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Such gentle courage
on 4 February 2010
Sisters in Arms tells the story of the Queen Alexandra Nursing Corp during WW2. An incredible history of courage, duty, discipline and the great British spirit that was so evident during the war years. The British army nurses, many of them very young women who had hardly ventured out of their own back yard, bravely fulfilled their duty to the wounded and dying soldiers in extreme, often terrifying conditions. The book, through meticulous research and many, original diary entries, reveals the daily trials and tribulations of wartime nursing:
The inconvenience of maintaining a presentable, clean and starched uniform while living under canvas, in the desert, with a ration of 1 pint of water a day.
The desperate attempts to save lives of dying and traumatised young soldiers, many of whom were no more than boys, when equipment was scarce, conditions less than sterile and the number of the dying and wounded far outnumbered the hours and personnel able to care for them.
The horrors of capture, rape and murder by the Japanese.
The terror of the sinking hospital ships.
But despite these dreadful conditions there was an amazing camaraderie, a joy found in simple pleasures - cups of tea feature frequently - and humour (sometimes politically incorrect) - when a friend, getting up from his seat in a bar, falls over because he's forgotten he only has one leg.
Despite exhausting and terrifying conditions, the QAs maintain an incredibly positive attitude...."It's amazing how you can do with nothing, and such a boon when travelling." wrote one young nurse having suffered both shipwreck and capture by the Japanese.
In one unforgettable moment in the book, after a particularly brutal and horrific capture of a British Hospital in Hong Kong, a Japanese Commanding Officer asks of Sister Mary Curie: "Do English women never cry?" To which Sister Curie replied; "Not when they have work to do."
The stiff-upper-lip attitude of the war generation! We wouldn't be here without it!
What incredible women! A fabulous history. An essential read.