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Nursing stories from First World War to be revealed

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The experience of nursing in wartime from a century ago will be brought into the digital age, as personal stories of a group of World War One nurses are uncovered for the first time.

With the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Royal College of Nursing is creating a new online resource showcasing the long lost stories of nine nurses from the First World War.

“This unique project will breathe new life into long-archived artefacts”

Sarah Chaney

By scanning and uploads personal scrapbooks and diaries, the project will “build a bridge” that connects the stories of WW1 nurses to those who served recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the RCN.

Via the nurses’ own words, sketches and photographs, the resource would reveal the “true stories of defence nurses past and present, shining a light on unsung heroes of the nursing profession”, it said.

One of the scrapbooks comes from Florence May Virtue Blythe-Brown and includes drawings, paintings, newspaper cuttings and a letter from a patient dating back to 1915.

Alongside pages of personal anecdotes and photographs, the album also contains short verses of poetry from two of the service men Florence treated.

The project coincides with the RCN’s first ever defence nursing exhibition, taking place from April – September 2017.

Sarah Chaney, the RCN’s audience engagement manager, said: “This unique project will breathe new life into long-archived artefacts.

“These diaries and scrapbooks reveal so much about the nurses who created them, and it will be fascinating to uncover what life was like for those caring for others during World War One,” she said.

The RCN also revealed that nurse and creative writer Molly Case would feature as “writer in residence” for the duration of the new exhibition.

She would draw inspiration from nursing stories to create new material, while teaching creative writing workshops to nursing staff and the general public, said Ms Chaney.

“This is about more than history, it is about storytelling, which is why we’re so excited to welcome Molly Case as our first ever writer in residence,” she said.

“As a nurse and poet she can draw together the intricacies of nursing with the magic of words to inspire a whole new generation of nursing stories,” she added.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • As a collector of WW1 nursing medals and memorabilia this sounds a wonderful opportunity to learn more. Thank you

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  • I wish to enquire if you can help me to trace any record of my relative, Louisa Barton who volunteered as a nurse during WW1. She was sadly killed by poisonous gas but I have not been able to learn of the circumstances or location.
    I have a photograph of her with other medical colleagues enjoying a snowball fight during a rest from their arduous duties near the front line.
    Louisa was born in 1888 and lived at Barking in Essex.

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