REPORT ON DECORATIONS
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
1. MENTIONS IN DESPATCHES
The total number of Mentions in Despatches of Members of the Nursing Staff during the War is 1755.
The first woman in France brought forward to be mentioned was the Matron-in-Chief, B.E.F., whose name was in Sir John French’s Despatch of October 1914.
Twenty-four names of Members of the Nursing Service were mentioned in Sir John French’s Despatch of February, 1915, and in each subsequent Despatch a number of names of Nursing Staff have been included.
2. HONOURS LISTS
The first Honours Gazette of this War to include the names of Members of the Nursing Service was the King’s Birthday Gazette of June, 1915, which contained 37 awards of the Royal Red Cross.
In November, 1915, an amendment to the Royal Red Cross Warrant was published, whereby this decoration was divided into 2 classes, recipients to the 1st class being entitled to the letters ‘R.R.C.’ and those of the 2nd class to ‘A.R.R.C.’ after their names.
After the King’s visit to the Front in the summer of 1916, he expressed a wish that more names of Nurses in France should be submitted for decoration. Accordingly, a special supplementary list of recommendations was forwarded, and this was included in the New Year’s Honours, 1917.Altogether a total of
264 R.R.C.’s and
have been awarded to the Nursing Staff in the B.E.F.
In Jan., 1918, the Matron-in-Chief, B.E.F. was awarded a Bar to her R.R.C., and in June 1918, the same distinction was awarded to Sister K. Luard, R.R.C., A.N.S.R. Five more Bars were awarded in the New Year’s Honours of 1919, and 12 more in the Birthday Honours. Previous to this War no Bar had been given to this decoration.
3. METHOD OF SUBMITTING LISTS
On receiving the official intimation that names would shortly be required for an approaching Honours List, a circular was sent out by D.M.S., L. of C. to all Administrative Medical Officers of areas asking them to submit names of Members of the Nursing Staff, whom they wished to bring forward as deserving of special recognition. At the same time detailed instructions were issued from this Office as to the correct method of submitting names, by categories, etc.
All recommendations, when received, were passed to me by D.M.S., L. of C., tabulated according to Corps, Rank, etc., and notes made against each name as to any previous awards or recommendations, record of service etc. As no limit as to number was ever given, when calling for names, but the names of all considered deserving were asked for, the work of selection was considerable. Although a definite allotment was not always given, the endeavour was made in submitting recommendations, to take as a basis 1% of R.R.C. and 4% of A.R.R.C. of total number serving in France. In addition to the proportion of 1st and 2nd Class R.R.C.’s that had to be maintained, there was also the proportion of the different Corps, according to their numbers. For instance, if there were 300 A.A.N.S., 600 C.A.M.C. and 1800 British serving at that time, the recommendations would be, as far as possible, in the proportion of 1 to 2 to 6. Nevertheless, it was recognised that the first object of an Honours List is the acknowledgement of merit without limitations as to rank or corps, so that any proportion was subject to modification.
Recommendations for the A.R.R.C. for V.A.D. Members were first included for the Gazette of January, 1918, and in accordance with the D.G.M.S.’s instructions, no members were considered eligible unless they had served 2 years consecutively in France.
For the King’s Birthday Honours List of June, 1918, the names of Members of the Nursing Service were called for on a new schedule – Army Form 0137/4895. This form required many particulars in connection with previous records of service. As no particulars of any description are furnished with reinforcements arriving in the country and all essential particulars required were obtained from the members themselves on disembarkation, it could not be guaranteed that they would be absolutely correct. Further, such a small space was allotted for the ‘services for which recommended’ that it was felt justice could not be rendered to the many conspicuous acts of courage and devotion to duty on the part of Members of the Nursing Staff. These difficulties were pointed out when submitting recommendations for the first time on this form.
4. MILITARY MEDAL
Up to June, 1916, there was only one decoration – the R.R.C. – for which Nurses were eligible, but at that time a supplementary warrant was published, providing for the award of the Military Medal to women ‘who have shown bravery and devotion under fire.’ The first awards to members of the Nursing Service were made in September, 1916, to 5 Nurses who were on duty during the bombardment of No 33, Casualty Clearing Station.
The total number of Military Medals awarded to the Nursing Service in France is 87**.
From time to time, it has been suggested in the press that the Military Cross should be awarded to Members of the Nursing Service in place of the Military Medal, as they rank as Officers, but the Nursing Service, as a whole, have considered it a great honour to be given a medal which is awarded solely for bravery in the Field.
[** This figure is the total number awarded to all nursing staff, including nurses employed under the Joint War Committee (British Red Cross Society and St. John Ambulance Brigade) both trained and untrained. The total number awarded to members of QAIMNS and the Territorial Force Nursing Service was fifty-five.]
