Beatrice Longmire spent her war years training in City Hospital Edinburgh, before joining Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). From the end of 1916 she worked in Aldershot Military Isolation Hospital. She had her scrapbook with her throughout the war. Its pages manage to capture just how popular and loved she was by friends and patients alike.
They talk about a woman’s sphere as though it had a limit.
There’s not a place in earth or heaven,
Not a task to mankind given,
Not a blessing or a woe,
Not a whisper ‘yes’ or ‘no’?
Not a life or death or birth
That has a feather’s weight of worth,
Without a woman in it.
Beatrice Florence Longmire was born on the 17 March 1893 to William and Beatrice Jane Longmire. She had six siblings, two of whom died in infancy. For the first few years of her childhood Longmire lived in Cheetham, Manchester, where her father was a grocer. By 1901 the Longmire children were split up and living with various relatives across Pitlochry in Perthshire. It's unclear as to why this decision was made, but it is most likely due to the poor living conditions Cheetham offered. Pitlochry, on the other hand, was a genteel Victorian tourist spot favoured by royalty.
Let none but friends presume to write.
Longmire was given, or bought, her scrapbook whilst still living in Pitlochry. The number of entries in her scrapbook implies she spent her time here surrounded by many friends. Maimie Watson has a few entries, including a comical illustration of ‘Bertie’ buying too many socks. A couple of friends write in her book in March 1913. These entries are focused on well-wishing, friendship and remembrance. Jean Cameron writes ‘Be glad and your friends are many’. Most likely her friends were leaving her messages in the months before she left for Edinburgh to start her nursing training.
Nursing Ideals and Realities
Aged 20, Longmire began her nurse training at the City Hospital, Edinburgh. The war was in full force by the time Longmire completed her training in June 1916. Among the subjects she studied were anatomy, physiology, hygiene, and medical and surgical nursing. One of her fellow students, E. I. MacKay, wrote a poem describing the experiences of starting nursing called ‘Nursing its Ideals and Realities’.
Royal College of Nursing member and nurse Kate Regan writes of this poem:
"I am sure that almost all nurses through the following decades can identify with the feelings she expresses both before and after joining the profession. Although the actual “duties” have updated in over the years, the Ideal picture in her mind of calm caring efficiency and happy “band” of nurses certainly rings bells with me. Also, the thought that the training will equal instant ability, that patients will be eternally grateful and obedient, that she would be able to be saintly like all the other sisters, never making mistakes and gratefully accepted by her fellow nurses.
The reality part shows the rude awakening that many of us got when actually starting on the wards. That horrible feeling that you haven’t a clue what is going on, not understanding the medical language, your faults and mistakes being numerous and pointed out so blatantly, that you feel you are completely incompetent. The writer also has pointed out the mundane repetitive cleaning, fetching and carrying that she had not anticipated.
There is however, a change in her towards the end of the poem, she seems to realise what she is trying to achieve. Rather than being disappointed by her pre-conceived ideal, she starts to understand what the profession really is, and then her ideals start to change.
It is heartening that the last verse is saying that on reflection, in spite of the hard start, she is glad that she chose nursing as her career, and would do so again if she had her choice again."
Ochil Hill Sanitorium
Longmire was employed as a staff nurse at Ochil Hill Sanatorium, Kinrosshire in July 1916. This was a relatively new tuberculosis sanatorium. In the first few days there she let James Chisholm write in her scrapbook. He chose to write: ‘Being all fashioned of the self-same dust. Let us be merciful as well as just’, a particularly poignant quote to choose in war-time. After only a few months at the hospital, Longmire was promoted to Sister.
In November 1916 Longmire applied to work as a nurse in the military. On her application her mother, Beatrice Jane, is listed as her nearest relative, and as a widow. Her father had passed away in 1907 at the age of just 37. Interestingly, her mother is also listed as a nurse. She appears to have been training at the same time as Longmire, but at the Royal Maternity hospital in Glasgow. It is not apparent whether Beatrice Jane had been a midwife prior to her training, or whether after the death of her husband she felt the need to take up a profession. Most likely she was an uncertified ‘handy woman’ who assisted birthing in her local community. Until 1910 she would have been able to practice unregistered, but the law changed to forbid handy women to attend childbirth without the presence of a medical practitioner. Beatrice Jane is on the Scottish Midwives roll from 1917 until 1932, the year she retired.
Image: Ochil Hill Sanitorium, date unknown
After a medical, Longmire reported for duty as a new member of QAIMNS. In December 1916 she was sent to Military Isolation Hospital, Aldershot. She continued to work here until 24 May 1919. This hospital suited her past experience, and like Ochil Hill Sanatorium, was a hospital for those with infectious diseases. Aldershot was, and still is, a garrison town, the isolation hospital took the infectious cases from the main hospital. A report from 1945 describes the hospital, saying ‘a visit from any angle requires a climb; but one’s labour is more than rewarded by the wonderful view of far distant country in all directions. It has well been called ‘the Aldershot Riviera,’ and very closely resembles the outlook from many a hill station in India.’ A perfect spot for isolated cases then. Private Alfred Lister describes how his doctor’s orders (‘number nine’ in First World War slang) saved his life when he had measles. Measles was a disease that could spread quickly throughout the trenches, and one of many that would have been treated in the isolation hospital.
