N is for Nurse

N is for NurseOur current object of the month, now on display in the War Memorial gallery, is a cape

that belonged to a nurse during the Second World War. The insignia on the inside of the cape are a selection of badges that had been given to the nurse by her grateful patients.

At the start of World War Two, nurses travelled to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They were famed for their scarlet and grey capes although they found that it was more practical to wear battledress and khaki rather than their ward dresses and veils while working in dressing stations and field hospitals. In the book ‘Millions Like Us’ author Virginia Nicholson tells the story of one matron who did not want her nurses to be confused with the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), so insisted that they wear their scarlet caps over their khaki uniforms.

Throughout the war nurses served in every campaign and in 1949 they became Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) which still forms part of the Army Medical Services today.

Why is it the Object of the Month?

As we continue to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz this year, we also remember the extraordinary wartime roles played by local people during the raids, the nurse being one in particular.

A Nurse in the Belfast Blitz

A Nurse in the Belfast Blitz

Earlier this year we published ‘A Nurse in the Belfast Blitz: The Diary of Emma Duffin 1939-42’ by Trevor Parkhill.  Emma Duffin’s eye-witness account of the devastating raid and its aftermath are vividly evident in her graphic and extensive diary entries. Her description of a journey through the city centre to north Belfast, which had borne the brunt of the raid, confirms the devastating extent of an aerial raid which left hundreds dead and thousands of houses destroyed. Equally gripping is her account of a gruelling day spent in St George’s market, where she helped grief stricken families identify loved ones from the laid out, often mangled, corpses.

Emma Duffin’s diary, amounting to some 138 closely-written manuscript pages in one volume, is held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast.  It has been transcribed and is represented in A Nurse in the Belfast Blitz, almost exactly as it was written.

The book is divided into five chapters, each with a short contextual introduction by the editor, Trevor Parkhill.  Where possible, extra information is given in footnotes about events and family members mentioned in the text.

Emma Duffin’s diary, amounting to some 138 closely-written manuscript pages in one volume, is held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast.  It has been transcribed and is represented in A Nurse in the Belfast Blitz, almost exactly as it was written.

The book is divided into five chapters, each with a short contextual introduction by the editor, Trevor Parkhill.  Where possible, extra information is given in footnotes about events and family members mentioned in the text.

The book has been illustrated with objects from the Northern Ireland War Memorial collection and Inver Museum Collection of St John Ambulance Memorabilia. Photographs from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph, Queen’s University Belfast, and Stranmillis University College Belfast, illuminate and enhance the text.  Expertly designed by Professor John McMillan, the book is accessible and reader –friendly, featuring a map illustrating Emma’s route through Belfast on the day after the Easter Tuesday air raid in 1941.

Find more information on nurses in the Second World War or details on NIWM publications.

*NIWM is not responsible for the content of external sites.

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