Monday 30 July 2012

Our Girls in Wartime

Three years ago I added some images from 'Our Hospital ABC' here:

Our Hospital ABC

and was lucky enough recently to find a copy of its sister publication 'Our Girls in Wartime,' again with pictures by Joyce Dennys and rhymes by Hampden Gordon. So here are a couple of the pages with their rhymes:


Martha, a Munition-maker
Manufactures shells
Martha's Father is a baker:
Cakes are what HE sells.
Martha swears the shells she makes
Do more damage than his cakes ...


Miranda mixed with all the Nobs;
Her Depot made a million swabs
(War Hospital Supply).
'It was the good hard work,' she said
'That turned my hair this vivid red.
Never, my dears, say dye.'


Thursday 19 July 2012

Queen Mary's Hostel for Nurses

The Nursing Times, 1 March 1919

     The work done by trained and untrained nurses in this war is a tale which is often told. A tale as yet untold is the fine work done for war nurses by Mrs. Kerr Lawson at Queen Mary’s Hostel for War Nurses, Bedford Place, London, one of the Hostels under the aegis of the British Red Cross Society. It falls to the lot of few women to have a grip – an unconscious grip – on the combined affection and admiration of hundreds of their fellow women. It points to some dominant quality which has so often belonged to some of our famous women leaders. The quality in Mrs. Kerr Lawson which holds other women was once expressed, more tersely and truly than she knew, by a Canadian sister: ‘That dear woman knows her job, and puts grit and love into it.’ The painful knowledge of the appalling burdens so many nurses are bravely and silently bearing came as a shock to Mrs. Kerr Lawson. The nurses with lightning intuition discovered that the right woman had been set down among them, and by degrees a never-ending stream of confidences relating to difficulties flowed to the superintendent in her restful study.  Mrs. Kerr Lawson found herself not only Superintendent of a Hostel, but the confidante of nurses, and very often the lifter of their burdens. There is a great freemasonry in trouble. Those who have received comfort have not been slow to speak.

     Queen Mary’s Hostel opened in Tavistock Place in the July of 1915 with free accommodation for twenty-three war nurses, irrespective of unit. The following July it was moved to Bedford Place with accommodation for thirty-five, though sometimes entertaining up to forty nurses. Two years later No.2 Hostel was opened at 52 Russell Square, for the Home Service Sisters of the British Red Cross, with twenty beds.  In the February of 1918 a No.3 Hostel was opened at 50 Warwick Square for all members of the nursing services who required to spend one night only in London. The mother-hostel had not been open for long before it gained the reputation it now holds so firmly. News of it travelled to Gallipoli, Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said, and to Mesopotamia, as well as to the great centres of nursing on the Western front.  When it is realised that all war nurses of the Empire are welcomed, irrespective of unit, the fascination of the contact with the women of far lands will be apparent. Those of us who have roughed it in home and foreign service appreciate to the full the home comforts in the hostels – the cosy bedrooms, the restful drawing-room, the well-cooked, daintily served meals – all the little thoughtful considerations following one’s kind welcome as an honoured guest.

     Owing to the generosity of theatrical managers outside recreation has not been lacking. The mental refreshment this has meant to tired women can be but dimly realised.  Our beloved Queen has taken a keen personal interest in the Hostel which bears her name, and has graciously sent gifts of flowers. On one of the occasions on which she visited the Hostel she addressed all the maids, and expressed her pleasure that they were working so happily and harmoniously in the common cause. Princess Mary is another Royal and welcome visitor.
‘How many of us have passed through this hostel?’ I once asked Mrs. Kerr Lawson.
‘About eight thousand.’
‘Then you have met a fairly representative crowd of us. What has struck you most about us, that is to say about the British nurses?’
‘The way in which some of you are putting up a fight against desperate odds, bravely and alone; the tragedy of those who have lost or are losing their precious health through war service, and who have others dependent on their earnings; the sad and bitter loneliness of those pushed through circumstances from their special home niche which, once having left, they never quite regain; and, above all, the scant means which so often renders them helpless when they should be independent.’ I knew this was cruelly true, and I thought of the spectre of Charity which is not always Love lurking for so many in days of misfortune behind the inadequate pay nurses receive for what is perhaps the most arduous but most devoted work in the world.
‘May you be given the strength to carry on; we sisters need women like you so sorely.’  A warm hand-clasp and I passed out, one more ship in the night, one which had received a God-speed from a very pleasant sport.

     The time has come when this clash of arms is stilled, when nursing sisters need tend the sad results of war but little longer. They will then disperse in their thousands and go their world-wide ways once more. What memories they will have stored, of battle on the land and in the air, and of perilous journeying on the seas – of the super-human endurance of our fighting men! Midst memories sad and drear will come one tender one – of the understanding woman, with true and steadfast eyes and mother’s heart, who gave to them the richness of her sympathy and to many a despairing nurse the strength to bear her load.


Wednesday 18 July 2012

The Last Patient

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Miss Shappere and the Royal Red Cross

While browsing through the tiny hand scribbled notes in the front of the Royal Red Cross Register, I came across one which reads:

'Miss Shappere was refused R.R.C. for service at Intombi Camp Ladysmith because her subsequent behaviour was not satisfactory'

As I'd never heard of Miss Shappere and was intrigued to know how she'd blotted her copy-book, I started with a web search which resulted in a fascinating insight into her life and work. Rose Shappere was an Australian nurse serving during the Boer War and this first newspaper item states quite clearly that she had been both mentioned in despatches (unproven) and that she had been awarded the Royal Red Cross 'which medal she now wears.'

Nurse Rose Shappere

But obviously not! This was written after her return to Australia, so I wonder if she had acquired a medal to wear that she was not entitled to, or if perhaps the newspaper just assumed on her say-so that she had received it. Other items such as this one give the impression that Miss S. was not shy of publicity:

Rose Shappere in London

There is also a good biography of Miss S. here:

Rose Shappere biography

So did mention of her 'subsequent behaviour' relate to indiscreet public comments about the conditions of the hospital at Intombi, or did she fall foul of the authorities in some other way? I shall keep my eyes open for any further references that I come across.