite 'regulars' were not able to cope with the stress and strains of war, while some of the 'others' became admirably efficient in difficult circumstances. An entry in the war diary of the Matron-in-Chief in France and Flanders mentioned the name of one TFNS Sister as being particularly capable, and in her file at The National Archives I found one of the most glowing testimonials I'd ever seen for any nurse with wartime service. These references are usually rather measured - no going overboard with the praise - but this one certainly belonged to an exceptional woman.

'This is to certify that MISS JESSIE MAUD CARDOZO, R.R.C., has served in the TERRITORIAL FORCE NURSING SERVICE from August 17th, 1914 to May 11th, 1919, when she was demobilised.
Miss Cardozo served in France from January 1916 to January 1919. She possesses a conspicuous professional ability and administrative capacity. She is a most excellent Sister, and an experienced assistant at operations. She is good-tempered, tactful, and most reliable and punctual. She has excellent judgement and her influence is generally of a high order. Miss Cardozo is a competent Theatre Sister and was in charge of a Casualty Clearing Station in France during a time of great stress. She proved of the greatest assistance, being cool and collected at all times. She has marked powers of initiative and is a lady with a keen sense of loyalty. Miss Cardozo was mentioned in Despatches by Sir Douglas Haig in November, 1917, and in July 1919, and was awarded the Royal Red Cross, 1st Class, in June, 1918, for valuable work. She has rendered excellent service for almost five years.'

Sidney Browne, Matron-in-Chief, T.F.N.S., March 12th, 1920

Jessie Maud Cardozo, was born 1882 in Stratford, Essex, and trained as a nurse at King's College Hospital, London between 1905 and 1908. She died in 1965 in Eastbourne, Sussex, aged 83 years.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Demobilization - the replies

The War Office were not slow in responding to the letter of 19th March 1919 from 'Members of Q.A.I.M.N.S.' and this reply appeared the following day:

War Office Explanation
In reference to the letter from members of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) which appeared in The Times of yesterday, complaining of the summary dismissal of nurses, a representative of The Times made inquiries at the War Office. It was stated there that urgent demands for the demobilization of nurses and doctors have been made in the Press and in Parliament, in consequence of the prevalence of the influenza epidemic. In view of these demands the demobilization of nurses has been proceeding as rapidly as possible. They have been given, it is true, only 48 hours' notice; but it is pointed out that on demobilization they are entitled to a gratuity. Their contract binds them to serve for as long as they may be required, and on signing they drew an extra £20. During their service they are treated on the footing of officers. They serve for gratuity as do officers, their gratuity being a certain amount for each year of service, and varying according to rank. Roughly, the lump sum to which a nurse is entitled on demobilization is about £40. It is understood, however, that a revision of the gratuity with a view to increasing the scale is now before the Financial Secretary. This gratuity is substituted for one month's wages and allowances, and on assessment is forwarded to the demobilized nurse.

The letter also alleges that the extra £20 added to the wages in September 1916 had to be refunded; but it is stated in reply that no nurse demobilized by the War Office was called upon to refund any sum. A further complaint is raised as to holidays. The Q.A.I.M.N.S. nurses were given leave in accordance with the Pay Warrant, this being 14 days for each six months' service, but in view of the extraordinary urgency for nurses in other than military hospitals, especially having regard to the influenza epidemic, no nurse was allowed leave just before demobilization. In other words, if the circumstances had been normal the holidays would have been normal. Comparatively few complaints have been made to Headquarters about the procedure that has been adopted in connexion with the demobilization of the nurses.

And on April 2nd this letter appeared from a former member of the Reserve, Mary Hine, seemingly satisfied with her lot:

