Please let us know (via the Contact page) if you think there are other items we could add to this bibliography.

General Nursing & Military Nursing History

Abel-Smith, B. (1960) History of the nursing profession. London: Heinemann

Ardern, P. (2005) The Nursing Sister: A Caring Tradition. Robert Hale

Baly, M. (1995) Nursing and Social Change. London: Routledge

Bassett, J. (1992) Guns and Brooches : Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War. Oxford, Melbourne

Bett, WR. (1960) A Short History of Nursing. London: Faber and Faber

Bingham, S. (1979) Ministering Angels. London: Osprey

Dingwall, R; Rafferty, A.M.; and Webster, C. (1979) An Introduction to the Social History of Nursing. London: Routledge

Evans, J. (2004) Men nurses: a historical and feminist perspective. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 47(3), 321-328.

Garfield, R.; Dresden, E. and Rafferty, A. (2003) The evolving role of nurses in terrorism and war. American Journal of Infection Control. 31 (3): pp163-167

D’Antonio, P. (1999) Rethinking the Rewriting of Nursing History. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 73 (2): pp. 268-290

DeGroot, GJ. & Peniston-Bird, C. (2000) A Soldier and a Woman. Harlow: Pearson Education

Dolan, JA. (1968) A History of Nursing. 12th Ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders

Hay, I (1953) One Hundred Years of Army Nursing. London: Cassell & Co. Ltd

Kendall, S. & Corbett, D.A. (1990) New Zealand military nursing : a history of the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps, Boer War to present day. S. Kendall & D. Corbett, Birkenhead, Auckland.

Mackintosh, C. (1997) A historical study of men in nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Vol.26, pp232-236

Piggot, J. (1975) Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. London: Leo Cooper

Rafferty, A.M. (2006) The Seductions of History and the Nursing Diaspora. Health and History, 7 (2),

Searle, C. (1965) The history of the development of nursing in South Africa 1652-1960. The South African Nursing Association, Pretoria.

Seymer, LR (1932) A General History of Nursing. London: Faber & Faber

Summers, A (1988) Angels and Citizens: British women as military nurses 1854-1914. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Taylor, E. (2001) Wartime Nurse: One Hundred Years from the Crimea to Korea 1854-1954. London: Robert Hale

von Arni, EG. (2001) Justice to the maimed soldier: Nursing, Medical care and Welfare for Sick and Wounded Soldiers and their Families during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642-1660 Aldershot: Ashgate/td>

von Arni, EG. (2006) Hospital Care and the British Standing Army, 1660-1714 Aldershot: Ashgate

The Victorian Wars

Best, B. & Stossel, K. (2006) Sister Janet: Nurse & Heroine of the Anglo-Zulu War 1879. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books

Cook, GC. And Webb, AJ. (2002) Reactions from the medical and nursing professions to Nightingale’s “reform(s)” of nurse training in the late 19th Century. Postgraduate Medical Journal 2002 (78): pp118-123

Dobson, J. (1964) The Army Nursing Service in the Eighteenth Century. Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 14(6): pp. 417-419

Goedhals, M. (2008) Nuns, Guns and Nursing: An Anglican Sisterhood and Imperial Wars in South Africa 1879-1902. Studia Historiae Ecclesiastiae 34(1): pp.335-357

The Boer War

Bagot, The Lady Theodosia (1900) Shadows of War. London: Edward Arnold

Bron, A. (1901) translated by Raper, GA. Diary of a nurse in South Africa: Being a narrative of experiences in the Boer and English Hospital Service. London: Chapman and Hall

Brooke Hunt, V. (1900) A Woman’s Memories of the War. London: James Nisbet & Co. Ltd.

Craw, B. (1970) A Diary of the Siege of Ladysmith. Ladysmith: The Ladysmith Historical Society

Dixon-Smith, R. (2007) Christmas at Ladysmith. Family Tree Magazine, 23 (4), 10-14.

