The Calm Before the Storm: Nursing Notes, August 1914

This month’s blog post is taken from the August 1914 volume of the Nursing Notes journal.

At the start of August 1914, European nations were busy declaring war on one another and so orchestrating the outbreak of what would turn out to be the First World War. Meanwhile, as unaware as everybody else of just how much the upcoming conflict would escalate, this issue of Nursing Notes was busy focusing on developments in nursing and midwifery, such as organisation and training.

Ironically, the articles which stick out in this volume are those covering the remnants of a previous war – the Crimean War. We have mentioned the Nursing Notes’ ‘Rambler’ in previous posts, and this month she was off to Chelsea to visit the Royal Hospital. A recommended trip to Chelsea’s Cadogan Pier by steamer from London Bridge took the Rambler to the Royal Hospital for Army Pensioners commissioned by King Charles II and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, where she received a guided tour by the Matron of the hospital:

‘…the Matron went up to one of these old warriors, and laying her hand on his shoulder said “he knew Florence Nightingale,” whereupon the veteran drew himself up and saluted.’

Ode to Florence Nightingale

This piece is followed up by an ode to the Lady of the Lamp, reproduced from the Evening News at the time of Florence Nightingale’s death in 1910. And the same note of reverence to the name of Florence Nightingale is echoed in the leading article on a new scheme proposed to found scholarships for nurses:

‘It is fitting that the Nightingale Training School connected with St Thomas’ Hospital, which has served as the model for all the best training schools in the country, both here and abroad, should initiate this new departure and connect it with revered name of Florence Nightingale.’

A report on the Annual Gathering of members of the Association for Promoting the Training and Supply of Midwives covered the difficulties registered midwives had in securing training at this time, and also the problems encountered in the profession by the introduction of the National Insurance Act. The meeting, held in the prestigious Ennismore Gardens in London, was attended by Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, who was Queen Victoria’s third daughter and one of the founding members of the Red Cross. Little was the princess to know at the time that the German state she had married into would be split up by the victorious Allies in the aftermath of the war about to be fought. The Princess presented badges to midwives of the Association who had been selected for excellence in their professional work, and ‘for strict integrity and a high moral standard.’

By 1914, the pages of the journal held far more advertisements than earlier years, from Horlick’s Malted Milk to Izal disinfectant, Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence to Ingram’s bottle teats, and from books for nurses to medical supplies. The columns dedicated to news from the Midwives’ Institute and Trained Nurses’ Club open with an announcement that the Club would close for the summer from 1 August to 1 September – and what a different world it would re-open to! By that stage, the war in Europe would already be well underway. The next issue of Nursing Notes would be very different indeed.

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