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The First World War was the first ‘total war’. Its industrial weaponry damaged millions of men, and drove whole armies underground into dangerously unhealthy trenches. Many were killed. Others suffered from massive, life-threatening injuries; wound infections such as gas gangrene and tetanus; exposure to extremes of temperature; emotional trauma; and systemic disease. Tens of thousands of women volunteered to serve as nurses to alleviate their suffering. Some were fully-trained professionals; others had minimal preparation, and served as volunteer-nurses. Their motivations were a combination of compassion, patriotism, professional pride and a desire for engagement in the ‘great enterprise’ of war. The war led to an outpouring of war-memoirs, produced mostly by soldier-writers whose works came to be seen as a ‘literary canon’ of war-writing. But nurses had offered immediate and long-term care, life-saving expertise, and comfort to the war’s wounded, and their experiences had given them a perspective on industrial warfare which was unique. Until recently, their contributions, both to the saving of lives and to our understanding of warfare have remained largely hidden from view. ‘Nurse Writers of the Great War’ examines these nurses’ memoirs and explores the insights they offer into the nature of nursing and the impact of warfare. The book combines close biographical research with textual analysis, in order to offer an understanding of both nurses’ wartime experiences and the ways in which their lives and backgrounds contributed to the style and content of their writing.

7 American young women at war Introduction: American women at war American women participated in the First World War long before their nation entered the conflict. Wealthy and independent women who could afford to travel joined volunteer units or offered their services independently to the Committees of the French and Belgian Red Cross.1 Their efforts were rewarded by admission into some of the most dramatic – and horrific – scenarios of the war. Nothing could have prepared them for the seriousness of the wounds they encountered. Industrial warfare was not a

in Nurse Writers of the Great War

6 The war nurse as free agent Introduction: the rewards of professional nursing In the second decade of the twentieth century, the nursing professions in both Britain and the USA had attained a level of recognition that permitted their members considerable personal and professional autonomy. During training their lives were circumscribed by the patriarchal hierarchies of early-twentieth-century hospital life; but, once they had attained the level of ‘senior probationer’, nurses exercised high levels of responsibility – often running wards and supervising junior

in Nurse Writers of the Great War
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The meaning of food to New Zealand and Australian nurses far from home in World War I, 1915–18

2 The taste of war: The meaning of food to New Zealand and Australian nurses far from home in World War I, 1915–18 Pamela J. Wood and Sara Knight In World War I, from 1915, contingents of nurses from New Zealand and Australia served overseas, far from home. From their countries at the southernmost edge of the British Empire, they travelled across the world to the Middle East and Western Europe, lands foreign to them and often strange, intriguing and unsettling. Even Britain, still regarded as ‘home’ and the ‘mother country’ to those in the Antipodes, puzzled

in Histories of nursing practice
The re-orientation of German orthopaedics

1 HEALING THE WAR-DISABLED: THE RE-ORIENTATION OF GERMAN ORTHOPAEDICS Its goal is to place modern orthopaedic techniques of splint-setting and fracture bandaging, treatments for joint fractures, physical therapy, and the fitting of new prostheses, etc in the service of the military. (Dr Fritz Lange, War Orthopaedics, 1915)1 The war opened up whole new areas of specialty for orthopaedics. The treatment of gunshot fractures, their traction, methods of transport, their subsequent straightening, were all challenges which placed high demands on orthopaedic

in Recycling the disabled

Battlefields, burials and the English Civil Wars Chapter 1 Battlefields, burials and the English Civil Wars Ian Atherton T he idea that ‘military care’ extends beyond death to the treatment of the war dead is not new, though the forms it has taken have varied over time. Roger Boyle’s 1677 military treatise advised a victorious general to look after the wounded and prisoners, and see ‘his Dead honourably buried’. Similar ideas can be found in a number of sixteenth-century military manuals, and can be traced back at least as far as the Graeco-Roman world.1

in Battle-scarred
The moron as an enemy force

4 THE WAR AND NATURAL CATASTROPHE METAPHORS: THE MORON AS AN ENEMY FORCE Congenitally incapable of adjusting themselves to an advanced social order, the degenerate inevitably become its enemies – particularly those ‘high-­grade defectives’ who are the natural fomenters of social unrest.1 ‘Undesirable’ community groups, especially those which can be framed as potentially destructive to society at large, are often described through the employment of military or natural catastrophe metaphors. In such cases, the group is put forth as a primary and imminent threat

in Framing the moron
Open Access (free)

8 The British ‘VAD’ Introduction: becoming a VAD The allied nursing workforce of the First World War was a complex, heterogeneous group of the trained, the semi-trained, and the almost completely untrained. In Britain, instruction for volunteer nurses (the so-called ‘VADs’) was administered by Voluntary Aid Detachments, acting under the auspices of the British Society of the Red Cross and the St John Ambulance Association, a branch of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Most British VADs took courses, passed examinations, and obtained certificates in four

in Nurse Writers of the Great War
Open Access (free)

through the head while staring through a loophole.1 Nurses, too, could write with authority. Although only a combatant like Blunden could faithfully describe a sudden death or the emotional turmoil of trench life, a nurse such as Alice Fitzgerald could write of the horror of witnessing slow death from wound sepsis or the anxiety of lying in a bell tent during a bombardment with a steel helmet over her face. Some nurse writers were careful observers and relentless truth-tellers. Others wrote with purpose, some with pacifist intent – to show that war was horrific, not

in Nurse Writers of the Great War

1 Heroines in Belgium and Serbia Introduction: plucky nurses At the outbreak of the First World War British women volunteered for war service in such numbers that organisations such as the Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem found themselves, initially, overwhelmed. Many of those who offered to nurse the wounded held no nursing qualifications of any kind, and had to wait until they had passed VAD examinations, or acquired full nurse-training in recognised training hospitals, before they could gain acceptance for military service. American women, too

in Nurse Writers of the Great War