Each record contains a transcription of the original. Since these records cover five separate collections of data the information in each entry can vary considerably. You could find out the following about your ancestor:
Date of birth
Position or rank
Unit or regiment
Whether promoted to Sister, Matron or Superintendent
Age on appointment
Dates disembarked in France in WW2 (if applicable)
There are 3937 records of men and women who served as military nurses in conflict or evacuation across Europe, and the rest of the world, over more than a century of service. This record set is made up of five smaller sets of service records that tell the stories of some very different nursing organisations.
Florence Nightingale had campaigned strongly for the establishment of a dedicated Army Nursing Service after she and her nurses had revolutionised military nursing care during the Crimean War in 1854. She had fought for the employment of female nurses in military hospitals and by 1860 had succeeded in establishing an Army Training School for military nurses at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley.
In 1866 the provision was made for the appointment of nurses to all Military Hospitals and The Army Nursing Service followed some years later.
There are 238 nurses in these records from the Army Nursing Service with dates of birth between 1823 and 1875. In the early days of nursing there were strict rules in place for personnel. They had to be single, over 25 and of a high social status. It was not until WW1 that the class stipulation was dropped. Entries in the records usually include date of birth and a combination of some or all of father’s occupation, training hospital and dates of appointment to the Army Nursing Service between 1869 and 1891.
After the nursing experience of the Boer Wars of 1899 to 1902 there was a reorganisation of the Army Medical Service which led to the formation of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service by royal warrant in 1902. There are 783 members of the QAIMNS in the records, including Dame Sidney Jane Browne who was the first Matron-in-Chief of the QAIMNS. Records generally include date of birth, father’s occupation, place of education, training hospital and dates of training, date of appointment to QAIMNS (between 1902 and 1926) and rank at appointment. Details are also sometimes included about dates of promotion, whether retired or resigned and other roles.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea Nurses were very different from the well trained and often genteel members of the Army Nursing Service and the QAIMNS. These largely untrained nurses were employed to look after the Chelsea Pensioners at the hospital between 1856 and 1910. Records of the 165 women who worked here often give year of birth, date of appointment, dates of proficiency and whether they died, were dismissed, resigned or died. Some of those dismissed were guilty of drunkenness, indiscipline, neglect of duty or unspecified misdemeanours – a long way removed from Florence Nightingale’s high ideals.
The Scottish Women’s Hospitals was founded in 1914 after the outbreak of the First World War with funding from the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the American Red Cross. When founder Dr Elsie Maud Inglis (who can be found within these records) approached the War Office with the idea of either female doctors co-operating with the Royal Army Medical Corps or women’s medical units being allowed to serve on the Western Front she was allegedly told by an official “My good lady, go home and sit still.” Paying no attention, Scottish Women’s Hospitals set up their first auxiliary hospital in the 13th century Abbaye de Royaumont in France under the French Red Cross. Suffragettes Inglis, Ishobel Ross and Cicely Hamilton were among the team at Royaumont and also can be found among the 1575 records of men and women who were stationed across continental Europe during World War One. Not all of them were serving on the battlefields. Katherine Harley was the daughter of an Irish naval commander. Her husband had been killed in the Boer War. She joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1910 but was never quite as militant as her sister Charlotte Despard. Katherine Harley joined the SWH in 1914. In 1917 she was killed by a shell in Monastir in Tunisia. She led a group of British nurses attached to the Serbian Army. She was 62. Records for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals generally contain title, position, station and dates of service. They sometimes contain extra notes.
The fifth set of records in this collection is the WW2 Military Nurses. There are 1244 nurses who served with either the QAIMNS, Queen Alexandra’s Reserve, or the Territorial Army Nursing Service in France, during the Second World War. Details available include title, rank, promotions, date of embarkation to France, unit at which served and additional notes.