5. ALBERT MEDAL
On 20.2.19. intimation was received that the Albert Medal had been awarded to 3 Members of the Nursing Service – 2 T.F.N.S. and 1 B.R.C.S. – ‘in recognition of their gallant conduct on the occasion of a fire at No 36, C.C.S. Rousbrugge, on 1.10.18.’ Later the award of a 4th Albert Medal to a V.A.D. Member attached to the BRCS was announced for her conduct on the same occasion.
It is interesting to note that a previous recommendation for the award of the Albert Medal to a member of the C.A.M.C. for saving the life of a patient who had become temporarily insane, had not been approved, this lady receiving the R.R.C. 2nd Class.
6. MEDAL OF THE VICTORIAN ORDER
In January, 1916, Sister E. K. Ward, Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. and Nursing Sister V. Tremaine, C.A.M.C. were presented with the Medal of the Victorian Order, in recognition of their services to His Majesty the King, whom they nursed after his accident at the Front, accompanying him to England on his return journey by No.14 Ambulance Train, and Hospital Ship ‘Anglia’.
7. ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
In June, 1917, the new ‘Order of the British Empire’ was instituted “to be conferred for services rendered to the Empire, whether at home or abroad.” It consists of 5 Classes for all of which women are eligible:
(1) Dames Grand Cross - G.B.E.
(2) Dames Commander - D.B.E.
(3) Commanders - C.B.E.
(4) Officers - O.B.E.
(5) Members - M.B.E.
The first award of this Order to be made in France was that of the 1st Class a “Dame Grand Cross” which was conferred upon the Matron-in-Chief, British Expeditionary Force in October 1918, to date from June 1918.
Recommendations for several members of the Nursing Service in France and Lady Workers attached were put forward in October 1918, and the following were included in the New Year’s Honours, 1919.
The following were submitted in the Peace Despatch:-
M.B.E. 5 (British)
M.B.E. 9 (Americans)
and of these 6 O.B.E.’s and 4 M.B.E.’s have already been gazetted in the Birthday Honours. In addition, recommendations have been forwarded for the following awards to Allied civilian ladies:
M.B.E. 5 (British)
M.B.E. 4 (French)
M.B.E. 3 (Belgian)
Up to the date of this Report, no intimation has been received as to whether these have been awarded or otherwise.
8. FOREIGN DECORATIONS
The assistance rendered by the British to French civilians at Hasebrouck [sic] in 1916 was recognised by the award, in March 1917 or the “Medaille d’honneur des Epidemies” to Acting Sister A. McDonald Wright QAIMNSR by the French Minister of War. Miss Wright had been detailed to act as Theatre Sister at the Hospice, where Captain Saint was surgeon, and here roughly 7000 patients, mainly refugees, passed through their hands.
In December 1918, D.G.M.S. notified me that 4 Medailles des Epidemies (en vermeil) and 10 Medailles des Epidemies (en argent) had been placed at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief, for award to Nursing Services in France. Recommendations for these were forwarded immediately, the majority of those forwarded being those of Sisters who had worked in the Army Areas, at Arras, Douai, and Cambrai, during the advance in the autumn of 1918, when hundreds of destitute French and Belgian civilians had been cared for by our Nurses. In due course the award of these 14 Medailles des Epidemies was announced.
In the supplement to the London Gazette of July 14, 1919, the award of two more Medailles des Epidemies en vermeil, and 6 more Medailles des Epidemies en bronze was announced, for services rendered to the French in Front areas.
In August 1918, A/Matron H. Hartigan R.R.C., QAIMNS, received the “Medaille de la Reine Elizabeth” for her services to the Belgians in 1915 when she was the Matron of the Infectious Hospital at Malassises, opened for the benefit of the civilian population in the Ypres and Poperinghe districts, where she had done very valuable work under difficulties. Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland, was also awarded this decoration in recognition of the work done at her Hospital (No.9 B.R.C.S.).
These two ladies were personally decorated by Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians.
Note In May 1919, D.G.M.S. requested me to forward the names of 25 ladies recommended for French honours, and 25 for Belgian honours. Accordingly 50 names were selected our of a large number who have worked for our Allies, and recommendations forwarded, but so far no intimation has been received that these decorations have been awarded.
9. AWARDS TO ALLIES
(a) American Members of the Nursing Staffs of the Harvard and Chicago Units who were attached to the R.A.M.C. and nursed the British, have received the following decorations:
(Harvard) R.R.C. 5
(Chicago) R.R.C. 1
In March 1918, after the arrival of U.S.A. Troops, a slight difficulty arose owing to the decision of the U.S. Government that British decorations could only be conferred on American subjects in recognition of some personal exhibition of valour in the Field, but D.G.M.S. stated that members of the Harvard Unit should be considered as R.A.M.C. personnel.
In May 1918, the Military Medal was awarded to 2 Nurses of the U.S.A.N.C. – Miss E. J. Parmalee and Miss B. Macdonald – for bravery under fire. The latter lady, who lost an eye as the result of a wound, but continued serving in France, has since received the R.R.C. 2nd Class and the American Distinguished Service Cross.
