Wednesday 16 September 2015

What Matron Did Next

     At the time of writing the last post I hadn't been able to confirm more information about Matron Maud Banfield or discover what became of her. She figured prominently in pre-war nursing journals, but post-war she seemed to disappear and with no file at The National Archives I'd come to a bit of a dead end. However, such a lack of information did suggest that 'something' had happened to her so I persisted. I knew from entries in the British Journal of Nursing that she'd trained at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, so I contacted their archivist to see if they could provide the dates of her nurse training which I'd estimated to be around 1890. Luckily one email unlocked Maud's secrets and confirmation of her forenames provided the key.

     She was born Emma Maud Banfield on December 21st 1865 in Swansea, the daughter of James Banfield, a colliery owner and his wife Emilie. She trained as a nurse at St. Bartholomew's Hospital between 1890 and 1893 and in 1895 she moved to Philadelphia, USA, where she worked for the next fifteen years, becoming prominent in nurse management and training.

     On returning to England she made her home in Malvern and in March 1915 applied to join Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve. By that time she was almost fifty years old which was outside the age limits for QAIMNS, but she adjusted her age downwards, giving her date of birth as 21st December 1870 and thus qualifying herself for entry. Even then, her application form shows what could be described as 'strength of character' making it plain that she would only accept a Matron's post, and in answer to the final question 'Are you a candidate for any other nursing service,' she wrote 'Not at the moment - other posts are being offered me and I'm afraid will require an answer soon.' As there were no suitable vacancies at the time her admission was delayed, but finally in March 1916 she was appointed as Matron at the Lord Derby War Hospital, Warrington. All reports on her work and character show her to be efficient and diligent, but she didn't always see eye to eye with either her nursing staff or the medical officers.

     Following the episode outlined in the previous post there was another occasion in early 1918 when complaints were made against her by a Staff Nurse, Edith Ashworth, and supported by the senior physician at the hospital, Major Nash, and it was decided by the QAIMNS Nursing Board that Miss Banfield should be moved. On the 28th February 1918 she wrote to the Commanding Officer at the Lord Derby Hospital:

Sir, I received a notice yesterday, the 19th inst., that Miss Lewis was to proceed to this Hospital for duty as Matron on Wednesday next, the 27th inst., and I hear today that I am transferred to the Ripon Camp Military Hospital. I shall be glad to serve wherever I am ordered, but in view of the recent complaints by Major Nash, R.A.M.C. and Staff Nurse Ashworth, which I thought were satisfactorily explained and accounted for, I should appreciate it very highly if this transfer might be postponed for 2 or 3 months. I think, Sir, you have been entirely satisfield as to my conduct of this and other matters and will understand that whilst wishing to obey my orders promptly, military or otherwise, I feel that an immediate move is a reflection upon me personally which I have not deserved ...

     There was some agreement by the authorities that Miss Banfield had not acted unreasonably but a a transfer was still thought politic. She was allowed to stay at Lord Derby for two months and was then transferred to France where she was posted to No.3 Stationary Hospital, Rouen, receiving glowing reports for her work there. Ill health forced her return to England in May 1919 and she continued on sick leave throughout the following twelve months before final demobilisation. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross, First Class, in February 1917.

     In 1923, by then fifty-seven years of age, she married New Zealand barrister and solicitor Arthur Richmond Atkinson in London and later moved to Wellington where she died in 1932.


Thanks to Kate Jarman at St. Bartholomew's Hospital Archives, London
Pioneering Nurses - an online database from King's College London Archives
The National Archives, service file of Maud Atkinson, WO399/224 and service file of Edith Ashworth, WO399/208
Find My Past for details of civil registration and emigration records

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