Driver, K. (1994) Experience of a Siege: A Nurse looks back on Ladysmith. South Africa: Ladysmith Historical Society

Girard, SM. (1983) Canadian Nurses in the South African Military Nursing Service: Some Reminiscences Forty Years Later. The Military History Journal. Vol 6 (1) South African Military History Society

Laurence, EC. (1912) A Nurse’s Life in War and Peace. London: Smith, Elder

Leather-Culley, JD. (1901) On the Warpath: A Lady’s Letters from the Front. London: John Long

Pope, GF. (1902) Nursing in South Africa during the Boer War, 1899-1900. The American Journal of Nursing. 3 (1): 10-14

Roberts, B. (1991) Those bloody women : three heroines of the Boer War. J. Murray, London.

Rolleston, The Lady Maud (1901) Yeoman Service: Being the diary of an Imperial Yeomanry Officer during the war. London: Smith, Elder & Co Ltd

Sykes, J. (1900) Sidelights on the War. London: T Fisher Unwin

Spires K. & Spires A. (2007) Nurses on the Veldt Ancestors. June: pp.12-18

Suttaby, F. (Sister X) (1906) The Tragedy and Comedy of War Hospitals. London: John Murray

War Office (1900) Nominal Roll of the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) as at September 30th 1900. London: War Office

Wilson, S. (Lady) (1909) South African Memories: Social, Warlike and Sporting from Diaries written at the time. London: Edward Arnold

Wood, E.J. (unpublished) Personal Journal held at The Library of the Wellcome Institute. Accession 333131; MS 6034,

World War One

Appleton, E. and Cowen, R. (2012) A Nurse at the Front: The First World War Diaries of Sister Edith Appleton. London: Simon and Schuster Uk Ltd (her diaries can also be sen at: )

Crewdson, D. (2013) Dorothea’s War: The Diaries of a First World War Nurse. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Hallet, CE. (2014) Veiled Warriors: Allied Nurses of the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hallet, CE. (2009) Containing Trauma: Nursing Work in the First World War. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Macdonald, L. (1980) The Roses of No Man’s Land. London: Michael Joseph

McEwen, Y, (2014) In the Company of Nurses. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Meyer, J. (2015) ‘The Touch of a man’: Gender and Male-Caregiving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in WWI. [WWW] Accessed Aug 2016

Stevens, J. and Stevens, C. (2014) Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918. London: The History Press

Western Front Association (2010) British Military Nurses and the Great War: A Guide to the Services. [WWW]§nd/casualties-medcal/1140-british-military-nurses-and-the-great-war-a-guide-to-the-services.html#sthash.xYIkXmuT.dpbs Accessed Aug 2016

World War Two

Bowden, J. (1959,2015) Nurses at War: The True Story of Army Nursing Sisters’ Courage in World War II. London: Corazon Books

McBryde, B. (1985) Quiet Heroines: Nurses of the Second World War. Somerset: Butler & Tanner Ltd

Mortimer, B. (2012) Sisters: Heroic True-Life Stories from the Nurses of World War Two. London: Hutchinson

Starns, P. (2000) Nurses at War: Women on the Frontline 1939-45. Somerset: Sutton Publishing Ltd

Taylor, E. (1997) Front-Line Nurse: British Nurses in World War II. Robert Hale Ltd

Tyrer, N. (2008) Sisters in Arms: British Army Nurses Tell Their Story. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Since World War Two

Griffiths, L. and Jasper, M. (2007) Warrior Nurse: duality and the complemtarity of role in the operational environment. Journal of Advanced Nursing 61 (1): pp92-99

McNair, EJ. (2007) A British Army Nurse in the Korean War: shadows of the far forgotten. Stroud: Tempus Publishing

Rushton, P; Scott, JE; & Callister, LC. (2008) “It’s what we’re here for:” Nurses caring for military personnel during the Persian Gulf Wars. Nursing Outlook. 56 pp.179-186

Scannell-Desch, E. and Doherty, M. (2012) Nurses in War: Voices from Iraq and Afghanistan. New York: Springer Publishing Co.

Challenges of transcription, context and language


Reliable research, reliable conclusions, reliable reports, and reliable publications all rest on one foundation: skill at note taking (Mills, 2001; p.293).

