“Kate Evelyn Luard was born in 1872, the 10th of thirteen children born to Rev. Bixby Garnham Luard and Clara Isabella Sandford (nee Bramston). Her childhood was spent at Avely Vicarage, Essex and Birch Rectory, near Colchester, Essex. A defining moment in her life was her time spent at Croydon High School for Girls (1887-1890). The headmistress and founder of the school was Dorinda Neligan, a suffragette and campaigner for women’s rights who had served as a nurse in the Franco-Prussian war. On leaving school Kate took various jobs including that of a governess to earn money for her training as a nurse at the prestigious nurse-training school of Kings College Hospital, London.”(Stevens, 2015)
She joined Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) on March 31 1900 (War Office, 1900). She served as a Nursing Sister at Escourt and Pretoria (Luard, 1900; TNA, 1901; TNA, 1903). Although she is best known for her letters written during WW1, she wrote prolifically during the Boer War too (see the Diaries & Letters section for our project transcribing her letters).
The following is a transcript of a letter written by Kate Luard in October 1900 (from the Essex Record Office D/DLu 55/13/3 Incomplete letter):
Letter dated: Thursday Night (Would have been during October 1900) Sister Williams called up S Jayne & me today to ask if we’d like to go to Newcastle with No. 14 Hospital, a new one which is now being formed to go up there. She says she may have orders to send us two & the newcomer, as we were only sent to Estcourt “for temporary duty”. Or she may be asked to select any 3 Sisters she likes. She told us that if we should prefer to stay at Estcourt she could arrange for 3 others to go, but if our 3 names were mentioned & we wished to go, we should go. At the same time she warned us that if no names were mentioned she should certainly not send us, as she wished to keep us in her hospital, but she would send 3 others she wants to get rid of. The pro’s and con’s are these: Pro’s.The certainty of work to do. Seeing more of the country further north. Being nearer (in miles only) to the front. Con’s.The probability of being stuck there for good. The hospital that was there has just gone up to Heidlburg, so they are most unlikely to uproot another which has only just settled there (it isn’t there yet). The chance of No. 7 getting moved up directly we leave it. It is already nearly empty, & too far south to be of much use now the troops are so far north. The chance of going to China. No. 7 officers and all has volunteered for China, but has been told that no hospitals are leaving Africa at present. But they will some day of course. Exchanging a particularly favourable superintendent for an unknown one & the most healthy place in Natal for one of the most unhealthy. Newcastle is a place everyone hates, very cold & dusty and you pay 4/- a dozen for washing. But if there was a chance of getting to Pretoria or thereabouts from Newcastle, one wouldn’t hesitate a second: however it seems to me now, the one place they would be certain not to move up & the chances of Estcourt look brighter. As to work we are going to be given some lines next week, & six other Sisters taken off so that is all right. Taking all things into consideration, we shall probably not go, unless we hear from some disinterested person that we should be idiots not to go. I didn’t tell you that since some Sisters got lost on Spion Kop all leave has been stopped at all hospitals this side, so we shall not get any more jaunts from Newcastle or anywhere close – everyone is swearing, but Col Clery the PMO is inexorable. Luckily we got ours the day before! It is a great score finding Sister Williams sets such store by us! I’m not used to it after 3 years of little kitty! One of the regulars told us it was so some time ago and now she says it herself.
What letters can tell us
This letter was used to illustrate the point that nurses did move from hospital to hospital during the Boer War:
“The journals of Driver (1994), Suttaby (1902) and Lawrence (1912) all give examples of their movement from one hospital to another. Figure 12 shows that the majority of nurses did not move, but that there was significant movement overall. The medal rolls show many annotations of nurses arriving and leaving. Most hospitals had a mix of regular and reserve nurses, colonial and local nurses as well as locally employed civilian nurses. Nurses moved because they requested to, or because as new hospitals were formed nurses were “posted” in to form the new establishment. Sister Kate Luard describes this process in a letter home:” (Spires, 2013).
There are other interesting references made in the letter, all which help to set the context for it.
Luard, K. (1900) Essex Record Office D/DLu 55/13/3 Letter written by Kate Luard
Stevens, C. (2015) Kate Luard Unknown Warriors [WWW] http://kateluard.co.uk/about-kate-luard
War Office (1900) Nominal Roll of Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) as at September 30th 1900
Spires, K. (2013) Nurses in the Boer War (1899-1902). Unpublished PhD Thesis. London South Bank University
The National Archives (TNA) (1901) War Office 100/ 22p p. 52 QSA Medal Roll created at No. 7 General Hospital, Pretoria 7 August 1901
The National Archives (TNA) (1903) War Office 100/ 353 p.5 KSA Medal Roll created at the General Hospital, Pretoria 19 March, 1903