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Nurses of Passchendaele: Caring for the Wounded of the Ypres Campaigns 1914 – 1918

Christine E Hallett
A very readable and scholarly description of the care and treatment of wounded soldiers on the Western Front during World War I. The author, Christine E Hallett is a very skilled woman, Professor of Nursing History at Manchester University, a trained nurse, who practiced from 1985 to 1989, then moved into research and teaching. She holds two PhDs, one in Nursing and one in History. As the title promises, the author concentrates on the role of nurses, including professionals of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, QAIMNS (Reserve) and Territorial Force Nursing Service, and volunteers of Flying Ambulance Corps (founded by Hector Munro), Friends Ambulance Unit (confusingly listed as Quaker Ambulance Unit in index), Red Cross, St John Ambulance Brigade & Nursing Division and Voluntary Aid Detachments.

The big picture story of nursing in World War I is told in general, while also following the careers of six British qualified nurses – Margaret Brander, Kate Luard, Kate Maxey, Nellie Spindler, Violetta Thurston and Minnie Wood; Emma Cuthbert, Annie Hanning, Alice Kelly, Minnie Hough, Hilda Loxton, Ellen McClelland and Agnes Warner of Australia; three Americans, Helen Fairchild, Ellen La Motte, Maud Mortimer and one Canadian, Madeleine Jaffray. The biography of each nurse is told in episodes, before, during and after the war, with monochrome photographs included when available.

The challenges faced by these women were different to the mud and gore of trenches, but they overcame prejudice from some men because they were women, some doctors because they were nurses and some military personnel because they were not combatants. One, Nellie Spindler, was killed in a bomb strike on her tent on 20th August 1917. Several nurses, including Ellen Byrne, Alice Kelly, Minnie Wood were awarded the Military Medal. Unfortunately, medal names are not listed in index, so I have probably missed some. Madelaine Jaffray lost part of her foot, amputated after wounding in June 1917. She continued to work as a nurse with an artificial foot, and met a fellow amputee at an Amputations Association of the Great War convention. Jaffray married Byron Morrison, who lost a leg at Vimy Ridge in 1927, a year after they met.

Medical, surgical and nursing techniques advanced rapidly to meet the needs of huge numbers of patients, some with previously unknown conditions, such as gas poisoning, or little recognised conditions, such as shell shock. There is useful and interesting description of advances including blood transfusions, blood banks, talking therapies, theraputic communities.

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Published by Pen & Sword History of Barnsley, as paperback in 2017.

ISBN 978-1-52670-288-3. £12.99.
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