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Brand: Dorothea Crewdson

Dorothea's War

by Dorothea Crewdson

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Dorothea's War : A First World War Nurse Tells Her Story

In April 1915, Dorothea Crewdson, a newly trained Red Cross nurse, and her best friend Christie, received instructions to leave for Le Treport in northern France. Filled with excitement at the prospect of her first paid job, Dorothea began writing a diary. 'Who knows how long we shall really be out here? Seems a good chance from all reports of the campaigns being ended before winter but all is uncertain.' Dorothea would go on to witness and record some of the worst tragedy of the First World War at first hand, though somehow always maintaining her optimism, curiosity and high spirits throughout.

The pages of her diaries sparkle with warmth and humour as she describes the day-to-day realities and frustrations of nursing near the frontline of the battlefields, or the pleasure of a beautiful sunset, or a trip 'joy-riding' in the French countryside on one of her precious days off. One day she might be gossiping about her fellow nurses, or confessing to writing her diary while on shift on the ward, or illustrating the scene of the tents collapsing around them on a windy night in one of her vivid sketches. In another entry she describes picking shells out of the beds on the ward after a terrifying air raid (winning a medal for her bravery in the process).

Nearly a hundred years on, what shines out above all from the pages of these extraordinarily evocative diaries is a courageous, spirited, compassionate young woman, whose story is made all the more poignant by her tragically premature death at the end of the war just before she was due to return home.

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