RICHARDSON, Sybil Gwendoline

Nursing Service in WW2

206418 Sister Sybil Gwendoline Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service was killed at sea on the 12th February 1944, when the SS Khedive Ismail was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Indian Ocean1,2,3. She is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial, Panel 22. Column 34.


  1. Smith, AK (2004) Gender & Warfare in the twentieth century: Textual representations. Manchester: MUP. p112.
  2. Worsley, P. (Ed) (2010) SS Khedive Ismail. Maritime Heritage Association Journal Vol 21(2). p7.
  3. Crabbe, B. (2014) Beyond the call of duty [WWW]
  4. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.



Sarah “Sally” RHODES was born in Blackpool, Lancashire in 19061,2. She went to the Lancaster Girls Grammar School 1917-19222. In 1923 her father remarried. His second wife Isabella Smythe had been a sister in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) in WW14.

Nursing Service in WW2

Sally RhodesSally RHODES served in the Second World War as a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (Reserve). She recorded some of her memories for the Lancaster Girls Grammar School1 where she had been a pupil 1917-1922:

On September 1st, 1939, I found myself caught up in the whirl of activity which preceded the war. I spent the day evacuating children away from my ward in a London hospital, and packing everything away, so that it might be turned into a casualty clearing station for Westminster. I listened apprehensively to the hourly bulletins on the wireless, and to announcements of reserve group callings up. By tea-time my turn had come and by 10-30 p.m. I was in a strange house in Cookham, Hants., a member of His Majesty’s Army and a billetee.

For two weeks I reported daily in a hut under pine trees, filled up forms, had injections against this and that, bought kit, and tried to make myself realise that I was going on active service. Everyone seemed happy and enthusiastic until the last sobering morning of departure.

on September 15th I landed in Cherbourg with the staff of a twelve-hundred-bedded General Hospital, which we proceeded to open, in tents, outside Dieppe. I tried hard to remember  the L.G.G.S. And my French lessons, and soon learned to shop quite easily. There were no hostilities – but how we worked! The troops were not trained, and many were ill. We worked in heavy rain, mud over our ankles, then in the snow and frost we were so cold that we contemplated keeping our clothes on all winter, like the Eskimos. Then came a delightful spring, and working in the open was a joy. We lived in empty houses, with primitive sanitation, and bathed in canvas baths with water boiled on a primos stove. There was plenty to buy in the shops and no restrictions, so life was quite gay in spots.

Then came the awful news of the invasion of the Low Countries, and we prepared to receive casualties. Trains scheduled did not arrive; patients only trickled in; and everyone became harassed and dared not say what they thought. At five one morning I wakened to hear someone tapping at my window. I was asked to tell the others that we were to pack and report with hand baggage only at eight a.m. for breakfast, ready to leave in convoy at eight-thirty. Our heavy luggage would follow. We never saw it again! For two days we travelled as a convoy of forty ambulances. We had no food until the second day. I shall never forget the roads blocked with refugees, the night we spent in Le Mans, when we began to realise fully how bad things were. At last we landed in England, two hundred of us, not daring to tell of the panic and chaos in case we were called defeatest; but we felt we had deserted the men when need was greatest and that the end could not be far.

For the next year I worked in England. I saw the Battle of Britain and experienced the Blitz of London. Then I joined a little hospital ship, the Dindra on the West coast of Scotland, in the most “secret” area I’ve ever been in, and transferred my interest to the Battle of the Atlantic. The scenery was magnificent and it cheered me to see tanker after tanker round the corner into the Loch, often as many as thirty. But gradually the casualties and the survivors decreased in number and orders came for me to take part in the repatriation of P.O.W.’s from Newhaven to Dieppe. We loaded ninety-seven Germans, but after three days negotiations broke down and we went to Scapa Flow, very bleak and cold in January, and I was glad to be posted to Tidworth where I was very busy with minor casualties to Paratroopers, who in those days were almost a myth to most people.

