Friday, 31 August 2018

Nursing in The Great War

Image courtesy of copyright IWM (Art.IWM PST 0318)).

So often when we talk of war, we discuss the fighting, the aerial or sea battles and the men who fought so courageously for peace. What of the women? I've often read about the home front and of women who worked in munitions factories, or those drafted to work the land. But what of the bloody side of battle? What of the nurses and the thousands of women who went to nurse wounded soldiers overseas?

The Great War would bring significant change in so many ways. It was widely anticipated that this war would be short. Wartime propaganda began with a kick and helped to spread patriotic fever far and wide. Thousands of young men answered Kitchener's call to arms, but their fever was to calm very quickly. Once placed in the heart of battle the weeks rolled into months and then a year and disillusionment stepped in as many realised that all seemed endless, hopeless.

The wounded sustained injuries never seen before. What was worse was the lack of treatment available and the lack of expertise in treating specific injuries. It would become a time of pioneering treatment, a lengthy and innovative process which would continue throughout the years and into the next war. But aside from medical advancements and failings, what was life like for the thousands of women who answered the call to nursing?

Florence Nightingale made waves during the Crimean war and implemented great change in nursing care and practice. She was a revolutionary in her field and caused a stir back then, but it was worth it. Her efforts improved practice and contributed to saving the lives of men who would undoubtedly have died without her. Times were changing....warfare was changing....women were changing.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Women have always nursed. At the beginning of WW1, nursing was unregulated which meant that anyone could call themselves a nurse and offer their services. However, in 1919, this changed.
Life was very different back then. Women still did not have the vote. Few had jobs, but those who did or had to work would usually be employed in domestic service.

When WW1 was declared, women were keen to do what they could for the war effort, for their men and their country. In the beginning, women were asked to wait at home and "keep the home fires burning." It was generally anticipated that the war would be short-lived. Women from all ranks stepped forward and volunteered to work alongside nurses as Voluntary Aid Detachments - VADs. The VAD organisation began in 1909, and by the beginning of WW1, many VADs were already serving.

The war began brutally and continued, and by early spring 1915, both the government and military quickly realised the need for more workers and nurses. Women were then called upon to work in various roles, such as medics, farmers, teachers, munitions factories and VADs. The pristine, clinical image of the VAD dressed in her starched blue dress and white apron is almost a romanticised version of the reality they lived through. The work itself was rough, gruesome, dirty and undoubtedly shocking to many until they became accustomed to it. They were often exhausted, working long hours with little rest or time off.
The regime itself could be harsh with rules and procedures to follow, and heaven help those who wandered from the rigidity of it all!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The injuries the men endured had never been seen before - a consequence of changing warfare and of aerial battles. Medicine had not yet evolved well enough to cope with the severest of wound infections, and gangrene was rife. There were no antibiotics, and disinfectant was in short supply. As the war rolled on, medicines and dressings were running out too, especially in field hospitals at the front.

Of the existing qualified and experienced nurses, some had already seen war and its effects, having worked through the first or second Boer War (1880-1881; 1899-1902). Many nurses were eager to go abroad and nurse the injured at the front. However, the British Medical Military Services viewed female nurses as unsuitable for the front, presuming them unable to cope with the ugly face of war and so they were reluctant to send nurses to field hospitals overseas.

The British Red Cross formed the Joint War Committee with the Order of St John following the declaration of war on August 4th, 1914. The committee supplied services to the war effort while also organising nursing staff at home and abroad. It assumed control of the trained nurses and all VAD's and then proceeded to allocate them to the capable direction of Sarah Swift, the ex-matron of St Guy's Hospital.
In 1916, Sarah set up the College of Nursing, later to become the Royal College of Nursing, the professional body that continues to this day. Sarah was made a dame in 1919 for her services to nursing.

Between 1914 and 1918, around 90,000 male and female volunteers worked in Britain and abroad. The VADs carried out a range of duties from transport, organising rest stations, to patient care. They had to pass exams to achieve their first aid and home nursing certificates. The men were trained as first-aiders in the field and also worked as stretcher bearers.

One nurse, Violet Gosset, kept a diary of her nursing time during the war, something that was strictly forbidden. When her diaries were discovered in an attic many years later, they revealed the grim truth of what she had witnessed. She writes, “We had a fearful lot of head cases about this time as the tin helmets were not in use. Imagine a ward full of men with their brains oozing out of bad head wounds.” She gave accounts of life-saving amputations performed without the proper equipment and talks of "stretchers packed like sardines everywhere." However, it was not just war and its injuries which posed a threat but diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and tetanus.

