Service Scrapbooks: Nursing, Storytelling and the First World War at the Royal College of Nursing

23 May 2017 | Liz Robertson

Nursing is an art and a science, and understanding patient stories is central to the profession. But what of the stories of nurses themselves? The First World War placed many ordinary women into extraordinary circumstances, on the front line and at home. These stories resonate with people today; many people’s family histories include First World War nurses. Highlighting personal stories from the RCN Archive will allow more people to delve into these women’s lives and acknowledge the extraordinary commitment of the nursing profession past and present.

Pat Moody

The RCN’s new HLF-funded project focuses on First World War stories, introducing audiences to nine remarkable women who served as nurses during the First World War. Volunteers (practicing and retired nurses) are conserving and digitising these diaries and scrapbooks to create a unique online resource connecting First World War nursing to new stories of defense nurses in Iraq and Afghanistan. From June 2017, registered nurse, published poet and performer Molly Case will act as a writer in residence in the RCN Library & Heritage Centre. Every Wednesday from June to October, visitors will be able to engage with the collections through drop-in creative conversations, Twitter and Instagram.

Hear some of these moving stories for the first time at a public event launching the project: ‘Emails from the Edge: Letters Home from War’ on Wednesday 5 July. Readings will combine live letters from the First World War scrapbooks with modern ‘blueys’ written by nurses serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Find out more and book free tickets at: