Title: Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard
Editors: John and Caroline Stevens
Publisher: The History Press
Reviewer: Lynne Partington
What was it like?
Kate Evelyn Luard has been described as the “ultimate bee worker of nurses” in the Great War and was only one of the minority of trained military nurses who worked on the edge of the battle fields during the First World War. Yet Kate Luard remains relatively unknown.
What were the highlights?
Unknown Warriors comprises of extracts of letters written by Kate and sent to her family during her time spent on the front between 1914 and 1918. It highlights not only the courageous actions of a nurse putting herself at risk day after day, but pays tribute to those soldiers involved with and affected by the war.
The letters give a personal glimpse into the horrors of the First World War through the eyes of Kate. The style is often matter of fact, given the horrendous conditions Kate portrays, yet the compassion shines through. The appalling situations that Kate describes are sometimes hard to read but are somehow made heartening due to the care and dedication of the nurses, doctors and orderlies that comes through this account.
Strengths & weaknesses:
This new edition of Unknown Warriors has been published exactly as the 1930 text but with a new introduction by Christine Hallett, Professor of Nursing History at the University of Manchester, and Tim Luard, great-nephew of Kate Luard. The new edition also has a postscript, which includes unpublished letters both from Kate to her family and those to her in France. It is unknown if these letters were originally unpublished because of their personal nature or controversial contents, but provide a fascinating addition to the main text. The postscript also has a glossary and indexes.
In the postscript, one of the letters to Kate from her brother Percy says, “Your letters are absolutely IT … and they fill me with awe and wonder and admiration and joy …” He couldn’t have been any nearer the truth!
Who should read it?
This book could be of relevance to a wide audience but especially recommended forthose with an interest in the history of World War One and nursing.