Around 200 nurses were killed or died during the Great War.

Edith Cavell 1865-1915. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Notable voluntary aid detachment nurses who volunteered during the Great War :
  • Agatha Christie – served as a VAD nurse at a hospital in Torquay. She said it was “one of the most rewarding professions that anyone can follow.” 
  • Edith Cavell -  She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination and aiding around 200 Allied soldiers to escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and executed by a German firing squad on October 12th, 1915.
  • Vera Brittain – most famous for writing Testament of youth: an autobiographical study of the years 1900–1925. She became a VAD in 1915 and was posted to France in 1917.
  • Enid Bagnold – author of National Velvet and The Chalk Garden. She served in London as a VAD.
  • Clara Butt – superstar singer of the Victorian era, Dame Clara Butt lived in Bristol and was a legend in her lifetime, performing to packed concert halls all over the world. 
  • Violet Jessop - British ocean liner stewardess, trained as a VAD nurse after the outbreak of World War I. She had been a stewardess aboard the RMS Titanic when it sank in 1912 and was also aboard the hospital ship HMHS Britannic (the Titanic's sister ship) as a Red Cross nurse when it sank in 1916.
Agatha Christie

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Free WW2 Fiction

If you love WW2 fiction, you'll be able to grab a Free copy of my book, The Beauty Shop, which is based on real events, including the work of plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe and the Guinea Pig Club. This promotion runs from May 10th -14th.
Click here to view: Amazon

Monday, 2 April 2018

Spring Into A Fantastic Book Giveaway This April

If you're looking for a great new book this spring, look no further. 
With so many wonderful authors and books available, it's imperative to have a reliable and trustworthy place that can help you choose what to read. It's even better when you get a chance to win free books through a giveaway! 

Every month, enter to win free books from multiple authors via N. N. Light's Book Heaven. Several authors are offering their books throughout the upcoming year in this innovative and collaborative approach to building a new and immersive online reading community. Authors, bloggers and book reviewers are partnering to share fantastic reads, quality reviews and powerful connections all in one place. 

My debut novel, The Beauty Shop, is included this month so for your chance to win free e-books/paperbacks and other prizes, head on over to N.N. Light's Book Heaven and enter the giveaway. See the links below. Good luck!

Literary Giveaway Portal:

Monday, 26 March 2018

Geoffrey Wellum DFC - Battle of Britain Pilot

This is an interview with the youngest pilot to take part in the Battle of Britain, Geoff Wellum, filmed in 2014 at Mullion Cove, Cornwall by Hope you enjoy. Lest we forget.

Friday, 23 March 2018

What I'm Reading Now

Right now I'm reading "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. Published in 2015, it won the Carnegie Medal for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize in 2015.


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II
‘Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’
For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.
In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of
Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

It's a tomb of a book and comprises a non-linear form, jumping back and forth in time up until a particular point in the story. There are multiple viewpoints from the main characters and it's written so eloquently to paint an epic story of war in 1940s France.

I'm also reading "Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel" by C.W. Gortner, also published in 2015.


For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.
Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.
Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.
An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Betrayal by Award-Winning Author Anne Allen.


Treachery and theft lead to death – and love
1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…
Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother's ghost to rest?
Who betrayed Leo?
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?


Source: Advanced reader copy received from publisher.

Having read Anne’s last book, 'Echoes of Time', I couldn’t wait to read her latest, and I wasn’t disappointed. The novel alternates between WW2 and 2011 and is set on the beautiful island of Guernsey. 'The Betrayal' features twins, Fiona and Nigel, who discover a Renoir within the walls of their antique shop in 2011. When Nigel is found dead, and suicide is suspected, Fiona refuses to believe that her brother would end his own life and she sets out to uncover the truth. Unravelling the mystery will carry her on a journey back to 1940, and to the dark days of the German Occupation and the deportation of Jews.

The story is well crafted with beautiful scenes of the island of Guernsey springing to life and all things WW2 perfectly portrayed. Historical facts are seamlessly interwoven into the story which is well paced with realistic, well-developed characters set within a fascinating plot with twists and turns. All in all, it’s an engrossing read and one that will sweep you away to war, mystery and romance. I can highly recommend it.
Iphoto for email

About Anne

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, five having been published and the sixth, 'The Betrayal', is out now in paperback and ebook format. Follow the universal buy link below.

For all the latest book and writing news, be sure to follow Anne here:
Universal Buy Link: Amazon