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Sisters Of The Somme

by Penny Starns

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Sisters Of The Somme : True Stories from a First World War Hospital

With First World War casualties mounting, there was an appeal for volunteers to train as front-line medical staff. Many women heeded the call: some responding to a vocational or religious calling, others following a sweetheart to the front, and some carried away on the jingoistic patriotism that gripped the nation in 1914. Despite their training, these young women were ill-prepared for the anguished cries of the wounded and the stench of gangrene and trench foot awaiting them at the Somme.

Isolated from friends and family, most discovered an inner strength, forging new and close relationships with each other and establishing a camaraderie that was to last through the war and beyond. Based on the previously unpublished true stories of its nurses and medical staff, this book is a heart-warming account of the joys and sorrows of life in an extraordinary Somme field hospital.

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This book gives a very intimate view into the lives of nursing sisters, medical staff and their patients at the field hospital receiving casualties from the battlefield. It also gives a real 'feel' for the local area in its descriptions of trips taken on days off by the hospital staff. The material is taken from personal writings, diaries, letters and official war reports from those working in the hospital. The narrative focuses on a group of nurses, both qualified and VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses), and explores both the factual events in a chronological progression, and the emotions of those involved throughout the Battle of the Somme and some of its consequences. The narrative flows well and is extremely easy to read, whilst imparting a great deal of minutiae often excluded from other accounts. It brings a rawness and also an immediacy to the period, making it a very poignant read. Some of the descriptions of injuries are rather gory, but this was a bloody battle and injuries were horrific. I would have preferred a more in-depth index and more references, but the lack of these does in no way detract from the stories included here. Simply presented, this book has a comprehensive introduction giving good background material. The main text gives a real sense of the anguish, pain, emotion, and futility of war, whilst also focussing on some lighter moments. This is an excellent detailed account drawn from personal and official material that anyone interested in WWI and/or nursing should find extremely interesting and informative. Angie Blaydon Friends of The National Archives http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/get-involved/friends.htm Friends of The National Archives