Kate Evelyn Luard (1872-1962)

Well, it didn’t take long to unmask our nursing sister, once I’d the benefit of that attribution. She was indeed a Miss Luard, but Kate Evelyn Luard, rather than Kathleen, and it would seem, known to her friends and family by her middle name, Evelyn.

The daughter of the Vicar of Aveley, a man rejoicing in the name Bixby Garnham Luard and of Clara Isabella Sandford Bramston, she had brothers who achieved high rank in the army, one of whom, Frank William Luard, a Colonel in the Royal Marines, was killed at Gallipoli on 13 July 1915 six weeks after her last entry in the ‘Diary’.

She subsequently released a book under her own name, called ‘Unknown Warriors’, a new edition of which has been produced by her family and will be published in August 2014.

Update to this post on 6 August 2014
I duly pre-ordered the book, and it arrived today, just in time to distract me from the research I had intended to prioritise. Yesterday’s episode of Michael Portillo’s series, about the role of the railways in WW1, included something on the ambulance trains.

The  contrast between that photograph of the well appointed interior of an ambulance train coach, intended to reassure the general public, and the working conditions described in Anonymous Diary of a Nursing Sister, could not be greater.




Realities of nursing versus ‘The Crimson Field’

For anyone who has read the (anonymous) Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915, the BBC drama , The Crimson Field, will seem rather unconvincing in its depiction of the reality of nursing in WW1.

While defined as a ‘Diary’ the resulting book seems to be based on letters home, and covers the writer’s nine months’ nursing in France, much of it spent on the hospital trains, nursing the most seriously wounded.   It reveals the reality of D.O.W. but also the heroism of patients and nursing staff.

This time I’ve been carefully reading it to see what clues there are to the identity of this nursing sister, or to why her ‘diary’ ends rather abruptly.  I’m noting any clues to her identity, to the actual numbers of the hospitals to which she was attached, and the end-points and dates of her train journeys in the hope that somewhere this information will be recorded, so that I can narrow down the candidates!   I thought at first that she must have been a military nurse, as she’d been with the army in South Africa, and sailed with troops from ‘Sackville Street’ Dublin within days of the declaration of war.

It seems that the National Library of Scotland  holds Blackwood’s papers, but perhaps those relating to the anonymous nursing sister were amongst the papers lost during the Blitz, in the fire that destroyed the publisher’s London premises.

Having accidentally visited the diaries page on the Open Library via The Internet Archive,  in order to shorten the URL, I noticed that the book is attributed to “Kathleen Luard” so I will now desist from my frenetic note-taking to see whether I can find convincing evidence for this attribution.

For those who want to read this book:
I downloaded this book some years ago, when I was given my first Kindle and was stocking up on free Kindle editions.  You don’t need a Kindle as it can also be read online, or downloaded in book form in a variety of formats .  For those who prefer an audio version,  you can listen to it   (These links will direct you to pages on the incomparable Internet Archive.)  The same book is offered on Amazon by ‘independent publishing platforms’ at prices between £10 and £20, quite steep, I think, considering it is a relatively short book.

Anonymous, Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915, Edinburgh and London, 1915, [published William Blackwood & Sons in 1915].