I first got the measles
And then a number nine
But if I hadn’t have
Had that number I
Couldn’t have done
Isolation was necessary for those who had contagious illnesses such as measles. The necessity of separation did not prevent the patients from feeling lonely and cut off from the outside world. Someone who signs their initials writes ‘A lonely spot is the isolation hospital Aldershot’. Gunner R. Williamson signs his entry from ‘The Outcast’, a clear indication of how being a patient at Aldershot made him feel ostracised. An illustration by a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF) most likely shows himself with a member of the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF). The caption reads ‘Not seen in Military Isolation Hospital Aldershot’, implying another patient was growing weary of his seclusion.
Longmire’s scrapbook is not just filled with boredom and despondency, her patients also fill the pages with appreciation for Longmire. Gunner Head writes ‘many thanks for all kindnesses’ underneath a photograph of himself. Photographs at this time were increasingly commonplace, but not inexpensive to produce. Many had professional photographs of themselves taken to give out to family and friends. Faded though this photo is, it does appear to be more of a casual image, perhaps taken between friends. Head giving it to Longmire to remember him by implies they may have been quite close. Through the scrapbook we can see Longmire continued to be popular at Aldershot, just as she had been at home in Pitlochry. Another quote states:
For your golden
Chain of friendship
Please consider me a link
Others used the scrapbooks to not just offer friendship but to write Longmire small lines of flirtation. One of her patients, Penny, inscribes
‘If I were in the market
I would certainly bid for you’
Being a nurse in the First World War meant you were liable to be admired for more than just your nursing ability. Men who were hospitalised from the front line most likely hadn’t seen women in a long time. Then suddenly they would spend days, weeks and months in the presences of nurses. The isolation of Aldershot, and the boredom the patients appear to have felt may have also been a contributory factor. Certainly love, or lust, seems to have been on the mind of a few patients who wrote in the scrapbook. B. Green from the 1st South African Infantry writes:
‘Tis sweet to court
Yet oh,’ how bitten!
To court a girl
And then not – get her’
It is unclear whether he was thinking of Longmire, or another woman.
Treating other nationalities
The patients recorded in Longmire’s scrapbook, like the South African B. Green, are an insight as to how widespread the First World War was. At this time Britain still had an enormous empire and commonwealth, and drew troops from almost every country. Longmire treated soldiers who had come to fight from Canada. One of them inscribed:
Violets may fade
Roses may die
Friends may forget
You but never will I
Touchingly, there are two New Zealanders named Ogle in her book. It is unclear how they are related – or even if they are at all. Both of them sign they are from the New Zealand Medical Corps, so perhaps they are not patients in the hospital, but working there. This would account for how two relations ended up in the same hospital, they had been shipped across the world to work together. Writing in the scrapbook within a couple of days of each other, they both leave beautifully poignant poetry for Longmire on the beauty of life and the unquestioning nature of death.
Incidents in the life of the South African Tommy, by H. H. Framzoen
1. Enlistment recruits wanted from overseas
2. The transport from South Africa
3. Sweating soldier takes part in a pack drill
4. Measles and malaria patient is delirious and everything swims around him
5. German outside a dugout shouts Kamerad Kamerad
6. Grand Finale 1922 AngloAfrican Intente Cordiale soldier and woman together
After the war
Where ever you may wander
High or low
Be true to your country
Where ever you go
The war ended on 11 November 1918. For Longmire this was not the end of her nursing duty, her patients continued to be sick. She remained at Aldershot until the 6th May 1919 when she wrote to Matron requesting to resign. Her subsequent reports suggest she was a very good and capable nurse who had worked as an assistant nurse for two years and 136 days, and that she had shown great application to her work.
Longmire was married on 28 October 1919 to James Duncan Campbell. On the marriage certificate he is recorded as a student of science. During the war he was a member of the Army Service Corps, who supplied food, equipment and ammunition from Britain to the soldiers on the front line. It is possible they knew each other before the war, as a ‘P. Campbell’, who may have been related to James, signed her scrapbook in 1912. In her scrapbook there is a beautifully written quote signed by James D Campbell, her future husband, on 18 June 1916. It seems to summarise what he expects of a wife.
At the time of the marriage Longmire’s mother, Beatrice Jane, was a sick nurse at Ruckhills Hospital, Glasgow. The marriage was witnessed by Longmire’s brother William.
Hopefully went better than the gloomy prediction of marriage on the last pages of Longmire’s book which states:
When the honeymoon is over,
And they no more live in clover,
He exclaims, (unfeeling rover)
"That’s a nice sigh, dear!"
The Campbells had their first child, James Robert Duncan Campbell, in 1925, and three years later welcomed a daughter, Beatrice Ross Campbell. When Duncan was born his parents were living in the schoolhouse in Mid Calder. His father was the headmaster. Duncan remained at his father’s school until he was ten and then he moved to school in Edinburgh. During the Second World War Duncan was a motorcycle messenger making deliveries to various local organisations. In the early 1940s he started training as an RAF pilot. He later married and had three children, Longmire’s grandchildren.
Campbell, nee Longmire, died aged 83 in 1976 and James, her husband aged 86 in 1981.
Baptism record - familysearch.org
RCN Archive C446 – Anecdotes of Mary Rush regarding FMVBB
RCN Archive C446 – Newspaper cuttings regarding research into trench fever at Hampstead War Hospital
Cushing, R. W., A Survey of the Activities of the Military Isolation Hospital, Aldershot, 1939–1945, BMJ Publishing Group Limited, 1945.