Soon I was ordered to the Middle East with a hospital of six hundred beds. Another whirl of activity and more kit, white this time. I sailed in convoy with the 51st Highland Division and it was three months before we landed in Egypt. That voyage was an epic as well. We lost our convoy, the ship broke down twice, and the conditions were the worst I have ever known (and I have sailed in eleven different troopers). But everyone was wonderfully cheerful, and I think we all felt that this was going to be the turning point of the war, and we were proud to be with the men in the convoy who were to make history. We had a lovely time in Cape Town, Durban and Pietersmaritzburg where we stayed while the Banfora had repairs. The shops, the fruit, the lighted streets, and the welcome of the people delighted us. We were most disappointed when we found we were to go to Palestine, but we were mistaken. Palestine is the most interesting country I’ve been in, Jerusalem the most fascinating city, and it was easy to get about, and though we worked hard we had enough time to spare. We lived in tents in the south, and I thought it was all desert until in the spring the sand became a sheet of colour from tiny flowers, though there was no grass. News was good, and we were all happy; the Australian 9th Division came back after Alamain and that made me feel that we really had got to the turning point of the war. I was fortunate to to the Review by General Alexander before they left for home.

In the spring the African campaign was over and we packed our hospital in very secret fashion in June, 1943. As we were only going to be allowed 100 llbs of luggage we began to guess where we were going, and discuss what we should take. We were already on our way when the Scilian invasion was announced. We had a peaceful voyage on a Mediterranean like a tub of dolly-blue. We landed in Syracuse in white frocks, hats and shoes, and both natives and troops greeted us wildly. My first impressions were of a delightful place with lovely oleander trees; but everything was thickly covered with dust and flies. The drainage and water systems were bombed; there was no A.R.P., and the civilians lived in caves in the hills. In a dreadful raid the first night, our transport was sunk. We began our hospital in a big lunatic assylum built in 1934, but infested with bugs. Lack of equipment, excessive numbers of malarial patients, lack of drainage, scarcity of water, and opressive heat made hard work very difficult. But we found Syracuse very interesting and Scicily lovely, dominated by snow-capped Etna.

Promoted after that campaign, I went to Italy to join a field hospital stationed near Brindisi. I was impressed by the marble staircases of the building we used until I realised that it was just as bug-ridden as the one in Syracuse.

In April 1944, I moved again, back to England to help open the Second Front. We were delighted to be in England in the spring – no country is so green. We re-equiped and crossed to Normandy on D.10, landing on the beaches in ducks. I was very optimistic and thought that this was the end of the war; but I had forgotten Japan. For six months we worked – moving forward every few weeks – in the orchards of Normandy, a chateua garden further North, and in a hospital in Brussels. To the Belgians the war seemed over. They were hilarious and we packed to follow towards Arnhem. Although the news was bad Brussels did not seem to notice. After reaching Holland I was ordered home for service in the Far East. I was amazed and felt I was badly treated.

Going out this time we were all depressed. I landed in Bombay in February 1945. Travel in India was dificult, and there was much dirt and discomfort; in the hospital in Comilla conditions were very far from ideal; and we lived in little houses of bamboo basket-work which were infested with rats and mosquitoes. Life was complicated by the caste system, disturbed by thousands of crows and kites, and made unleasant by the lack of sanitation, though the natives were very clean in some ways.

After a few weeks I was ordered to mobilize a Casualty Clearing Station “somewhere forward” and gussed it meant Rangoon. When we arrived in Calcutta we heard that the invasion had already begun and after two excessively hot days we embarked for Rangoon. V.E. Day came while we were on board ship but though we tried to celebrate it was unsuccessful, for we felt it had no connection with us. I was the first woman to land in Rangoon since the Japanese occupation. We found our C.C.S. already occpied by the Dufferin Hospital, and they were very glad to see us. The land here seemed very green and delightful after the arid parts of Asam and India, and the vegetation became lush after the Monsoon broke. Rangoon itself was in a sorry state, without drainage, lighting or water; it had been badly blitzed, and most of the population had taken shelter in the Shewdagon Pagoda, which was filthy, but where we were expected to take off our hoes to walk on the holy ground. When a General Hospital took over in Rangoon I flew over Burma to Meiktilla to take charge of yet another C.C.S., wondering if Singapore would be the next move. But it wasn’t. The news of the Atom Bombs shook the world and there was talk of peace. We went mad. For one week we had one long party, first for the patients, then for the Indian troops (in the open with Jeep headlights for illuminations), then one for ourselves, and last a party for everyone we knew. After that I went on leave in the hills where it was cool and peaceful. When I came back my release papers were waiting, and at last we arrived home in a hospital ship. We landed at Southampton, and after an official welcome for the troops we were dispersed to various release camps. It took me exactly half-an-hour to get through the process of becoming a civilian; but it took me months to get used to wearing civilian dress.

