Sunday 1 May 2011

Queen and Matrons

The Daily Telegraph, 11 May 1918

In the 'Court Circular' a few days ago the announcement was made that the Queen had received Miss Margaret MacDonald, R.R.C., Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Nursing Service, Miss Evelyn Conyers, R.R.C., Matron-in-Chief of the Australian Nursing Service, and Miss Mabel Thurstan, R.R.C., Matron-in-Chief of the Nurses of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. It was a gracious and spontaneous thought on the part of her Majesty, and it has behind it a significance far greater than might at first sight appear. All the nursing of the war has been carried out with a quiet reticence that has concealed the magnitude of the task performed with such splendid efficiency; and if those at home know little indeed of the actual work of our own Army Service and that of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, with the Reserves that they have built up, still less are they aware of the noble help that the daughters of the Dominions have brought to the wounded. For this recognition, truly queenly as it was, of the mercy of womanhood throughout the Empire has afforded to every nurse from overseas a sense of personal distinction. Canada, the first of the younger nations to send its highly-trained nurses, has contributed no fewer than 1,900 members to the service of the Allies. The contingents from Australia have numbered 1,500, and none will have forgotten the devoted services that they rendered at the time that the wounded from Gallipoli were needing all the care that gentleness and love could give them. From New Zealand have come 500, these being the round figures, which represents a fine response in relation to the population of the Southern Dominion. The Matrons-in-Chief have shown themselves to be women of high powers of organisation and control, and have insisted throughout upon a lofty standard of qualifications on the part of those who they have accepted for service.

Her Majesty accorded to the ladies the rare distinction of receiving them in her private apartments at Windsor Castle, and Princess Mary was also present. Specially in attendance was the Countess of Minto, whose knowledge of and sympathy with all that pertains to nursing has been so forcibly show in the service which bears her name in India. The Queen was not only extremely interested in the details that each matron could give in regard to the contingent for which she was responsible, but asked for any suggestions that might be desirable in improving the conditions and status of the nurses' important labours. Before the ladies left, the Queen showed them some of the specially notable and valuable things that she had acquired in the course of her travels, and delighted each of her guests with some of her reminiscences of their own homelands. It was indeed the intimate and homelike character of the reception that has made so strong an appeal to the nurses generally as a proof of the Queen's comprehension of the attitude of mind and the love of things domestic among the women of the daughter-lands. This is the point that is being emphasised in the hundreds of letters dwelling on the reception that are going to family circles, whether in Australia or Saskatchewan, New Zealand or Newfoundland.