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A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime [Hardcover]

Mary Morris , Carol Acton
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Jun 2014

Mary Mulry was eighteen years old when she arrived in London from Ireland to begin training as a nurse. The year was 1939. She had hoped for an adventure and a new start; she could not have predicted what the next seven years would bring.

In this extraordinary diary Mary recorded in intimate detail her experiences as a nurse on the Home Front and later working on the frontline in Europe. In London, she nursed critically ill children during bombing raids and narrowly escaped with her life in one the worst nights of the Blitz. In Normandy, arriving on the heels of the D-Day invasion, she tended to Allied soldiers and German prisoners of war. In war-torn Belgium, she witnessed harrowing casualties from the Battle of Arnhem.

Yet romance, glamour and adventure were never far away for Mary, even if her relationships often had to be cut short. 'I always seem to be saying good-bye to men whom I might have loved had there been enough time,' she writes.

Nurses were not allowed to keep diaries on active service, but Mary - fortunately for us - was not one for following rules. Her rebellious spirit, sharp wit and irrepressible personality shine through the pages of her 'very private diary', published now for the first time.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (12 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297871552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297871552
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Mary Morris's absorbing diary is a tonic to so many outsized histories of the second World War by those who had not been there. ....In pithy, occasionally sardonic entries, Morris builds a picture of the pity of war and, above all, the moral and material ruins of post-Hitler Germany, where she danced the nights away in Allied officers clubs but also got to know the stench of diphtheria ("so foul and sickly") and gangrene. The scenes of horror and distress she recorded are leavened by childhood reminiscences of the Connemara coast and the glories of whiskey fruit cake. (Ian Thomson THE IRISH TIMES 2014-07-26)

Keeping a diary during active service was forbidden, so this book offers a rare insight into the important roles of nurses, both on the Home Front and the frontline during the Second World War from their own viewpoint. (Verity Rogers WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE 2014-09-01)

Throughout it all, Mary's sense of humour and her high spirits rarely failed ... Mary is a talented writer and a humane observer of her remarkable experiences. Her diary is full of vivid, sometimes shocking vignettes ... [A] fascinating and deeply moving book (Jane Shilling DAILY MAIL)

A remarkable work ... [Mary] was a lucid observer of some of the most cataclysmic events in history (Ronan McGreevy IRISH TIMES)

Book Description

The newly discovered diary of a wartime nurse - a fascinating, dramatic and unique insight into the experiences of a young nurse in the Second World War.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE INSIGHTFUL DIARY OF A WARTIME NURSE! 12 Jun 2014
A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime by Mary Morris is an extraordinary eyewitness account of some of the most public events of the late twentieth century. Through her wartime daily entries, Mary brings the past with the immediacy of the present and enabled the present-day generation to relive the horrors of World War II.

Described by her daughter, Kathy Lowe, as a person with a rebellious streak, bloody-minded determination and great sense of humor in the Postscript of the book, it was Mary Morris’ desire to be a nurse which led her to Britain in August 1939 at the age of 18. She joined as a nurse probationer at Guy’s Hospital in London but within a week Britain was at war. Though it is not allowed for those on active duties to keep diaries, Mary kept one, and is being published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the start of the Battle of Normandy.

Mary’s diary begins on 31st May 1940 when her routine duty at Kent and Sussex hospital is disturbed by the arrival of casualties from Dunkirk. The diary will take the reader through the London Blitz, her journey to Normandy with the Army Nursing Corps in June 1944 and her wards of wounded in France and Belgium.

The contents of the book include:
1. ‘The real war started for me today’ Training at the Kent and Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells 31 May 1940– 26 October 1942
2. ‘What a night!’ Fever nursing, Brook Hospital, Woolwich 11 February 1943– 28 May 1944
3. ‘In the QAs at last’ Normandy and beyond 5 June 1944– 23 September 1944
4. ‘Rushed off our feet’ Belgium 24 September 1944– 8 May 1945
5. ‘We must get used to saying good-bye’ Aftermath 11 May 1945– 8 May 1946
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Exquisite Diary 17 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
How Mary found the time to write when she was so busy with her grossly injured patients and so many times being alone on a ward of over 30 patients, I do not know. Her dedication to nursing was second to none and her understanding of human behaviour is phenomenal. She has a quality gift of writing, even to her own private diary. It is hard to put this book down! Mary gives a bird's eye view of actions on the ground and the effects of overhead plane activity while she is working amongst bullets flying, bombs exploding, shrapnel whizzing around etc. She not only describes her work but her patients stories vividly. Her social life brings respite from the hard toil of war and she never seems to tire of nursing. Mary has a great sense of justice and tolerance. Her observation is acute of everything going on around her. If this book does not turn out to be a best-seller I will be wanting to know why. World war 2 is brought to life and this book will remain in my memory for a very long time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read 27 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This should be a must read book for all youngsters especially aspiring nurses.
Me? I am old enough to remember the real thing. So very true to life in the 1940s
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well I might be rather biased in my review because this wonderful lady was my aunt My dad Paddy was her brother. I would have to say that even though I didnt have the opportunity to have met her often or get to know her well this book seemed to bring her to life allowing me to dip into her past, to experience her life as a nurse during World War 2 and afterwards . Her vivid memories of visiting Caltra reawakened memories of my own hometown .
Reading this book I realise that even though she was a lady way before her time this book brings her to life to be remembered and enjoyed by future generations and rightly so . .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book It not only gave an insight into this lovely lady but also a look into the war which I had never found before in other books of this period or even in films. Would make a wonderful tv series. or film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, sad but also humerous! 5 Aug 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just an excellent account of her nursing days through training and during the 2nd World War. I started my training at a London Teaching in the 50's, the training had not changed too much even then, but it gave one the essentials of real nursing care! It was so moving, very sad in parts but a joy to read, her family must be very proud of her. Mary Morris has done an excellent job, so pleased her Diaries are in the Imperial War Museum.
Christine Joslin
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