Please note, this artefact is no longer on display.
This cape belonged to Molly Lea who served as a QA Nurse during the Second World War. The badges on the inside of the cape are a selection of badges and insignia given to her by grateful patients.
The cape has kindly been lent to the War Memorial Gallery by Rene Lea, a niece of Molly Lea’s. It will be on display in the War Memorial Gallery throughout November.
Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) provided nurses during the war from 1939 – 1945.
The history of QA Nurses can be traced backed to Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War when the Secretary of State for war, Sidney Herbert, identified the need to recruit nurses to tend to the injured soldiers. Nightingale took 38 women to work as nurses from 1854 – 56. By 1897 the Army Nursing Reserve was formed which was then replaced by the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1902.
During the First World War QA’s tended to the wounded in field hospitals, aboard ambulance trains, hospital ships and barges and casualty clearing stations.
At the start of World War Two QA’s travelled to France as part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) and by the summer of 1940 1300 QA nurses were evacuated with the BEF at Dunkirk.
The QA nurses 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 hospotals.
In Millions Like Us author Virginia Nicholson tells the story of one matron who did not want her nurses to be confused with the ATS (Auxillary Teritorial Service) so insisted that here nurses still wear their scarlet caps over their khaki uniforms.
Throughout WW2 the QA 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.
Find out more here and here.
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