Saturday, 5 December 2009

Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915

Official Blurb

The title is, I think, self explanatory. The nurse in question went out to France at the beginning of the war and remained there until May 1915 after the second battle of Ypres when she went back to a Base Hospital and the diary ceases. Although written in diary form, it is clearly taken from letters home and gives a vivid if sometimes distressing picture of the state of the casualties occasioned during that period. After a time at the General Hospital in Le Havre she became one of the three or four sisters working on the ambulance trains which fetched the wounded from the Clearing Hospitals close to the front line and took them back to the General Hospitals in Boulogne, Rouen and Le Havre. Towards the end of the account she was posted to a Field Ambulance (station) close to Ypres (Ieper, or in First World War speak ‘Wipers’)

My Review

If your interested in the first world war then I think you'll find this account rather a case of required listening. As the blurb says it tells the rather unheard story of a nurse who is close to the front lines. The womens point of view of the first world war is a rather undertold story.

The story related, is relatively simple, and we dont get deeply into the characters of the perople involved but we hear time after time what they have to do and what they have to put up with. I realise that last sentance may sound negative, but I don't mean it to be. The story telling is not repetative but the situation of wave after wave of injured passing through the hospitals and on trains tells a terrible story. You can tell, that the sister wants to get onto the trains from the rear hospitals to where she can do more good and then as the story moves on how hurt and almost dispairing the sister becomes. She starts to hint at the tragedy and you can "just tell" that by the end she is being worn down.

She tells us of the characters who pass through, the "chipper chaps" who though injured are happy because the war seems to be going well, and then the reverse. She also tells us a little of the other unheard story of the first world war, the use of British Empire troops from India and beyond. ( How many war movies have you seen where every face is white?! This, depite the fact that the Empire forces where involved in every theatre in huge numbers. )

It is a dramatic narrative that drags on your heart strings, presented here by a series of excellent female readers whos passion for the story shows in their work.

A word of warning. As with many of these period narratives lifted from letters, the Censor has been at work. The numbers,names and locations of some units are deleted from the text. The production team have in this case decided to use the "beep" to indicate these locations. You may find this distracting at first, as I did, but I became totally used to it in the second chapter. Don't let that put you off. The story and the reading are well worth listening.

Readng 3
Production 2
Story 3

Total 8/9

Download the book from Librivox

Listen to chapter 1