Transcribed with permission from the Lancaster Girls Grammar School with grateful thanks (


  1. England and Wales, Civil registration Birth Index 1837-1915
  2. England Census 1911 RG14/ 25426/ 233
  3. The Chronicle of the Lancaster Girls Grammar School 1947, pp36-39
  4. The National Archives: War Office 399/ 7783 Smythe, Isabella

PIRIE, Barbara

Nursing Service in WW2

Sister Barbara PIRIE QAIMNS 274846 Sister Barbara PIRIE Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service was killed at sea on the 12th February 1944, when the SS Khedive Ismail was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Indian Ocean1 2 3. She is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial, Panel 22. Column 24.


  1. Smith, AK (2004) Gender & Warfare in the twentieth century: Textual representations. Manchester: MUP. p112.
  2. Worsley, P. (Ed) (2010) SS Khedive Ismail. Maritime Heritage Association Journal Vol 21(2). p7.
  3. Crabbe, B. (2014) Beyond the call of duty [WWW]
  4. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

O’LOUGHLIN, Annie Margaret


Miss Annie Margaret O’LOUGHLIN was born on the 12th September 1916, in Avoca, County Wicklow, Ireland1. She trained at the City Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent, 1935-382.

Nursing Service in WW2

Sister Annie O’Loughlin QAIMNS(R)

Sister Annie Margaret O’LOUGHLIN Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (Reserve) (QAIMNSR) was killed in action on the 13th September 1943, when HMHS Newfoundland was bombed off the Salerno beaches, in the Mediterranean3 4.

Her family have one letter from her service in the QAIMNS(R), which they have transcribed:

“Nurses Home”
Smithdown Road Hospital.
Liverpool, 15.


Dear Daddy, I suppose you will say to yourself when you get this note “wonders will never cease”, but really and truly we don’t have time to look around us these days, never mind write. Well I hope you are all very well in spite of the terrible times we are having at present. Of course it is not so bad for you over there. I wish the war over and done with. I was unable to get to Eire this year so I had to spend my holidays in Blackpool. I had a very nice time but I’m sure it would have been much nicer had I been able to spend them in dear old Eire. How is dear little Eddie, I suppose he is busy at school now for Xmas exams. Tell him and put a note in when you are writing again. Tony seems to be getting on quite well at Baldonnel. He often writes. He was expecting to get home leave a short time ago. I wonder if he did get it. Well Daddy, I have no idea when I’ll be able to get home again it may be next year and it may not be for a long time. I was wondering if you could send me my little blue snap album it used to be on top of the piano. There were a few snaps of Eddie and very old one of you and mamma R.I.P. in it, perhaps its not there at [?] new but Joe or Eddie may know something about it. I meant to ask you for it when I was home in May last year but of course forgot all about it. I would like to have it as it was the only snap I had of mamma. I had a letter from G Carey some time ago she told me of all the people who have died recently R.I.P. there will be no Eire left by the time I get home again. I see it is almost tea time so I’ll have to make a dash. I almost forgot to thank you for sending Tony’s address. I received it quite safely. Please excuse mistakes etc. as I’ve had to write it about three minutes. Remember me to everyone. your fond child, Annie

Eddie and Tony were her younger brothers. Her mother had died in 1931.


      1. Birth Certificate for Annie Margaret O’Loughlin
      2. The UK & Ireland Nursing Registers, 1898-1968, 1940 p.3897
      3. The British Journal of Nursing, March 1944, p.29
      4. Cassino Memorial Plaques in the Cassino Cemetery, Italy

McGIBBON, Rose Anne (Rosa)


Rose Anne (known as Rosa during her nursing career), was born in Lurgan, Co. Armagh on August 10th 18861. Following a period as a book keeper she trained as a nurse at the Mater Infirmorum, Belfast, between January 1909 and January 19131. She than trained as a District Nurse at St Lawrence’s House, Dublin, which was the training institution for Catholic nurses at that time1. She enlisted into the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (Reserve) in June 19152, as a Staff Nurse.