In order to be able to take good notes, whether a full transcript or an extract, we need to understand the context in which the original document was written. Words and phrases have changed meaning over time, and some parts of language become obsolete.  Transcription is at the heart of both genealogical and historical research, since both depend on primary source material. Accurate research depends upon us having good transcription skills, and transcribing within a recognised framework so that others can utilise our research.

Presentation by Lt Col (Retd) Dr Keiron Spires QVRM TD

The Vimeo video stream should be clever enough to detect the type of video stream you need for your device. If you do have difficulties with watching the video please send us a message via the Contact page.

This presentation formed part of a course on ‘Researching British Army Nurses’ and Keiron does reference the course in the video. He also mentions sharing difficult transcription problems via a discussion board. Here on the website you can get help with transcription issues by using our Contact page.

Transcribing Standards

As described in the presentation, true transcribing is a true word-for-word rendering of a document with the original punctuation and spelling. All notes and marks on any page are copied as faithfully as possible in the presented formatting. You may not wish to make a complete transcript, but rather extract such text as is useful for your research. In either case it is still best practice to follow some basic guidelines so that the transcript, or your own notes, are understandable in the future.

Punctuation/Diacritical Marks
You may see missing full stops, commas, and other punctuation. Diacritical marks are items like long dashes (—) or the tilde (~) or the et cetera (&c) which you will find in old documents. A superscript letter or letters is often underlined to indicate missing letters in an abbreviated word. Any abbreviations in the text should be transcribed ‘as is’. Usage like Jany or Margt should  be left as is, because although it is usually obvious what the abbreviation is (like January and Margaret), any incorrect suppositions may lead your research in a wrong direction, and you will not be able to trace back errors to your original notes.

Deciphering again depends on the habits of the person writing the document. Be aware of flourishes on the ends of words, which may first appear to be an ‘e’ or ‘s’. Confusing capital letters need extra attention and comparison, with other words in the document and the contextual meaning. For example, the misreading of a capital ‘S’ for a capital ‘L’ is not uncommon. If misspelling (as we know it) occurs regularly, read out loud to yourself. Imagine the phonetics. Words in the text that are inserted, underlined or struck out should be indicated that way in your transcript or notes.

While we encourage the usage of day (numeral) – month (letters) – year (in full numerals) in the writing of articles, reports, family histories, etc, in a transcript or notes they should be exactly as presented. If you are concerned about a date being misinterpreted then add a footnote.

Square Brackets and Illegible Words
Square brackets are used to signal that legibility is an issue, rather than round parentheses. If part of a word, or a whole word or a phrase is illegible, use square brackets to enclose the difficult part. Question marks can be used if you have doubt about a word.

Comments and Interpretation
Any comments about interpretation (as opposed to transcription) should be reserved for footnotes or endnotes. Be consistent in the keeping of these so that you do not start to confuse yourself!

Deciphering Chicken Scratch: Tips and Tricks for Reading Old Handwriting

This is a YouTube video lasting 22 minutes from

References and Reading

BCG (2000) The BCG Genealogical Students Manual. Orem, Utah: Ancestry Publishing

Mills, ES (2001) Professional Genealogy. A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company

Medal Rolls of the Boer War


The Boer War (South Africa 1899-1901) was important for British military nursing as it was the first major conflict for Britain in which nurses in large numbers had been deployed, and at the end of the war a new nursing service was created, the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), which saw nurses becoming a formed component of the British Army. The war in 1899 was the second war to occur between the Boers and the British. The First Boer War occurred in 1881 and ended in a defeat of the British at Majuba Hill. The second conflict is often referred to as the Second South African War, the Second Anglo-Boer War, the Great Boer War, the War in South Africa and various other names. Modern histories frequently refer to it as the Anglo-Boer War, although traditionally the second conflict has become known as the Boer War (Conan-Doyle, 1900; Pakenham, 1979; Carver, 1999; Fremont-Barnes, 2003; Low Beer et al, 2004). In Afrikaans it is known as Tweede Vryheidsoorlog or Tweede Boereoorlog.

