Saturday 25 August 2012

Some More Girls in Wartime

By request, here are some more of the pages from 'Our Girls in Wartime,' with rhymes by Hampden Gordon accompanying pictures by Joyce Dennys.

Pansy ran a Knitting Party.
Oh! the things they knat.
Pansy's meetings never ended
And results were simply splendid,
I can swear to that,
Since for weeks we used the socks she sent
To take the place of wire entanglement.


Lizzie labours on the Land.
What she does I understand,
Is to make the cattle dizzy
Running round ....
....Admiring Lizzie


Auntie Fannie ran a can-
-teen for travel-tired Tommies.
Such a feast they hadn't seen
While they sojourned where the Somme is.
Lovely ladies ladled soup
Fit for any Trocadero's.
Eggs and bacon looped the loop
Down the throats of hungry heroes;
You'd have thought no mortal man
Could get through so much-some can!
'Some' Canteen!


Cordelia is a Constable
Of cunning and resource.
She runs in lots of worthy folk
Without the least remorse.
If you should show a chink of light
While getting into bed
She rushes in and takes you name
And OH the things I've said!
I HATE Cordelia!


Diana is a huntress born
On horses desperately keen
Who did her riding with the Quorn.
She's donned a most becoming kit
(Look at her gaiters, how they fit)
And now she is the Remount Queen ....
I think perhaps I ought to mention
The horses do get SOME attention.


A cheeky boy it used to be
Who brought the wire telling me
That the horse I fancied most
Fainted at the starting post.
Now it is the Perky Pam
Who brings the fatal telegram
Thoughtfully instructing you
"Embark tonight for Timbuctoo"


Monday 20 August 2012

Miss Loch and the Indian Nursing Service

     The Indian Nursing Service was inaugurated in 1888 when two Superintendent Nurses and eight Sisters were sent to India, and worked alongside a complementary service formed by Lady Nora Roberts a year previously. By 1893 the number had risen to fifty-two, working at main Stations throughout India, with two or three Sisters at each, and sometimes working singly.  Although their duties were intended to be of a supervisory nature, the lack of any dedicated corps of medical orderlies in India resulted in long and arduous working hours, assisted only by native servants, and a transient population of untrained regimental orderlies.  Both the climate and the prevalence of disease caused the breakdown in health, and lifelong debility for many women who lived and worked in India during this period, but despite this, the Indian Nursing Service was popular, and never lacked applicants. Catharine Grace Loch was among the first group of nurses sent out in 1888, and she worked as Lady Superintendent until ill-health forced her retirement in 1902. Her edited notes and diaries make wonderful reading, both in outlining the military nursing service in India at that time, of which little detail remains elsewhere, and also for its outstanding description of the beauties and trials of life in India at the time. As the service increased in size, Miss Loch became increasingly concerned about both the type of woman being sent out, and also the obvious lack of good nurse training that was evident in many of those appointed by the India Office.  Registers held at the British Library show that the India Office had a slightly unusual view on suitability, with social status and references from eminent and aristocratic 'names' being held in high regard, with nurse training coming in a poor second.  Early in 1892, as the Indian nursing service grew, Miss Loch outlined her own concerns:

Feb.5 —I have been to Dr. Bradshaw's office to talk over with him a good deal of business and to arrange some matters which the Chief wants to alter. I then had to write a long official letter to Dr. B. which was to be forwarded to the Chief, stating my views on the subjects we had discussed; this was very difficult and took me a long time. I am desirous of trying to arrange some plan for selection of Sisters for appointment to the Nursing Service. I am not quite satisfied with some of the new ones nor was I last year, and I think they should not have been sent out. Dr. B. was much concerned when I told him this, and remarked that if nurses of the right stamp are not chosen the nursing scheme will not prove a success, and that is just what I feel too. Of course the gentlemen at the India Office know nothing about selecting or rejecting candidates; how should they ? I am awfully anxious that Mrs. Bedford Fenwick should be consulted in the matter as she is the best possible person. I do wish it would occur to Lord Cross as an excellent plan that I should come home for three months every year to choose nurses.
Feb.12.—I omitted in my last letter to refer to the question of training. The first official papers I saw stated twelve months' training as a necessary qualification for appointment. But in fact a Sister came out last year who had worked for barely six months and for that time solely as a paying ' pro.' in an obstetric ward.  I remonstrated and wrote a letter to Government stating the importance, indeed the necessity, for a good three years' training. Whether in consequence of my letter I do not know, but soon afterwards the 'necessary qualification' was officially notified to be three years, instead of one. Nevertheless all the new Sisters appear not to have been thoroughly trained in general hospitals.
Mar.13 —Had to go to another station about a delinquent Sister, the case being one of complexity, and not without disgrace through serious indiscretion. The worst of it is that the culprit is a lady and a clever woman. As to selections of future nurses it would be a great comfort if something could be done. Though after all one can never be sure of anything, for people do behave out here so differently from what they do at home; they seem to be transformed into quite different persons, so even with the greatest care some of them may be found tiresome. Still I should trust Mrs. Bedford Fenwick's recommendation a great deal. But in any case it would be impossible to tell in a mere interview whether the candidate is suitable or otherwise. Appearances are absolutely deceiving, and manner alone is not a safe guide. Therefore it becomes all the more important that the nurses should come from hospitals where their general character has been well known. Doctors' testimonials are absolutely misleading, and often the most unsatisfactory women possess sheaves of the most flaring praise and admiration.  I do not think there ought to be any difficulty in obtaining ladies in sufficient numbers.  I am sure there would be none if things could be done quietly and gradually, but of course to find nineteen all at once is rather a large order; and when the appointments are made at such long intervals, naturally many who might have come out have settled down to something else before the next opportunity. I do think it will be a grave mistake not to send out ladies. First of all, it is hard on those who are not, because naturally they are sniffed at and make no friends; next, it is hard on those who are, because people always charitably judge the many by the few, and they will find themselves thrown out of their proper position in life on account of their colleagues. It should be borne in mind that the population of an Indian military station is always a shifting one; you cannot make a few friends and keep them as one would at home, it is an endless round of new acquaintances. Finally, if the Nursing Service were placed on a different footing, and a lower class of nurses avowedly introduced, I do not think it would answer at all. The orderlies would have no respect whatever for women whom they would consider of their own class, and the Sisters would perforce make friends with the apothecaries and sergeants and their wives and a whole new set of difficulties would arise which would put an end to the whole thing.

Loch, Catharine Grace, 1854-1904.   
Catharine Grace Loch, Royal Red Cross, Senior lady superintendent Queen Alexandra's Military nursing service for India; Bradshaw, A. Fredrick, ed.; London, New York, H. Frowde.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Voluntary Hospitals Database

At present I'm bent over a 1928 edition of the General Nursing Council Register of nurses, doing what can loosely be described as 'messing about' with lists and databases.  As it runs to more than 2,000 pages, that's likely to be a lot of messing about. It lists all trained nurses who were registered with the GNC at that time as fit to practice, with details of their training hospitals and dates. Included are nurses who trained as early as the 1880s and also those who had just completed their training at the end of 1927, so there must have been many changes in hospitals during that period. Some of the hospitals are still household names today - places like Guy's, St. Thomas' and St. Bartholomew's Hospitals, London; Manchester Royal Infirmary, and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.  But as hospitals in general were much smaller at that time, it struck me that some of the many hundreds of hospitals mentioned in my register must have been very tiny indeed. Those that had just a couple of wards and a small medical and nursing staff probably accepted just one or two girls each year as new probationers, and the figures began to intrigue me.

While browsing the web for inspiration I came across the Voluntary Hospitals Database, which is a real treasure trove, beautifully and intricately researched and presented, which answers many of the questions about hospitals and their staff at various periods during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It gives the number of beds, average bed occupancy, details of how many doctors, trained nurses and untrained probationers there were, and information about various aspects of expenditure. For some hospitals it's possible to track the increase in both patients and staff over many decades. I do realise that you probably need to be the sort of person who wears six anoraks at a time to appreciate its beauty, but well worth a look even for those who are just in T-shirt and shorts.

Voluntary Hospitals Database

If you just start to zoom on the interactive map and drag it to the area you need, a list appears in the left-hand margin giving details for each hospital in the current view - it's very clever and a great way to waste some time.