Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source9
A letter from Margaret Greg, a British Red Cross nurse who served near the front line in France, 1915
(Cheshire and Chester Archives, DDX 511/18 vol.1)
  • This source describes one small slice of life for Margaret Greg, a British Red Cross nurse from Cheshire who served in France from 1915-17. It is part of a much larger volume of material contained in her personal scrapbook of cards, photographs, newspaper cuttings and other items.
  • When war broke out, the British Army's main system for looking after the wounded was based on the Royal Army Medical Corps. This unit continued to operate throughout the war. Their main job was at the front line as stretcher-bearers and giving first aid. Wounded were transported to field hospitals a few miles behind the front lines.
  • As the war progressed, the huge numbers of casualties completely overwhelmed the medical services. It was here that thousands of women played a vital role as nurses and ambulance drivers in and around the front line.
  • Many of the women belonged to the Red Cross. This organisation provided qualified nurses who worked with wounded soldiers as they came off the battlefield. Field hospitals could be just a few miles away from the most serious fighting.
  • Other female nurses belonged to Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs). Many of these were women from better off families who were able to give their time because they did not need to earn a living. The original aim of the VADs was to help care for wounded soldiers shipped back to Britain. However, the casualties were so great that many of the VADs were shipped out to France to help.
  • Another group of women who served with distinction were the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.
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