Nursing Service in WWW1

Nurse McGibbon embarked on the Aquitania for Suez, leaving Southampton on the 9th November 1915 and arrived in Egypt on the 27th November. In Egypt she joined 18 Stationary Hospital. In November 2016 she joined 21 General Hospital in Alexandria, and in December 2017 she was appointed an Acting Sister. In June 1918 she was admitted to 19 General Hospital and had an appendicectomy. She appeared to recover but then became very unwell and was readmitted. After investigations she was invalided back to the UK on the Hospital Ship Wandilla. She was sent home on sick leave, and died at home on 6th March 19192.


  1. The Wellcome Trust; London, England; Roll of Queen’s Nurses; Volume: 20; Reference: SA/QNI/J.3/20
  2. The National Archives: War Office: WO/399/5187 McGibbon, Rosa


Early Years

When Margery Loughnan was born in October 1888 in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, her father, Alfred, was 30, and her mother, Mildred, was 31. She had three brothers and five sisters1,2. In 1911 she was a Governess at a house near her family in Croydon3. She trained as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital, London 1913-1916, joining the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) (QAIMNS(R))in April 19164.

Nursing Service in Word War One

Margery Loughnan was a Staff Nurse in the QAIMNS(R) serving mostly in hospitals in the UK, with one posting to the Hospital Ship Karylan4. Her postings are listed on a copper plate.

Two of her sisters, Kathleen and Isabel served overseas with the Red Cross as VADs5. Her brother Edmund served as a telegraphist in the Royal Navy6.

Nursing Service between the wars

Staff Nurse Loughnan transferred from the Reserve to the Regular Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service on the 2nd May 19197. She had numerous postings during this period8,9,10, being promoted to Sister in 192611. She was in India at the start of World War Two.

Nursing Service in World War Two

By 1941 she was a Matron (acting Principal Matron) and was awarded the Royal Red Cross12. She was confirmed as a Principal Matron in 194213. In 1944 she was made an Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services in India14. Her citation reads:

For her conspicuously successful administration of the Nursing Services of the Eastern Army throughout its formation and action and especially during the period (June – October 43) under review. In spite of initial shortages of personnel and of the low standard of training of many of the A.N.S., she has raised the general standard of nursing throughout the Army area to a satisfactory level. By continued personal contact she has directed and improved nursing in hard pressed outstations and always provided nursing staffs for forward units as soon as these could be posted. By her cheerfully firm handling of some 750 members she has most ably administered the Nursing Service of the Eastern Army.

She served with the 14th Army. This was a multinational force comprising units from Commonwealth countries during World War II. Many of its units were from the Indian Army as well as British units and there were also significant contributions from West and East African divisions within the British Army. It was often referred to as the “Forgotten Army” because its operations in the Burma Campaign were overlooked by the contemporary press, and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war.

In June 1946 she was retired from her post as Principal Matron, but was then re-employed as a Matron16. She was reconfirmed as Principal Matron, and given the honorary title Chief Principal Matron in 194717,18.


  1. 1891 England Census RG12; Piece: 749; Folio: 127; Page: 57
  2. 1901 England Census  RG13; Piece: 990; Folio: 38; Page: 23
  3. 1911 England Census RG14; Piece: 3388; Schedule Number: 199
  4. UK & Ireland, Nursing Registers, 1898-1968
  6. The National Archives ADM 127/362 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Ratings Campaign Medal Rolls 1914-1920
  7. The London Gazette 20th February 1920 31789 p. 2151
  8. The Army List 1922
  9. The Army List 1933
  10. The Army List 1936
  11. The British Journal of Nursing, August 1926 p. 188
  12. The London Gazette 1st July 1941 Supplement p3751
  13. The London Gazette 1st December 1942 Second Supplement p.5259
  14. The London Gazette 19th October 1944 Supplement p.4784
  15. The National Archives WO 373/79 Pt.2
  16. The London Gazette 4th October 1946 Supplement p.4941
  17. The London Gazette 2th April 1947 Supplement p.1543
  18. The London Gazette 8th July 1947 Supplement p.3116

Indian Copper Tray bearing all of Margery Loughnan’s postings

Tray with Margery Loughnan's postings inscribed
Tray with Margery Loughnan’s postings inscribed


  • Brockenhurst 1916
  • Sheffield 1916
  • HS Kalyan 1917
  • Cosham 1918
  • Blandford 1918
  • Reading 1918


