Salone dei Cinquecento

The Florence2020 Conference was held from the 13th-15th February 2020 in Florence, Italy, to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

The QARANC Association Heritage Committee submitted 3 linked papers to the peer-review panel and were very pleased to have all 3 accepted. The full conference list is on the conference website:

The conference opened in the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio, whilst the main conference events were held in the Il Fuligno complex, another historic location.

Our three linked presentations showed how the development of Army nursing could be seen through the eyes of three ordinary Army nurses. As we are were in Florence celebrating the bicentennial of Florence Nightingale, we also showed how she influenced the development of British Army nursing.The presentations were a team effort by Keiron Spires, Alison Spires, Fiona Mitford, Olivia Barnes and Rebekah SloaneMather – all members of the QARANC Association Heritage Committee.

The three papers we presented were:Images of three nurses

Penelope Gertrude Veysie (Crimea Nurse)

Florence Nightingale Shore (Boer War and WW1 Nurse)

Mary (May) Chavasse (WW1 VAD and WW2 Nurse)

We included some video and audio clips which helped to bring it all to life,. We also had artefacts from the Crimea, Boer War and WW1 from our Heritage Collection, and were able to show how the archives in the Museum of Military Medicine contribute to our understanding of Army nursing.

The presentations were well received and we have had some good feedback as well as finding other researchers interested in this area. We hope to undertake some collaborative projects in the future.

The conference ended on Saturday morning 15th February and that afternoon we were able to pay our respects at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Fiesole on the outskirts of Florence.Usually we just ‘pop-in’ to these cemeteries and lay a wreath and say a few words. The conference organiser Anna La Torre and her military history colleague Colonello Antonino Zarcone had other ideas!

As you can see in this picture this time we were accompanied by a serving Italian military nurse, Camillo Borziacchiello who had presented at the conference, the Mayoress of Fiesole, Anna Rovani, an Italian Army guard of honour and a trumpeter from the Carabinieri. This made it a beautiful though simple ceremony. Rebekah, Olivia and Camillo all read poetry. The trumpeter did the British version of the Last Post and Reveille, and Keiron laid the wreath on behalf of the Association.

Ceremony at Fiesole Cemetery