Following on from my report about discovering a 1914 copy of an RN Sick Berth Attendant Manual last week in the recycle shop at our local recycling centre, I searched the Internet for ' HMHS China' which was written in ink on the front cover and found some photos on the QARNNS website. I then made some enquiries with the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service and received the following wonderful reply from Jean Bancroft, who is a volunteer with the Service.
"The photos (of HMHS China) can be seen on the QARNNS Association website www.qarnns.co.uk/qarnns-association.asp You will see a list of headings on the right – look for ‘Archive’ – click on that and then look for the heading WW1. You will then see some of the hospital ships in which QARNNS Sisters served (unfortunately we don’t have photos of them all) including photographs of Sisters in HMHS Garth Castle and HMHS Plassy as well as HMHS China.
The Sisters in hospital ships certainly faced danger; three were in HMHS Rohilla when she broke up and sank, with loss of life, in heavy seas near Whitby in October 1914. The Sisters were congratulated by the Admiralty for their ‘admirable conduct’ and were awarded the Royal Red Cross. Also, four Sisters were in HMHS REWA when she was torpedoed and sunk in 1917.
If you would like to see an early film clip of King George V meeting QARNNS Sisters on HMHS Plassy in the North Sea in June 1917, the website to find it is www.criticalpast.com In the search box enter HMHS Plassig (Plassig being an original error on the clip, as is calling the ship ’Plassey’ instead of ‘Plassy’). The clip lasts for 1 minute 51 seconds and is entitled ‘King George V inspects nurses, staff and officers on the hospital ship Plassey’.
Jean also checked their Archives to look for the name B. Bracewell which is written on the book I found, but could find no trace. She thinks he would have been a Sick Berth Attendant. Jean very kindly scanned and attached a photo of RN Sick Berth Attendants on another Hospital Ship - HMHS Garth Castle - which I though I would share with you. I know they aren't 'inspirational women' ...
Thank you very much indeed Jean.