With the fighting and the bombing of the war years, nurses and first aid workers were very much in demand, both in this country and overseas. There were plenty of nurses in 1939 because this was one of the few professions open to women, but still more were needed. Trainees were rushed through short courses before going to work in the hospitals or being sent to field hospitals overseas. Some worked on the front lines, others brought injured soldiers home in air ambulances. Nursing stations were set up in London's underground system, where thousands of people sheltered from the bombing raids every night.

On the streets, St. John's Ambulance members gave first aid to bomb victims, some of whom were very badly wounded. Ambulances and hospital staff were all overworked. Sometimes people with limited knowledge were called upon to tend to patients who had lost limbs, or who were trapped under rubble from fallen buildings.

Nurses leave their bedside duties to prepare the ground for the growing of fresh vegetables for use in the hospital, helped by recovering patients.
Photo copyright IWM neg HU63750
The Red Cross and Order of St. John were also responsible for sending aid parcels to prisoners of war held in prison camps abroad.
In the field hospitals overseas, medical staff worked long hours treating soldiers straight from the battlefield. Conditions were hard and many patients died from their wounds, but nurses did all they could to make them as comfortable as possible. In spite of difficult working conditions and long hours, the nurses always tried to smile and joke with their patients to keep their spirits up. Many wounded men were grateful for their cheerfulness and care.
Sylvia was a student nurse when war broke out. Click one of the links right to find out more about her experiences. Quicktime movie (160x120 pixels,1.4mb)
Quicktime movie (240x180 pixels, 2.3mb)