Many nurses were as brave and dedicated as the soldiers who they nursed.
Beatrice Watkin, or Beatie as she was known, served as a nurse during the Great War, working at Stoke on Trent Military Hospital before being sent to France in early 1918. She was mentioned in dispatches for her bravery, a very prestigious event at the time. This was a matter of note, as shown by a letter from the London Court photographic studio Langfier Ltd. who wished to take her portrait for inclusion in illustrated magazines and periodicals. Beatie married a medical orderly in France and became Beatie Smith. Letters sent to Beatie from the soldiers and officers she nursed are very poignant. Beatie continued working in the Red Cross in Stowmarket after the war, and was awarded the Red Cross Long Service Award. Loaned by Robin Stevenson.
Another nurse, Mary Payne of Billesdon was one of eight children of the village blacksmith. After working as a servant at the White Hall she became a nurse and tended hundreds of injured troops during the Great War. The nurse’s uniform on display includes the original caps and apron worn by Mary during the war (the dress is a replica). For her services to the war effort, Mary was awarded the Women’s Voluntary Service Medal.
Mary’s fiancée, John O’Connor served with the Royal Engineers. He survived the war, but died shortly afterwards. Mary remained a spinster, and continued to work with the Red Cross in Leicester. John’s family gave her the medal and regimental badges in this display. Loaned by Rhena Sturgess.