Nurses who died in the two world wars will be commemorated at a permanent memorial set to be unveiled this summer, if sufficient funds are raised.
The sculpture will be located at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and is due to be officially unveiled on 4 June.
“I thought that the relatives of nurses should also have somewhere they could go”
It follows a four-year fundraising campaign by the Nursing Memorial Appeal that has so far raised around £50,000 to commemorate nurses who died while serving with allied forces. The appeal is now in the final stages of gathering the money needed to complete it.
The campaigners told Nursing Times they had now got most of the money they needed for the memorial itself but were still aiming to raise a further £20-30,000 to cover the cost of the arboretum site, the dedication event and ongoing maintenance for the memorial, particularly the bronze work.
They are also seeking to use some of the money to launch a series of awards for academic researchers to look at the history of “extreme nursing” in war and humanitarian disasters.
The memorial will honour both professional nurses who worked in casualty clearing stations or on hospital trains, as well as those serving with the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) – volunteers who operated near the frontline.
Designed by sculptor Georgie Welch, it will be composed of two bronze hands holding up a sandstone globe measuring one metre in diameter. The globe will be engraved by a stonemason, Nick Johnson, with the names of nurses and VADs who died during World War I and World War II.
So far, the appeal has identified 1,244 names that it intends to include on the memorial, but this number is expected to increase to about 1,700.
The initial group of names are currently listed on its website and include nurses from Britain, Australia, the US and other nations.
Barbara Hallows, chair of the Nursing Memorial Appeal, said the globe represented the wide geographical sweep of where these nurses served and died, whether on land or sea. “Quite a few of the nurses who died were torpedoed when on hospital ships,” she noted.
New memorial to commemorate nurses from the two world wars
Source: Nursing Memorial Appeal
Ms Hallows, who is 85, qualified as a nurse in 1951, trained at the Middlesex Hospital and worked as a health visitor for many years in Essex.
When she first heard about the idea of a memorial, she immediately wanted to get involved, she told Nursing Times.
“We’re used to seeing war graves set up for the soldiers who’ve died,” she said. “But there’s no talk about the nurses and I thought that the relatives of nurses should also have somewhere they could go.”
It is hard to establish the exact number of nurses who died due to difficulties finding records – many nurses took their husband’s initials, said Ms Hallows.
When new information is found about other nurses that should be added to the list the memorial will be amended, she said.
The Royal College of Nursing and the Florence Nightingale Foundation are among the appeal’s official partners and its new royal patron is the Countess of Wessex.
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