You can see much more about nursing in the Boer War at the Boer War Nursing site.

Queen’s South Africa (QSA) and King’s South Africa (KSA) Medal Rolls

The QSA was awarded for service in the Boer War. Twenty-six clasps were issued for wearing on the QSA although individuals were rarely awarded more than nine. Nurses were not entitled to clasps as they were classified as ‘non-combatant’. The QSA was awarded to individuals who served from 11th October, 1899 to 31st May, 1902. Following Queen Victoria’s death, King Edward VII authorised the King’s South Africa (KSA) Medal to be awarded to all who were serving in South Africa on or after the 1st January, 1902, and who had completed 18 months service before the 1st June, 1902.

The medal was never issued alone but always with the QSA. Confirming the eligibility for these awards was the responsibility of individual units who recorded the details of serving personnel on a medal sheet, which was then forwarded to the War Office. Individual nurses might appear on more than one medal sheet, as each unit they served with might record them. The War Office collated these sheets into medal rolls. These medal rolls form the definitive list of nurses serving in the Boer War. They record nurses serving in the Army Nursing Service (ANS); the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) (PCANSR); Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Nurses; civilian nurses and nurses locally engaged (all of whom are likely to have had training as a nurse). They also include religious Sisters (who may or may not have been nurses, but were involved in giving nursing care) and some civilians who are not likely to have been nurses, but were engaged in the delivery or support of nursing care.

These medal rolls are now part of The National Archives, Kew. They can be feely downloaded in pdf form from their website. There are several rolls that contain details of nurses, for example, WO 100/130 contains details from the Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals. WO 100/225 contains details of nurses from the Red Cross Hospitals (These hospitals all came under the control of the Army before the end of the Boer War). WO 100/229 contains the vast majority of nurses and covers all military hospitals.

The complete list of medal rolls for nurses awarded the QSA (and thus serving during the Boer War) is:

  • WO 100/130 Medal Roll for the Imperial Yeomanry
  • WO 100/222 Medal Roll for the General Hospitals
  • WO 100/223 Medal Roll for the Stationery Hospitals and Bearer Companies
  • WO 100/225 Medal Roll for the Red Cross Contingent and Private Hospitals
  • WO 100/229 Medal Roll for Nurses
  • WO 100/287 Medal Roll for the Canadian Contingents
  • WO 100/288 Medal Roll for the New South Wales Contingent (Part 1)
  • WO 100/289 Medal Roll for the New South Wales Contingent (Part 2)
  • WO 100/290 Medal Roll for the Victoria Contingent
  • WO 100/292 Medal Roll for the South and West Australia Contingents
  • WO 100/293 Medal Roll for the Australian Medical Corps and Tasmanian Contingents
  • WO 100/294 Medal Roll for the New Zealand Contingent (Part 1)
  • WO 100/295 Medal Roll for the New Zealand Contingent (Part 2)
  • WO 100/371 Medal Roll for the Burgher Camps

The KSA Medal Rolls are all together in WO 353

Sister Kate Luard

Sister Kate Luard has become well known because her family has published the letters she wrote during World War 1. This book Unknown Warriors has been updated and re-released recently.

What many do not know, however, that she was an Army nurse during the Boer War, and so was one of the many Boer War nursing ‘veterans’ who helped to shape nursing in WW1. She also wrote many letters during the Boer War too, although these have not been published. They are available to view in the Essex County Archives.

We know from the medal rolls that Sister Kate Luard served in South Africa with No. 7 General Hospital at Escort and Pretoria.

The two relevant pages are here below.

1. The National Archives (TNA) WO 100/229 p52

There is a date on this document – August 7th 1901. This does not relate to the service of any of the nurses named, but is the date on which the document was signed off by the Commanding Officer. The nurses listed could have been present at that time, or as indicated in the notes, may already have left the hospital.

You can also see that the medal rolls were marked and scored out by those back at the War Office responsible for sending out the medals. This frequently obscures details for those, like us, trying to read them many years later. This particular page also has a note stuck on it which obscures some of the title information. To determine if these nursing sisters were Army Nursing Service or Reservists we would need corroboration from other sources.

