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Nursing in WW1

Nurses in WW1 tending to wounded

Nursing in WW1

Our first meeting of the new Season was an illustrated talk given by Celia Drew on” Nursing in WW1”, Celia was a nurse before retirement and has visited many of the sites mentioned in WW1 including the battlefields.

Nursing during this time was a very different job from what we are used to today. There were very few trained nurses at this time and certainly not many women involved in military service. It was not considered to be a “proper” profession and it wasn’t until 1916 that the Royal College of Nursing was founded.

In the meantime, there was a mixture of groups including the Red Cross, St John's Ambulance, The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, ( known as the Fany's), and Queen Alexandras Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) together with these were the VADs(Voluntary Aids Detachment) who were mainly well-to-do people who took it on themselves to take their whole households including their horses, over to assist in looking after wounded soldiers. These also included men who would generally take over the transportation of wounded personnel mainly returning to Britain.

As the nurses were gradually integrated into the field of war, they learned to do many of the tasks previously designated as “man`s work” including dressings, blood transfusions, attending to shrapnel wounds, and eventually helping the surgeons. Many of the treatments were basic such as using sphagnum moss for healing and injuries including Trench feet, and gangrene. Pneumonia, typhus, TB, venereal diseases, and gassings. Before the advent of the gas mask, the men were advised to make a mask and urinate on it to try to prevent inhalation of Gas.

The Nurses also suffered themselves from enemy fire with wounds and death during their work at the Front The most famous Nurse, Edith Cavell, who helped hundreds of British, French, and Belgian troops to escape the Germans was arrested, tried, and executed in 1915.

Transporting the soldiers back home from the tented hospitals of the Frontline and Clearing stations were made by, motor or horsedrawn, ambulances to trains which carried them to the docks where hospital ships took them to Southampton or Dover. All these journeys were covered by nursing people. When, after the war, these nurses returned home there was little for them to do but the seeds had been sown, and from these early beginnings came our trained NHS nurses.

Thank you Celia for a most informative evening.

Next month our speaker will be Adrian Hughes talking about the Commonwealth Graves Foundation, why not join us in the Community Centre at 7 pm on October 6th you will be very welcome.

We will also have some notecard packets which can be used for different occasions with historic Rhuddlan on the covers We will be selling these together with our usual Christmas Calendar.