Nursing near the frontlines of Northern France during the First World War, Sister Edith Appleton also kept an emotive and fascinating daily journal. Published in 2012, Appleton’s diary has provided a comprehensive record of the experiences of nurses serving at the Western Front.
Now, almost 100 years after her service and 56 years after her death, Edith’s great nephew, Dick Robinson, will be telling her story at the Royal College of Nursing on Thursday 6 November, 17:30-19:00, where copies of her diary will be on sale.
Serving in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve, Appleton would write and draw in her diary during her off-duty hours, detailing the horrors that came with serving on the frontlines. During this time, she was decorated with the Military OBE, the Royal Red Cross and the Belgian Queen Elisabeth medal.
Her illustrious nursing career began at London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1900 and she become a health visitor in 1911. With the First World War looming, she joined the Civil Hospital Reserve, which had been set up a few years earlier by the War Office to provide a list of those willing to serve should war occur. She joined for duty at Fort Pitt, Chatham on 16 September 1914 and transferred to the Queen Alexandra’s Reserve.
With some of the greatest battles ever witnessed in human history, it is sometimes easy to forget about the people that didn’t fight in the First World War, but were crucial to the war effort nonetheless. Appleton’s diary provides a fascinating insight into medical care and the challenges that nurses faced on the frontlines. This is truly one of the most interesting talks to have emerged during this important year marking the centenary of the Great War.