In June 1918, 3 members of the U.S.A.N.C. received the R.R.C. 2nd Class, but the recommendations put forward for the Gazette of January 1919, were withheld on account of the ruling regarding American subjects and British decorations. However, in December 1918, correspondence was received from the Military Secretary, War Office, saying that intimation has now been received that the restriction does not apply to American ladies engaged on Nursing services, and requesting that names should be put forward. A list was then submitted containing the following recommendations:-
and in addition recommendations for the award of the M.B.E. to 9 civilian ladies (Dietitians and Secretaries) attached to American units with the B.E.F.
In August, 1917, a request was received from D.G.M.S. for names of French ladies to be submitted for the R.R.C. 1st and 2nd Class, and a list of 9 names was forwarded of nuns and French ladies who had rendered valuable assistance to our wounded behind the lines. In October 1917, intimation was received that 4 of these (nuns at Arras) had been awarded the R.R.C. and arrangements were made for the presentation of the Medals.
In August 1918, a further request was received for 4 names of French ladies for the R.R.C. 2nd Class, and these were submitted, but nothing further was heard.
In January 1919, names of Allied Civilians recommended for the Order of the British Empire were called for, and recommendations were forwarded as follows:
Included in these was the name of Madame Dumont, whose work at Abbeville for the British soldiers has been outstanding throughout the War. Up to the present no notification regarding these awards has been received.
In August 1917, D.G.M.S. forwarded a copy of recommendations he had sent for the award of the R.R.C. to 6 Belgian ladies – H.M. the Queen of the Belgians, and 5 ladies who had nursed British soldiers at Poperinghe. No official intimation has been received regarding these decorations.
When names were called for in January 1919 for the Order of the British Empire, those of these 5 Belgian ladies were again submitted, but no notification has yet been received of any award.
10. MENTIONS IN ORDERS
(a) After the H.S. Anglia was torpedoed, the following Army Order was published;
“The Army Council place on record in Army Orders their appreciation of the presence of mind and devotion to duty shown by the R.A.M.C. personnel on the occasion of the sinking of the H.S. “Anglia” which struck a mine on November 17th 1915. Through the courage and presence of mind of the Matron, Mrs Mitchell and the devotion of the Nursing Sisters, most of the cot cases were evacuated from the ship”. For their conduct on this occasion these ladies afterwards received the R.R.C.
(b) On the night of 22nd-23rd January 1916, a serious fire occurred at No.14 Stationary Hospital, part of the Hospital being burnt down. For their coolness and courage on this occasion the A/Matron, Miss M. B. Williams Q.A.I.M.N.S. and the Assistant Matron Miss J. Congleton R.R.C. were mentioned in Routine Orders by General Sir Frederic Clayton I.G.C.
(c) In February 1917, at the request of G.H.Q., two Sisters, Sister M. Lillie T.F.N.S. and A/Sister N. Galvin C.H.R. were detailed to nurse Major General Bagnani, Chief of the Italian Mission who subsequently died at Cassel. A grateful acknowledgement of the services rendered by these ladies was received by Sir Douglas Haig from the Italian Chief of Staff, and this was communicated to the two Sisters.
(d) When Matron M. Harvey R.R.C., T.F.N.S., Matron of the Portuguese General Hospital, was invalided to the United Kingdom in August 1918, her name was mentioned in Portuguese Corps Orders, as follows:-
“Miss Mary Ann Harvey R.R.C. Chief Nurse of Base Hospital No.1, for her intelligent directing in the services of Nursing and for the special care and kindness shown to the Portuguese soldiers in France”. Again in January 1919, when the Hospital was about to be demobilised, a special order was published by the Portuguese Commander-in-Chief, thanking all the T.F.N.S. sisters who “had lent their valuable help to No.1 Portuguese Base Hospital, with special allusion to Matron J. E. Hills, R.R.C. who had acted as Matron with noteworthy competence and distinction”.
Every since the early days of the War, nurses who have been awarded the R.R.C. have received the honour of being personally decorated by His Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace, arrangements having been made as far as possible for their attendance at an Investiture whilst on leave. Both the King and Queen have always shown the greatest interest in the awards to the Nursing Service, whilst Her Majesty Queen Alexandra has made a point of receiving the Nurses after each Investiture at Marlborough House, where she has handed to each a book and signed address as a personal gift. It was significant of her personal interest in her Nursing Service that once, when away from Marlborough House, she left instructions that books should be forwarded to those members of the Nursing Service who had attended an Investiture during her absence, and who had not had the honour of being received by her at Marlborough House.
Those Sisters to whom the Military Medal has been awarded have sometimes received their decoration “On the Field”, as in the case of the Sisters at No.10 Stationary Hospital who received their decoration from the hands of General Plumer and were congratulated by him on their bravery during the bad air raid on their Hospital, when part of it was destroyed by a bomb.
E. M. McCarthy
Matron-in-Chief, British Troops in France and Flanders