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It's a Long Way to Tipperary: British and Irish Nurses in the Great War Paperback – 1 Jun 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Cualann Press (1 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954441656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954441654
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,392,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


While the fate of a generation of 'men who marched away' has been widely recorded, the lot of First World War nurses has not received similar attention. Yvonne McEwen's labour of love helps right this imbalance. Through personal stories the whole sorry but eventually uplifting tale comes to life, and the book itself becomes a tribute to those who served as nurses amid the blood and gore of the Western Front. The background is well described and the narrative takes the War year by year, encompassing politics and the military, chronicling the hope and despair through to the end. McEwen looks deep. Despite the women's sense of duty and round-the-clock work rate, much of it went unacknowledged. There were petty rules about fraternising with men and officers, sisters were not allowed 'out' singly, and there was a long-running dispute as to whether volunteers were proper nurses. The British Journal of Nursing appears to have been a constant enemy of VAD nurses, in a spiteful war-long campaign. There was no attempt to record their endeavour. Many were psychologically traumatised for life and no-one saw fit to record a Roll of Honour for the 378 nurses who lost their lives. By acting as emotional supports for long periods, the nurses themselves absorbed their patients' mental strain to their own detriment; now a known hazard of the medical profession. For most, their time on the Front was a harrowing, unthanked experience. Little is known of their contribution to medical innovations and all too often they were treated as mere orderlies. But their contribution was out of all proportion to their numbers. McEwen writes movingly, with keen intelligence and spot-on use of sources to remind us of the forgotten debt. There is particularly masterful use of anecdote too. If It's a Long Way to Tipperary was planned as a tribute, it works admirably. We will remember them. Neil Griffiths --Scottish Legion News

Yvonne's book is a triumph of research and most certainly neeeded to be written. Alan Domville --The Guardian (Warrington)


Often overlooked are the nurses of the Great War. Poignant testimonies of the nurses themselves bear witness to their extraordinary courage, sacrifice and hardship in this new appraisal of their work. Mass mobilisation of nurses by professional and voluntary nursing services led to considerable rivalry between different groups and working environments were very varied. Nurses were involved in the day-to-day harrowing duties of Casualty Clearings Stations, Stationary Hospitals, Hospital Barges and Trains. Many lost their lives or severely damaged their health. Some suffered war trauma or shell-shock, hitherto considered a combatants' disease. The exigencies of war led to nurses pioneering new care practices and inventing a variety of adjuncts that helped with diagnosis and treatment. While the main part of the "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" inevitably focuses on the Western Front, the nurses involvement on the Home Front is also considered as is their part in the preparation for Civil War in Ireland in 1914 and the subsequent Easter Rising of 1916. 'I am still living, sleeping, feeding and working under canvas ...a fellow nurse from the same hospital back home shares a bell tent with me and we sometimes wonder whether the next gust of wind will leave us homeless and roofless.

'The mere idea that men who have been badly injured should be subjected to unnecessary pain because the supply of the strongest anaesthetic has given out is heartbreaking.' 'My dear little resuscitated Suffolk boy got gas gangrene above the amputation and died this afternoon, and the other boy has had to have the other leg off now.' 'It was work that demanded endless patience, for results were slow and you could only go a step at a time and hope for the best.'

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4 customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

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12 December 2010
Format: Paperback
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23 October 2008
Format: Paperback
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12 December 2008
Format: Paperback
2 people found this helpful
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12 December 2008
Format: Paperback

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