First world war nurses’ achievements were overlooked, just as nursing is undervalued now

Nurses on the Western Front were highly skilled professionals, says historian Christine Hallett
Nellie Spindler

Nurses on the Western Front were highly skilled professionals, says nursing historian Christine Hallett

Nurse Nellie Spindler

On 21 August 1917, staff nurse Nellie Spindler came off a night shift at a field hospital close to the village of Brandhoek in Flanders; she handed over the care of her patients to the day staff and walked the short distance to her sleeping tent. The nurse who had shared the tent with her had been sent ‘down the line’ to a base hospital the day before, apparently suffering from debility and shell shock. So Nellie settled down alone, to sleep on her narrow stretcher bed.

About 11am, several bombs were dropped on the hospital compound. A piece of shell casing tore through the canvas wall of her tent, wounding Nellie so severely that, despite the best efforts of her medical and nursing colleagues, she could not