Monday 11 February 2013

A New Year Message to the Boss

At present I'm going through nurses' service files and am finding all sorts of interesting items which escaped the violence of the 'weeding' process at the War Office in the 1930s.  One thing that stands out is the more compassionate tone (if that's the right word) of official correspondence in the Territorial Force Nursing Service files, when compared to similar items in QAIMNS files. The TFNS so often strikes a more personal, friendly note, and the senior members appear to have a closer and more genuine connection with their nursing staff.  And it went both ways as this letter shows, written by Helen Brotherton, while working as Matron of the Hospital Ship 'Newhaven,' to Miss Sidney Browne, Matron-in-Chief, Territorial Force Nursing Service.

Dame Sidney Browne by Austin Spare IWM Art 2768

Hospital Ship Newhaven
January 1st, 1916

To: Miss Sidney Brown, Matron-in-Chief, T.F.N.S.

My dear Miss Sidney Brown

It is just a little over a year since you said goodbye to a party of us at Victoria Station, leaving for France.  I've been going to write to you often since then, I have often thought and spoken of you, and how splendid you are to us and how proud we Territorials are of ‘our Matron.’  I've had such a happy time since I came out and was attached to the Indian Expeditionary Force at the Rawal Pindi Hospital, then when the Matron of my section was moved to a large Camp Hospital, I went with her as Home Sister.  We had a staff of 90 Sisters and V.A.D.s.  I did so enjoy life under canvas and was sorry when the hospital had to disband as we were under water.  Then I had orders to join this Ship as Matron, it was good of Miss McCarthy to give me the post, she too has been awfully good to us.

I hope that you are well and that you will excuse the liberty I've taken in writing to you, but I thought it was so unkind of us to think all the good things about you and never let you know how grateful we are to you, for all the care and thought you've given our service.  I shall always be grateful to you for giving me the opportunity of nursing in France and helping our Boys, when they've done so much.  They are such splendid fellows.  We always go to Dover on the Home side and if ever you were there I should be so pleased to show you round my ship.

This War has few compensations, but one of them is that it’s given me an opportunity of serving my Country and you and Miss McCarthy.  My best wishes for the New Year.

I am, Yours most faithfully,
Helen Brotherton.

[TNA WO399/10029]

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