Four faces of nursing and the First World War

Article

Paula Kitching, last updated: 4th November 2013

With the centenary approaching, article after article will appear on battles, the men who fought, those who refused, those that died, those who returned and those that made the decisions. There will be articles on the home front and the women that stepped into the men's shoes often to be expelled from them once the men returned. However, the First World War took more British women to the front of the conflict in an official capacity than any modern war before it. This article explores the experiences of some of those women.

It is the image of Florence Nightingale that is brought to mind in most people's thoughts on war and nurses. Floating around in her long dress, tending to the needs of the brave soldiers whilst lobbying the establishment to change the despicable treatment of the men that fought, Florence Nightingale is an almost mythical figure of campaigning compassionate womanhood. It is true she made a difference, as did her equally daring and courageous contemporary Mary Seacole, to the treatment of those unfortunate enough to be injured during the Crimea war (1853-56). However, perhaps both their most important actions were simply to highlight the appalling realities of the provision of medical care for the injured servicemen at all...

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