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The Role of Women in Nursing

As increasing numbers of men left work to enlist in the forces, the Government set up a Central Advisory Committee for Women's Employment to plan and implement the recruitment of women to fill the gaps. Where possible, women were encouraged to act as substitute labour and take over the running of their husbands', brothers' or fathers' work. In time they were working in hospitals, on the land or in factories.

Background to the impact of the Great War

Working at a Rest Station and Convalescent Camp in France
Springburn 'Red Cross' Hospital
Hyde Park Ward, part of the Springburn 'Red Cross' Hospital

Working at a Rest Station and Convalescent Camp in France

In October 1914, Miss Lyne Woodrow wrote to her parents from Boulogne where she was working at a rest station and convalescent camp in France.

Print a copy of the transcript of the letter by Miss Lyne Woodrow, Rich Text format, 10KB, new window

... We are daily expecting to move further to the front. We have been quite in the thick of things already. Yesterday we were all sent for in a great hurry to help at one of the big hospitals and the state of the men beggars description – the shrapnel wounds are just awful, and are in all sorts of horrible places, but the men are wonderful.

... we have a lot of bed baths to give, and while washing the feet of one man I was told that they had not been done for seven weeks!

Shirts and socks are very badly wanted. The Matron of No. 7 Stationary Hospital here would be most awfully glad to get any clothing. The men have practically none, for as they come in off the trains we have literally to cut their clothes off; they are so soaked in blood and dirt, and then they are burnt. It is pitiful to see the trains come in with the wounded. They seem to be constantly coming in filled to over-flowing.

... We are all quite well here, and very happy at being really at work. We have all our own stores and are a fully equipped Unit, and a recognised part of the British Expeditionary Force.

... We are billeted at the Hotel de Paris in rooms leading, for the most part, out of one another, and with two beds in each. ... We have to pay for our own washing, and provide our own teas. We also have to wait entirely upon ourselves in the matter of bed-making, boot-cleaning etc. Then again we are forbidden to use ordinary water for our teeth unless we first boil it. I therefore have had to buy a little spirit stove for the purpose

(Reproduced with kind permission of ..... , National Records of Scotland reference: GD433/2/260/3/1)
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Drawing of an injured soldier being transferred from a Red Cross ambulance to hospital, with nurses standing by. National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63Springburn 'Red Cross' Hospital

Part of the North British Company Locomotive works in Glasgow was adapted to serve as a hospital to treat the war wounded.

Print a copy of the image and transcript of the account from the Springburn Hospital, Rich Text format, 9KB, new window

At a very early stage in the war, it became apparent that the hospital accommodation in the country would be quite inadequate to deal with the large number of wounded and invalided soldiers and sailors... and the Directors of the Company decided to place the main portion of the Administration Building at the disposal of the British Red Cross Society.

...Springburn Hospital was opened for the reception of patients on 24 December 1914 and remained open until 21 May 1918, covering the treatment of 8,211 soldiers.

(National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63 p.36)
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Hyde Park Ward, part of the Springburn 'Red Cross' Hospital
Hyde Park Ward, part of the Springburn 'Red Cross' Hospital (National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63)

(National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63)
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