Nurses in World War 1
I have never regretted that I took the notion into my head to take on nursing, for it has opened up opportunities that I would never have had.
Sister Jessie Tomlins
Sister Jessie Tomlins
World War I was one of the conflicts in which nurses had professional training. It made the world realize its dependence on nurses and the urgency to prepare them for war. When the war first started in 1914, the Red Cross Nursing Service began to serve as a recruitment and training agency, preparing nurses for overseas work. About twenty thousand nurses were as-signed to military service, many of them remaining abroad after the war to assist with post-war relief programs.
The nurses of World War 1 were situated in many different places. Some were working on field hospitals just behind the line, some were in evacuation hospitals ten miles behind the front and others were located at base hospitals, which were safely away from the front. Some of these hospitals were in Australia as well as Egypt, England, France, Belgium, Greece, Salonika, Palestine, Mesopotamia and India. There were many diseases and infections that spread where the nurses were working, especially in field hospitals, due to unhygienic areas where they worked, for example the influenza epidemic. The women had to endure homesickness, terrible hardships, exhaustion, grim conditions, bitter winters and intense heat.
The Government requested that only trained nurses were to be sent to France with the army, but as the war dragged on the supply of nurses was too small to meet military needs. To meet the demand and maintain training standards, M. Adelaide Nutting, Annie Goodrich, and Lillian Wald met on the 24th of June, 1917 and formed the National Emergency Committee on Nursing, which eventually became known as the Committee on Nursing of the General Medical Board of the Council of National Defence. It created the Vassar Training Camp in 1918 to train college graduates under a three-month intensive program to enter schools of nursing. Other universities offered similar programs, all bringing college recognition to nursing.
The nurses had to deal with many different struggles. Some women had children to raise so they had to balance the life of being a nurse for war and the life of caring for their children. Lots of women were confronted with diseases, sicknesses, illnesses and infection which spread very quickly due to the poor living conditions. Dorothy Dix, a nurse from WW1 says ' I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us.' This means that instead of living in the past and remembering what has happened, we should forget it and live in the now. Although the amount of nurses was, at its peak, around 23 thousand, the women still had no military rank. Since they had no official military position, nurses could not direct orders or take care of administrative problems. It was not until after the war, on the 4th of June 1920, that a relative rank was granted to the members of the Army Nurse Corps through a change of the National Defence Act. Nurses were given officer status, but their pay and allowances were not the same as for men.
No nurses died in World War 1 from a result of enemy attack, as women were kept way away from the front line. However, about 260 died in the line of duty, mainly because of diseases and illnesses, such as the which spread very quickly and were difficult to contain. Many nurses also died because of the influenza epidemic of 1918.
Nurses in World War 1 were very helpful and they helped save the lives of a lot of men. They were very brave and some even died because of the diseases that the sick men brought upon them. There is a number of nurses from World War 1 who received many awards for their bravery and courage and their ability to help out wherever they can.