Nursing on the Western Front 1914-1918 On Saturday 3rd November 2018 our guest speaker was Professor Christine Hallett. She is a professor at Huddersfield University and a trained nurse and has PhD in Nursing and History. Christine has written several A Christmas Carol.
The topic she chose for her talk ‘ Lines of evacuation,’ concentrated on how the casualties were evacuated and treated from no-man’s land, taken to Casualty Clearing Stations and perhaps on to hospitals in Britain. With the aid of a series of photograph of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service and Volunteer nurses, Christine explained that QAINS were fully trained professional nurses while the volunteers may have had some training but actually gained experience while serving at the Front.
In casualty clearing stations stock was taken of the severity of injuries and treatment needed. Then the wounded might be taken on motorised ambulances or train to base hospitals near the French or Belgium coasts. Nurses from many nations cared for the traumatised and damaged men in often difficult situations. Nurses themselves could come under shellfire and were vulnerable to aerial bombardment. A number were killed or injured while on active service. The rate of casualties that had to be cared for, particularly on the opening days of the Battle of the Somme and later Passchendaele, would be overwhelming.
Christine also described some of the horrific injuries suffered by soldiers from exploding shells, sniper bullets and mustard gas. Many would be treated successfully and returned to fight another day. Others, whose injuries were so severe, would be transported back to Britain and hospitalised often in makeshift premises located in country houses. Christine showed photos of one such stately home at Dunham Massey in Cheshire.
What was brought home for us was the extraordinary work done that revealed the courage of nurses, orderlies and surgeons and their resilience and compassion with which they did their work.