Sir, - May I be allowed to comment on the letter re the 'scandalous' treatment of Army nurses which appeared in The Times of yesterday? I have been a member of the Territorial Force Nursing Service since 1914, and although I am well aware that the Army is competent to speak for itself, I feel it is only fair to let the general public know how well I consider we have been treated, and how little cause there is for grievance. Sisters and nurses in the Army rank as officers. They are thus, according to King's Regulations, liable to be demobilized at 24 hours' notice, and are entitled to no unemployment pay. When the armistice was signed our matron warned us that we might be mobilized any day, and advised us to look for other posts at once. Some of our members procured posts and have already been released. One has only to glance down the columns of the nursing papers to see the great demand there is for nurses. Surely some post can be accepted until something really suitable is found, to keep a homeless nurse from want. But why, after being in Army employ for so long, should there be no savings to fall back on? Comparing it with civil pay the Army pay has been good. In 1916, in consideration that we agreed to remain in the Army for as long as our services were required, an additional annual £20 was added to our salary. We have also good allowances, half-fare vouchers, and upon occasion, warrants, which in these days of expensive travelling are a great help. It has also been regular employment - another help to saving. The yearly gratuity is assured, in the case of a sister £10, and in that of a nurse £7. 10s., both of which I hear may probably be increased.
Furthermore, we joined the Army not only for a livelihood, but also from a sense of loyalty to our country, as our menfolk have done. It is a privilege not granted to all to have been allowed to serve at the front. Extra field allowance has been paid. Why then grumble at the hardships endured? The Army seems to have been a home for many homeless nurses, but, devoted and self-sacrificing as they may have been, it cannot continue to be so indefinitely, and surely nurses themselves must realize this.

A rather better explanation of the situation from Miss Hine, I think, than from the War Office!

Friday 22 January 2010

The problems of demobilization

It's easy to imagine that at the end of the war, after more than four years of hard work and often less than satisfactory living conditions, nurses would have been happy to hang up their hats and go home. But apparently not all of them felt this way. Correspondence in The Times in the spring of 1919 shows considerable dissatisfaction among them with the process of demobilization. First, a semi-anonymous letter to The Times, dated 19th March 1919 under the heading 'Nurses dismissed summarily:

'Sir, The members of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) would like to bring before the public the unfair way in which they are being demobilized. They are being given 48 hours' notice, and after that pay and allowances cease. Many of us have served now for four years, and, never having had proper holidays, are unfit to start work again immediately. We are a body of women working for our living, and are not in a position to be dismissed at so short notice. Many have no parents or homes, and will have to go into lodgings and pay for them. Are we not entitled to some consideration in the form of one month's wages and allowances in lieu of a month's notice? The War Office expects one month's notice from any one leaving the Service and the extra £20 added to our salaries in September, 1916, had to be refunded.'
Members of Q.A.I.M.N.S.

That was followed by a further letter to The Times dated March 27th 1919 from 'Isabel Kennedy' in Brighton - presumably one of those who was happy to be associated with the letter above.

'Sir, Mr. Winston Churchill recently stated that the demobilization of Army nurses was being pushed. It is; and the public should know of the scandalous treatment meted out to the Army nurses of the Territorial Service and the Queen Alexandra's Reserves under this same rapid demobilization. These women, to whom the country owes as much as to the soldiers, are simply given 24 hours' notice, and told to leave. A nurse never knows at what moment the blow may fall. That a woman may have neither money, nor home, nor fresh work to go to, matters nothing. At the end of the 24 hours she must go. The conduct of the Army nurses has been as heroic as that of the soldiers. To whatever hell the men went, the women followed. Yet there are scores and scores of cases of nurses who have served from the outbreak of war in 1914, who have gone through the horrors of Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, who have been torpedoed and shipwrecked, who have been bombed at casualty clearing stations, who are daily (as a nurse justly put it) being "kicked out." The Army nurses are drawn from the ranks of women who have to work for a living. But the pay of the nurse is a sweated one, so that savings, even if possible, can be but small. Yet for the Army nurse there is neither leaving gratuity nor unemployment pay. Some time in the vague future each nurse may receive a war bonus of £20. But it is surely on her discharge, when she has to face the world while waiting for a post, that the nurse needs money in her pocket, and it is then that, having done her duty, she should receive her reward. These devoted women have given the best years of their womanhood to their country. They flinched at nothing. With the soldiers they have faced all the horrors and terrors of war. They have faced death in terrible form. They have deserved as well of their country as the men. It is monstrous that they should be turned off with callous ingratitude.'

Somehow I feel that this second letter could well come under the category of 'over-egging the pudding.' Some truth in it, but what a lot of heroic exaggeration. And the replies to these accusations?
Soon, I promise.