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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Letter from a harrassed Matron


Sue Light

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The nurses' files at TNA, like officers' files, have been 'weeded' over the years, but there are often great snippets to be found, giving an insight into conditions at the time. This letter is in the file of a member of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, Katherine Daniel. In October 1914, despite finding nothing wrong with her, the Medical Officer decided that Miss Daniel was too 'delicate' to stand the hardships and privations of service overseas. She then worked continuously in the UK, without sick leave or other problems, and from time to time made application to go to France. By early 1918, the shortage of nurses at home was great, and the numbers of wounded still increasing, and this letter was sent to the War Office on April 7th, 1918, from Principal Matron, Miss Wilson.

'Dear Madam

I shall be glad if you do not find it necessary to call on the trained members whose names I have sent you for service in France, as we are more than busy here: - convoys are coming every second day, and so many very ill who require careful nursing, and our staff is getting depleted as so many want to marry and leave for various personal reasons.

We are about to open another Hospital at Brigend, and I have not a trained staff to send there.

I hoped that the nurse we transferred to Leeds would be replaced by a nurse from Leeds but the nurse leaves tomorrow and I have not heard of one coming.

A Sister: Miss Beatrice Huddlestone has just sent in her resignation, which I will send you tomorrow, and a nurse I mobilised cannot come as she must stay with her mother who is an invalid. This is the 2nd time I have mobilised this nurse and she cannot come and I think her name ought to be taken off the Roll. I will forward you particulars.

Nearly all our Orderlies have been taken and everything combined makes the work here extremely heavy. There are still a good many away on extended sick leave. I am explaining all this to you so that you will understand my difficulties. I have not yet explained all this to the Commanding Officer.

With reference to Miss Frances Newman, Sister T.F.N.S., there are many more senior Sisters who would like to go to France. Miss Fletcher, the Matron, has had this Sister only a short time and she has had promotion from Staff Nurse to the rank of Sister.

Miss K. M. Daniel, Sister T.F.N.S. who has worked well and loyally, since the beginning of the war, and who is anxious to go to France deserved her wishes to be gratified much more than Miss Newman, but you told me at one time, not to send up Miss Daniels name because she looked so delicate, but she has kept well, and worked well.

Miss Newman in signing her agreement has signed her name but put in writing for service overseas ‘France Only’. I think she ought to remain where she is and if we must send another Sister, one of the Sisters who came at the beginning of the War and who were ready when called up, ought to get the first chance of going, NOT Miss Newman.

I hope you will pardon this long letter but I wanted you to know that although I am more than anxious to help in every possible way, and will help in every way, there are many things to be taken into consideration, and it would never do to let our men suffer for want of good nursing in the 3rd Western General Hospital.

I am, Madam,

Your Obedient Servant,

E. A. M. Wilson

Note: I am writing to all my friends to try and get more nurses, and am hoping to succeed.

:blink: Sue

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Sue

The detail in this letter is fascinating and almost personal, and I wonder if the recipeint would have read it with any understanding of the Matrons apparent problem.

Lindsey

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Sue

As Marina and Lindsey say, the letter conveys the pressure and desperation of the situation and is also such a final blow to Miss Daniel's hopes.

It was in her file, but I wonder if she got to read it or if she was just summoned to be told the outcome of her request.

Nevertheless, I think we have Miss Daniels and her colleagues, who remained in this country, to thank that so many of our wounded soldiers survived and recovered. Nursing skill without the support of antibiotics and hi tech equipment pulled them through.

All the same, I wish Miss Daniels could have had the experience she wanted.

Thank you for finding the letter.

Kate

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and is also such a final blow to Miss Daniel's hopes.

All the same, I wish Miss Daniels could have had the experience she wanted.

Lindsey

One thing that I've picked up from the files is that respect, merit and loyalty were very important qualities within the service, and the Matrons-in-Chief of both the QAIMNS and the TFNS tried very hard to be fair, and to keep things running smoothly. They seem to have had finely honed management skills - they would have been running big business today - and they responded quickly to urgent situations.

Kate - but there was a happy ending - she went!

On April 8th 1918 [the day it must have been received!] a reply to the letter said:

'...as you say, this member has not been off duty through illness and has worked well, and her name will be added to the list of suitable sisters for service overseas...

She served for the following year in Paris and Abbeville, being demobilised on the 6th April 1919. After the war she continued as a member of the Territorial Force Nursing Service until reaching the retiring age for the service in 1927.

Sue

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Sue,

Thanks for posting this, and following up with the remainder of the story.

I am glad Miss Daniels got her wish, bless her.

cheers Shelley :D

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Thanks for sharing this with us Sue,

They seem to have had finely honed management skills - they would have been running big business today - and they responded quickly to urgent situations.

Can't agree more with you...exactly my experience as a former personel officer.

Glad you added the happy ending, clears part of the frustration one feels after reading the letter.

Cheers,

Michael

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Sue

Hooray. A wonderful PS.

Now, all we need is a relative of Miss Daniels to pop up on the forum and tell us what she thought of her experiences at the Front, with perhaps a photograph.

Kate

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