When looking through medal rolls do not be confused between pages in the pdf document and the page numbers allocated to each page of the medal roll. This page is actually page 54 of the document that was downloaded, but you can clearly see the page number 52 in the bottom left corner. It is this number that forms part of the reference for this page.

2. The National Archives (TNA) WO 100/353 p.4

You can see that by 1903 when this medal roll was completed the hospital designation had changed to ‘The General Hospital, Pretoria’. This medal roll also does not state whether the nurses are Army Nursing Service or Reservists. The entry for Sister Kate Luard is annotated ‘to England 16/5/02’, so that helps to establish her return from South Africa, and as before we could then seek corroboration of this in either the shipping lists, or in the nursing journals of that date.

Although these medal rolls do not contain much information, they are one of few official sources, and the most definitive for establishing a nurse’s involvement in the Boer War.

The medal rolls have been transcribed and entered into a database which can be viewed on the Boer War Nursing website.


Carver, M. (2000) The National Army Museum Book of the Boer War. London: Pan

Conan Doyle, A (1900) The Great Boer War. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Fremont-Barnes, G. (2003) The Boer War 1899-1902. Osprey: London.

Low-Beer, D., Smallman-Raynor, M., & Cliff A. (2004) Disease and death in the South African War. Social History of Medicine. 17 (2): pp. 223-245

Pakenham, T. (1979) The Boer War. Random House, New York.

Medal Rolls of the Victorian wars


In 1881 the Army Nursing Service (ANS) was formed. Nurses wore military uniform and were employed directly to care for military patients (Bett, 1960, Taylor, 2001). The ANS, although nominally a military formation was not an established part of the Army and did not sit within any of the directorates of the War Office.

Early Campaigns

Army NursIng sisters served in support of many of the campaigns that took place between the Crimean War and the Boer War. The Army fought campaigns in Abyssinia (1868) (what is now Ethiopia on the Horn of Africa), a series of campaigns against the Ashanti on the Gold Coast (what is now Ghana, West Africa); The Anglo-Basuto War (1879-81) (in what is now Lesotho in South Africa); the Zulu War (1878-1879) (in what is now KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa)  the Transvaal War (1880-1881) (Transvaal in South Africa); a long campaign in Egypt and the Sudan (1882-1888); the Matabele War (1893-94) (in what is now Zimbabwe); and another campaign in the Sudan (1896-98).

There are records of the service of Army Nursing Service Sisters in the medal rolls for these campaigns, as well as some accounts of their activities in nursing journals and official reports of the time. Nurses are mentioned in some of the historical accounts of the period, for example during the Ashanti campaigns (Claridge, 1915)

South Africa (Zulu War)

During the Zulu War there were a number of base hospitals including Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith, Utrecht and Newcastle. Most of the sickness that occurred was from enteric fevers, something that was to be repeated in the Boer War (Woolfryes, 1878).

Below is one of the pages from the medal roll for the campaign in South Africa. It is one of the two occasions where nurses appeared on the medal rolls. You can see that they are annotated as being Nursing Staff of the Medical Department as there was no separate Nursing Department at this time.

You will also see that there are some alterations to the document. Nursing Sisters have never been authorised to wear clasps that depict specific battles on their campaign medals as they were (and are still) regarded as non-combatant.

The nurses listed are:

  • Lady Superintendent Mrs JC. Deeble
  • Nurse Mary Leonard
  • Nurse Jane Gray
  • Nurse Harriet Williams
  • Nurse Anne Crisp
  • Nurse Margaret Selby
  • Nurse Alice Hawtley

The only one of these to still be serving at the time of the Boer War (1899-1902) is Jane Gray.

Egyptian Campaign

During the Egyptian campaigns (1882-1888) there were eight Field Hospitals (nominally of 200 beds) and two Base Hospitals (nominally of 500 beds) Two Hospital Ships were stationed at Ismailia – the Carthage, and the Courland (Goodrich, 1885). A total of 25 ANS nurses were sent out from England to support the medical care to the sick and wounded (TNA: WO 100/61 pp.32).

