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British [Commonwealth] Army Nurses
Posted March 21, 2017 (links updated Feb 11, 2020)
By Rick Roberts,

Rick Roberts
An interesting and informative website came to our attention this week. The site is titled British Army Nurses, "the official site for the history and heritage of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and its antecedents (Army Nursing Service; Princess Christian's Army Nursing Service (Reserve); Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, Territorial Force Nursing Service, Territorial Army Nursing Service)". It is important to note that 'British" at the time, meant the British Commonwealth, which means that the databases and historical information includes nurses from the countries within the Commonwealth during the later Victorian period and into the Early Edwardian period.

The site is a free resource, supported by QARANC Association, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. "The Association joins together in practical friendship all who are serving or have served in the Corps, irrespective of rank, sharing in its record, its achievements, tradition and history."

The site is organized into three primary categories:
  • Nurses and Nursing. Sub-categories include individual Nurses; Army Nursing; Artwork; Memories.

  • Diaries and Letters. Kate Luard: Boer War Letter; Lilian Robinson: WW1 Diary; Lilian Robinson: Autograph Book; Helen Octavia Driver: WW! Diary

  • Researching Army Nurses. Sub-categories include Research Tools; Boaer War Database; Royal Red Cross Recipients; In Memoriam

The site is rich with detailed information about individual nurses with source citations. Here is one example of the detailed information provided about an individual Irish nurse named Lilian Ainsworth:

    Lilian AINSWORTH was born in Newrath, Kilkenny, Ireland, about 1872 (1). She trained as a nurse at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester and joined the Princess Christian's Army Nursing Service (Reserve) on February 4th, 1898 (2).

    Nursing Service in the Boer War

    Sister Lilian Ainsworth travelled to South Africa with No. 10 General Hospital in the Hospital Ship Avoca (3), leaving England on March 12th, 1900. She served with No. 10 General Hospital at Norvals Pont (4), as well as with No. 8 General Hospital, Bloemfontein (5), and No. 5 Stationary Hospital, Bloemfontein (6). The nursing press noted that she had held the position of Sister at the Chelsea Infirmary, before going to South Africa, and was reappointed there on her return (7).

    Nursing Service during WW1

    The 1911 Census shows her living at home in Birkenhead and designated as a Sister Army Nursing Service Reserve (1). She joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service (Reserve) in May 1915 (8), and was posted as Sister to the Sidney Hall Military Hospital, Weymouth.
      After a lapse of several weeks, in which the Sidney Hall Military Hospital at Weymouth has been left without a Resident Matron, and in spite of the shameful neglect and death of the poor soldier Gribbin, the War Office has at last sent down a proper staff of trained nurses and orderlies. A correspondent states that “riot” is the only word to describe the complete disorganisation of the place. As hundreds of trained nurses are waiting for Army nursing work, one wonders why this hospital has been neglected so long (9).
    She was then transferred to Egypt on July 19th, 1915 (8). She moved between Egypt, Iraq and India, becoming ill on a number of occasions (8). In 1918 she was invalided to India with dysentery, and in 1919 she was returned to the UK. At Millbank, on September,11, 1919 she was found unfit for service (8).

    1. The National Archives: England Census: RG 14/21989 1911 Birkenhead
    2. War Office (1900) Nominal Roll of Princess Christian's Army Nursing Service (Reserve) as at 30th September
    3. The Times, March 13, 1900 p6b&6c
    4. The National Archives: WO 100/229 Queen's South Africa Medal Roll p62 created at No10 General Hospital, Norvals Pont; dated July 15, 1901
    5. The National Archives: WO 100/229 Queen's South Africa Medal Roll p55 created at No8 General Hospital, Bloemfontein; dated August 4, 1901
    6. The National Archives: WO 100/229 Queen's South Africa Medal Roll p95 created at No. 5 Stationary Hospital, Bloemfontein; dated August 28, 1901
    7. The British Journal of Nursing (1902) Vol.29, 20th September p231
    8. The National Archives: WO 399/43
    9. The British Journal of Nursing, May 15th 1915, p411"

Another section of the site that I found particulary useful is the Boer War Database.

Boer War Nurse Database:
Includes details about the service of 2040 Commonwealth Nurses from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa including:
  • Army Nursing Service (ANS)
  • Princess Christian's Army Nursing Service (Reserve) (ANSR)
  • Australian Military Nurses (New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia)
  • Canadian Military Nurses (Canada)
  • New Zealand Military Nurses (New Zealand)
  • Nurses employed by the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Brigade
  • Nurses working in civil hospitals caring for military patients (Civilian Nurse)
  • Nurses employed to work in Military Hospitals and the Burgher Camps (Locally Employed)
  • Nurses in the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps (Natal Volunteer)
  • Religious Sisters working in hospitals (Religious Order)
  • Nurses working for the South African Constabulary (South African Constabulary)
  • Some ladies who were considered for a QSA because of their hospital work (Civilians)
An example of a search result for Sister Florence CAMERON's (later Mrs Florence Blake) records:

This information packed website is well worth a visit even if you don't have a British Commonwealth Army nurse in your family tree. You can check out the British Army Nurses site here

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