Service Scrapbooks: Nursing and Storytelling in the First World War focuses on the First World War stories of nine nurses and one VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment). Each one of them left behind a scrapbook detailing their experiences in the Great War. With Heritage Lottery Funding, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been able to digitise these documents and research the remarkable women who made them, tracing their wartime stories.
Despite being a vital part of the war, the contribution of nurses is often overlooked. The accounts that emerge from the scrapbooks highlight the extraordinary commitment of the nursing profession, a commitment that continues in nursing today. The experience of trained nurses during the war, as opposed to the work of VADs, is little documented. By the end of the war, more than 17,000 trained nurses had served in military hospitals. Unlike VADs, some worked close to the front line, performing duties in Casualty Clearing Stations and with far greater responsibility for casualty care, wound irrigation and dressing and assisting in surgery and blood transfusions. Our project fills this gap in the historical record.