Below is one of the pages from the medal roll for the campaign in Egypt, the only other medal roll that exists for this period.

From this page, plus pages 48&49, we can see that four nurses were allocated to the Hospital Ship Carthage (Superintendent Stewart, Sisters Fellowes, King and Solly). Four nurses were sent to the Base Hospital at Alexandria (Superintendent Jerrard, Sisters Walsh, Winterton and Young). Seven nurses served at the other Base Hospital in Ismailia (Superintendent Caulfield, Sisters Lloyd, Close, Selby, Crisp, Gray and Wallace). As you can see, some of these nurses also served in South Africa.

A Superintendent and four nurses were also based at each of the hospitals in Cyprus and Gozo (Goodrich, 1885).

References & Sources

Bett, WR. (1960) A Short History of Nursing. London: Faber and Faber

Claridge, WW. (1915) A History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti from the earliest times to the commencement of the twentieth century. London: John Murray

Goodrich, C. F. (1883). Report of the British naval and military operations in Egypt, 1882. Washington: G.P.O..

McGann, S. (1992) The Battle of the Nurses. London: Scutari Press

The National Archives: WO 100/47 p32 Medal roll for South Africa 1877-79

The National Archives: WO 100/61 p32 Medal roll for Egypt ( Base Hospital Ismalia)

The National Archives: WO 100/61 p32 Medal roll for Egypt (Station Hospital Alexandria)

The National Archives: WO 100/61 p32 Medal roll for Egypt (Hospital Ship Carthage)

Nursing Record (1893) At Home: Miss Norman at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Nursing Record. July 6, 1893, 329-331

Nursing Record & Hospital World (1895) Nurses of Note: Superintendent Sister J. A. Gray. Nursing Record & Hospital World Dec 14. pp.428-429

Nursing Record & Hospital World (1896) Interview with Sister Gray. Nursing Record & Hospital World Mar 7. pp.188-189

Nursing Record & Hospital World (1899) Commentary. Nursing Record & Hospital World. Dec 23. pp.511

Taylor, E (2001) Wartime Nurse: One Hundred Years from the Crimea to Korea 1854-1954 London: Robert Hale

War Office (1898) The Army List, September 1898. London: HMSO

Woolfryes, Surgeon-General J.A. (1879) Medical History of the War in Zululand, 1879. Army Medical Department Report. London: HMSO

Overview of Medal Rolls


Confirming the eligibility for campaign medals was the responsibility of individual units who recorded the details of serving personnel on a medal sheet, which was then forwarded to the War Office. Individual nurses might appear on more than one medal sheet, as each unit they served with might record them.

For military nurses these medal rolls provide a definitive source for their participation in any particular campaign, which is why they are such a valuable source of information for both family and nursing historians.

Medal rolls are likely to be very big files, either digital or on microfilm. They are not always presented in what seems to be a logical order, and you may have to trawl through the whole thing to find what you are looking for.

What you might find

Early medal sheets were handwritten in script, using ink on paper. Over time their condition may have deteriorated. Issues with transcribing the sheets include:

  • Legibility, there may be some difficulty in interpreting the various hand writing styles;
  • Fading, many inks fade badly leaving some names illegible or only partly legible;
  • Deterioration, a few of the sheets have deteriorated to the point where they are no longer viable as source materials.
  • Use of names – nurses were recorded using variations of names. Elizabeth, for example, may have been used in different documents in many forms. In addition, some nurses preferred to use a name other than their first given name.
  • Recording of status, varies from document to document so that the same nurse can be recorded as, civilian or military, regular or reserve. This could be due to the novel nature of this duty for military clerks and an unfamiliarity with the status of military nurses.
  • Information. The information recorded in the sheets varies from unit to unit. The surname and service are always present. Most sheets have initials whilst some give full or partial names. 

Where to find Medal Rolls

The National Archives, at Kew now hold the War Office Medal Rolls. Most are available digitally and are free to download. They are not always easy to locate. In the next two sections we will look at finding and interpreting some of the earliest medal rolls that contain nurses.