These records contain references to just over 13,000 military nurses who served between around 1856 and 1994.

This collection includes the following sets of records:

Army Nursing Service

A small but interesting set of 238 nurses of often quite genteel origin, born in the 19th century (between 1823 and 1875), mostly extracted from The National Archives' record series WO25 piece 3955. These records also contain supplementary information from additional sources, such as army lists and the London Gazette.

Entries usually give date of birth and a combination of one or more of: father's occupation, training hospital, date of appointment to the Army Nursing Service (between 1869 and 1891), and notes on retirement or resignation from the service.

Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service

Entries for 783 nurses, born between 1859 and 1904, were taken from The National Archives' record series WO25 piece 3956. Entries usually give date of birth, father's occupation, place of education, training hospital trained, training dates, date of appointment to QAIMNS (between 1902 and 1926) and rank at appointment, while some also give dates of promotion, whether retired or resigned, and sundry other notes.

Royal Hospital Chelsea Nurses

Details of 165 largely untrained nurses, born between 1839 and 1876, who served at the hospital for pensioned soldiers between 1856 and 1910. The original record can be found at The National Archives' record series WO23 piece 181 and appears to have been created for pension purposes.

These give variously: year of birth, date of appointment, dates of proficiency and whether died, dismissed, resigned or retired. Some of those dismissed were discharged from the hospital for such irregularities as drunkenness, indiscipline, neglect of duty and unspecified misconduct.
Royal Red Cross Register
The Royal Red Cross (RRC) was first awarded in 1883 'for special exertions in providing for the nursing, or for attending to, sick and wounded soldiers and sailors'. So special was the award, that by the outbreak of WWI only 246 women had been considered worthy of the honour during the preceding 31 years. With new classes of medal introduced, this rose to 6,741 by 1922. Fewer were awarded during WWII and peacetime and men became eligible for the first time in 1976. The RRC awards are entered in three ledgers, the originals of which are held at The National Archives in class WO145. In total, the RRC Register documents more than 9,500 awards to a total of 8,969 individuals over a period of more than 110 years.

Scottish Women's Hospital

Contains references to 1,575 women (and men) who were stationed in continental Europe during WWI. Many were in France or Corsica; however, a significant number were based in Serbia, from which some accompanied the Serb government, army and civilian refugees on their long retreat across the snow-covered Albanian mountains to evacuation to Corfu.

The entries give title, position, station, dates of service and occasionally extra notes. The information is taken from a source at London's Imperial war Museum.

WWII Military Nurses

This small collection of records contains details of 1,244 nurses who served in France with either Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, or Queen Alexandra's Reserve, or the Territorial Army Nursing Service, during WWII.

Details recorded include title, rank, any promotions, date of embarkation to France, unit at which served and sundry notes. The information is taken from The National Archives' record series WO177, pieces 14, 1157 and 1199.

The women in all these units, from the orderlies to the fully qualified doctors, must have been extraordinarily strong characters. For those whose interest in the subject has been piqued, we recommend that you search on the internet for biographies of such women as Katherine Harley (killed by a shell in 1917 in what is today Bitola in Macedonia), the feminist Cicely Hamilton, Evelina Haverfield (died in 1920 in Serbia) and Dr Elsie Inglis.

Like many record sets, this is intended as a prompt to further research. Those family historians fortunate enough to have one of these nurses in their family tree will be able to make continued enquiries and discover more about their relative using the references to the original materials held at The National Archives in Kew, Greater London.

Data © Sue Light