Lorna’s habits and beliefs convey how these help to form her personal identity; what cultural beliefs and activities did she maintain as a WWII nurse? Although Lorna kept busy in the war, and she was constantly serving towards soldiers in the army who became injured, she did have a lot of fun too. With constant social occasions, nurses were in high demand.
In terms of recreation, the military held different associations and clubs. For instance, they were members of the Officers Club at Bovington Camp, where they used to go to play games and for all social occasions. At this club, she met a charming Canadian officer were a romance developed this, ‘seemed to wipe out all the hurt I had suffered and obliterated some of the horrors I’s seen.’ (20). Thus, this highlights how being at the club and through forming a romance with one of its members which emphasises how this helped her forget the causalities she had seen whilst being in a war environment.
Another example of recreation that the camp was involved with was the game of deck tennis while on a ship to Suaz; this was the only time they could get into something other than uniform. Boat ‘A’ was to be lowered and rowed out until further notice – ‘I looked over the ship, everyone leaning over the side like little insects. (29). When they returned to the side of the ship, rope ladders had been lowered: ‘I have never in my life gone through such an experience – ever.’ (29). While stopping at America, the troop visited the hanging gardens of great fame, and spent a pleasant afternoon at Beach Candy and enjoyed swimming. After this brief tour they returned to Suaz and Alexandria.
While situated in Cairo in 1942, Lorna describes the hectic social life she had: ‘Cairo was full of men and there was a shortage of women in proportion. She describes the party atmosphere of social gatherings in Cairo: ‘Shepherds for dinner was a must, but one had to watch the drinks. The first two would be fine and then the spirit deteriorated rapidly, and one’s head the next morning!’ (43). Thus, with the emphasis on partying and social gatherings, she also highlights how the R.A.F threw extravagant parties that the nurses were invited to: ‘we still had fun jokes about the long haired boys in the R.A.F. and what could they possibly do to save the country? Parties – endless partied.’ (3-4)
Thus, she was included in many grand parties, wore black lace, with an emerald necklace and bracelet, ‘Cinderella here I come.’ (49), which also highlights how fashion was one of the most important beliefs for nurses. This is also emphasised by their uniform, which was one of the main cultural habit/beliefs for the nurses; they had to look the part to perform their duty. They wore, ‘grey dresses with immaculate white aprons, belt, collar and cuffs, stiffly starched – scarlet capes made of very fine valour with the Queen Alexandra Silver cross*’ (2). The veils are what gave their uniforms the signature look, these were made of white fine cotton and were folded to form a ‘V’ at the back with embroidered cross in red. Visit the following website: https://www.qaranc.co.uk/QAIMNS-Reserve-Uniform-World-War-One.php. To find out more about the Queen Alexandra’s Military nursing uniform.
Whilst in Cairo, she describes the adventures she gets up to in the desert. For instance, she describes riding: ‘We had several hair raising rides – most exhilarating over the desert but it never occurred to us that we could get lost.’ (64). However, one day riding she had a fright when her mare stumbled and threw her. She felt as though she had a lucky escape, as if she had fell deeper into the desert sand, her friend, Kitty, may not have seen or rescued her from the quicksand. Thus, while on a ship in Alexandria, Egypt, she says that ‘For recreation we did have the sea and made the most of that (59).’
As news came for the troop to leave the desert behind, they had to a hotel in Tripoli: ‘We had guests and quite a bit of fun.’ (68). After an hour’s dancing with the other guests, they were then shown to their beautiful shaded bedrooms with mosquito nets down. At 7pm, the evening continued which was full of fun, music and laughter. This day off provided insight into ‘how the other half lived.’ (69). Thus, she had met a boyfriend in Sabratha named Henry, they would go to the beach, and swim and cook supper under the stars. They both needed each other desperately during these trying times, for their stolen moments, even if they both knew their romance was not destined to last forever. Hallett observes that amongst the horrors of war, nurses tend to romanticise their journey. This was what inspired some volunteer nurses to join the military: ‘The opportunity to cross the Atlantic and travel to the Old World of which they had heard so much fired the imaginations of many American women. Some freely admitted to having been driven by highly romantic fantasies.’ (Hallett, 176, 2016). This also conveys how the prospects of travelling around the world, led them to romanticise their experience, which also reflects their love for their profession.
Whilst arriving in Genoa, she describes the amenities of their beautiful villa, and their new hospital grounds: ‘The grounds were immense, with tennis courts and a swimming pool.’ (108). There were flower beds with gardeners working on them – ‘When we admitted some patients it would be wonderful for them.’ While she enjoys shopping in Genoa, she wonders, ‘is this the same war?’ (108). It was these little luxuries and recreational activities that make her forget that she is actually in the midst of a war. Through looking at Lorna’s habits and beliefs, I think that they help her sanity and help her realise who she is. She is more than just a nurse serving for her country, she realises that she is a human with cultural interests, and that these little distractions help her to have a break from her duty here and there.
‘QAIMNS Uniform.’ QARANC.co.uk. Available at: https://www.qaranc.co.uk/QAIMNS-Reserve-Uniform-World-War-One.php [Accessed 20/05/2020].
Hallett, E. Christine. Nurse Writers of the Great War. Manchester University Press, 2016.
Kite, L.E ‘Mentioned in Despatches; WWII as Seen Through the Eyes of a Nurse.’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, TS pp 146).
(1). ‘RAF station dance, Bradwell Bay 1944.’ www.pinterest.co.uk. Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/363102788678664249/ [Accessed 21/05/20].
(2). ‘Nurses uniforms.’ www.pinterest.co.uk. Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/shelley4051/nurses-uniforms/ [Accessed 21/05/20].
(3). ‘Today in World War II History – Jan 23, 2943. Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/435934438925266149/ [Accessed 21/05/20].