I love the simplicity of the story told about the nurse, her duties in France, the conditions in which she worked and how she felt. Finding her brother is the sort of coincidence that did happen. Brenda includes brief details of a Base Hospital, a Casualty Clearing Station and a Hospital Train. The illustrations really help to set the scene. I particularly liked the illustration of Poppy’s QAIMNS tippet hanging in the cupboard on the first page and are they badgers who are stretcher bearers?
Reading the book took me back to my own primary school days when our headmistress often read us stories about a resourceful rabbit, and to my earliest introduction to the history of the First World War. I vividly remember, as a very young child, looking at Grandfather’s black and white framed print of Fortunino Matania’s “Goodbye Old Man” and wondering what happened to the horse. To my mind, it is vital to educate young children about our history and to ensure individual stories are recorded. It is also good to find a book that describes the women of WW1 who contributed so much but who have been overlooked for so long. My family always commemorated the First World War but it was not until I began researching in 2012 for a series of commemorative exhibitions about the conflict, that I realised the full involvement of women.
A share of any profits from the sale of “Sister Poppy at the Front” will go to the East Anglian charity Break, which runs children’s homes and also provides breaks for children and young people with disabilities and their families.
Some time ago, I heard of an initiative in Australia whereby people sponsor small teddy bears dressed in WW1 military uniforms, which are sent to primary schools to help educate children about Australia’s involvement in the conflict. Brenda tells me that a Norwich firm of Independent Financial Advisers – Almary Green - who were the sponsors of the Poppy GoGoHare sculpture - have kindly purchased a copy of the book for every primary school in the county of Norfolk – a total of 355 books. Definitely an initiative to copy.
“Sister Poppy at the Front” £6.99, written and published by Brenda Gostling with illustrations by Mik Richardson. Further details from http://www.brendagostling.co.uk/
Note: The QARANC (as the QAIMNS has become) explain: “Brenda and Mik have amalgamated the uniforms of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and the Voluntary Aid Detachment to form the uniform as worn by Sister Poppy who nurses on a ward at No. 33 Casualty Clearing Station.”
Photos: Brenda and Mik with the book and a cuddly hare in a nurse's uniform made by Mik's wife to accompany Brenda and Mik on promotional visits.
Lucy London, 12th June 2018