  • Aldershot 1919
  • Constantinople 1922
  • Gallipoli 1923
  • Millbank 1923
  • Colchester 1915
  • Allahabad 1927
  • Maymyo 1928
  • Rangoon 1930
  • Ranikhet 1930
  • Lucknow 1931
  • Jhansi 1931
  • Millbank 1932
  • Agra 1935
  • Peshawar 1937
  • Muree 1938
  • Lahore 1939
  • Oxford 1940
  • Millbank 1940
  • West Africa 1940
  • N.W. Army 1942
  • Eastern Army 1942
  • 14th Army 1943
  • C.M.F. 1944
  • HS Doresetshire 1946-47
  • RMA Sandhurst 1947-56



Emma FLECK was from Dervock, Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland1. She trained as a nurse at the Kent County Mental Hospital, 1934-1939, and the Central Middlesex Hospital 1939-19412.

Nursing Service in WW2

Sister Emma Fleck
Sister Emma Fleck

Sister Emma FLECK joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve )in March 1945. She served in India, the Far East, and on the Hospital Ship HMHS Somersetshire2. She died on November 22nd 1947 and is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial, Panel 22, Column 21 2. She is also remembered on the Dervock & District War Memorial 1939-19453. She was the daughter of James and Emma Fleck, of Dervock, Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland1.


  1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  2. British Journal of Nursing, January 1948 p.5
  3. Ulster War Memorials [WWW]


Nursing Service in WW2

Sister DOWLING, N. Gwen, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) (QAIMNSR) was serving at the 20th Combined General Hospital, Singapore. She left Singapore on theSS Kuala, which was sunk by Japanese bombers on February 14, 1942.

“… reached Padang and was evacuated with six other nurses … gave evidence to 1943 enquiry …went on to serve in Quetta1 … “.

She is one of the few nurses to have reached home from the sinking of the SS Kuala and the SS Tanjong Pinang.


  1. Pether, M. (2012) SS Kuala Researched Passenger List version 3.3.5 (available from the COFEPOW website)

CURRIER, Florence May


Florence May CURRIER was born in St Georges, Wellington in Shropshire, 14 May 18891 2 3. Her father was an Engineer’s Clerk1. By the 1911 Census she was employed as a domestic servant near to home2.

She trained as a nurse at the Oldham Royal Infirmary may 1913 – May 1916, and was employed there before volunteering for service with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve)3.

Nursing Service in WW1

After joining the QAIMNSR in February 1917, Staff Nurse Florence May CURRIER was posted to the Military Hospital, Kinmal Park Camp (Kinmel Park Camp was built in 1914 as a training camp for Lord Kitchener’s Army in preparation for serving in the First World War. It had its own branch railway line connecting to the main line at Foryd Station in Rhyl, North Wales)3. Her report in September 1918 stated:

Staff Nurse F. Currier Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. has worked at this hospital for one year and six months. She is kind and willing but lacks experience in ward management and needs to work under supervision3.

She was posted to the BEF in France in September 1918, working mainly at 2 General Hospital in Le Havre. Her report from this hospital stated:

S/N Currier has served in this hospital since 12.9.18 as S/Nurse Medical Section and Night Duty. Her professional ability is up to the average. Administrative capacity good. Temper good. Tact and judgement good. Energetic, reliable and punctual in all her duties. S/N Currier has not done any charge duty since coming to France. With experience she will make a good Sister3.

She was demobilised in July 19193. Whilst she was in Le Havre, Sir John Lavery painted a picture of her along with a VAD. This picture is in the Imperial War Museum – “Le Havre, 1919: Nurse Billam and Sister Currier” (wrongly titled as Sister Currier)4.


  1. The National Archives: England Census 1901 RG13; 2523/ 63 /66
  2. The National Archives: England Census 1911 RG14; 16005; 193
  3. The National Archives: War Office 399/1968 Currier, Florence May


Nursing Service in WW2

206068 Sister COWARD, Laura, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) was serving in Singapore in 1942. She left Singapore on the SS Kuala, which was sunk by Japanese bombers on February 14, 1942.

… not seen by any survivor since first attack on ship. Believed killed by a direct hit on her cabin1

She died at sea February 14, 1942, and her name is recorded on the Singapore Memorial Column 1132.


  1. Pether, M. (2012) SS Kuala Researched Passenger List version 3.3.5 (available from the COFEPOW website)
  2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission