Found copy negative of nurses and 'Les Inséparables Carabinieres',1914 / Courtesy RNOH

When we began our 'Searching for the Grey Lady' project in June 2019, the only clue to the First World War at Mary Wardell's hospital on Brockley Hill was one black and white photograph reproduced in an illustrated history of the RNOH  by Derek Sayers. 
In this episode we explore the back story to the carefully posed group in the 1914 photograph - the nurses and the men, who are identified as Belgian soldiers. ​​​​​​​

Nurses and 'Les Inséparables Carabinieres' /1914 / Courtesy RNOH

In the centre of the group is a blackboard, and we can decipher "...souvenir de notre séjour a l'Hospital Mary Wardell à Stanmore Angleterre.." and "Guerre Européenne 1914" - translated as "...a memory of our stay at the Mary Wardell Hospital...European War 1914."
Then "Les Inséparables Carabinieres" - the "Inseparable Riflemen", followed by the signatures of the men - which are difficult to decipher. The Belgian population and army, including "Les Inséparables Carabinieres" in our photograph, were the first to experience the devastation that would characterise the First World War, as they resisted the German invasion of their neutral country on August 4th, 1914. 
Between late August of 1914 and May 1915, 250,000 Belgian refugees arrive in Britain, the largest influx of political refugees in British history. Throughout Britain 2,500 committees were established in local councils, for the purpose of looking after the interests of Belgian Refugees.
In October 1914,The Oxbridge and West Drayton Gazette announce that the Mary Wardell Convalescent Home, Stanmore, Middlesex, is occupied temporarily as a hospital for Belgian soldiers under the management of the Wounded Allies Relief Committee acting in consultation with the War Office and Red Cross Society.
The nurses in the photograph are almost certainly from the 'Voluntary Aid Detachment', known as VADs, a voluntary unit of civilians providing nursing care for military personnel in the United Kingdom and the British Empire. In this Episode we hear excerpts from The British Journal of Nursing Supplement, describing the National Council of Trained Nurses' determined battle to ensure that only trained nurses, and not volunteers, provide nursing care for the wounded:  
On November 2nd, 1915, The Matrons' Council of Great Britain and Ireland passed the following Resolution, which was subsequently forwarded to the British Red Cross Society:
" That in the opinion of this meeting only nurses who are fully trained should be sent to nurse the sick and wounded in time of war, and that no base hospital can be considered properly equipped which has not such a staff of nurses."
In this series of podcasts we have revealed how the evolution of the RNOH has been shaped by National crisis and challenge – from the poverty and epidemics of infectious diseases in the late Nineteenth Century, followed by the unprecedented challenges of the First World War. 
This history of the RNOH Stanmore is, in the words of historian Barbara Tuchman, a 'distant mirror' to our own challenging times.
Listen to the amazing stories selected from newspapers and archives discovered during our search for the Grey Lady, and read here by the podcast's wonderful participants - RNOH patients, volunteers, staff, and the wider RNOH Stanmore family. Click on the photographs to read more:​​​​​​​
Keith Reeve was first an RNOH patient in 1968, and since 2016 has been a part time employee.  He commenced volunteering  for their hospital Radio Brockley in 1977, joining shortly after his last period as a patient at the hospital, and has been actively involved in the multi-award winning station ever since. In 2016 he was awarded the Hospital Broadcasting Associations “John Whitney Award” for his outstanding contribution to UK hospital radio.  He also presents a show on Potters Bar Community Radio.
Keith Reeve was first an RNOH patient in 1968, and since 2016 has been a part time employee. He commenced volunteering for their hospital Radio Brockley in 1977, joining shortly after his last period as a patient at the hospital, and has been actively involved in the multi-award winning station ever since. In 2016 he was awarded the Hospital Broadcasting Associations “John Whitney Award” for his outstanding contribution to UK hospital radio. He also presents a show on Potters Bar Community Radio.
Christine Bows has 38 years service in the NHS. She trained at Barts, working there for 4 years before going on to work at the RNOH for 34 years. Christine officially retired in March 2020 but returned to work for a further 5 months in the RNOH Covid Testing Centre. She resumed her well earned retirement, but once again it may be delayed as Christine will be involved in the RNOH Covid Vaccination programme. "Once a nurse..."
Christine Bows has 38 years service in the NHS. She trained at Barts, working there for 4 years before going on to work at the RNOH for 34 years. Christine officially retired in March 2020 but returned to work for a further 5 months in the RNOH Covid Testing Centre. She resumed her well earned retirement, but once again it may be delayed as Christine will be involved in the RNOH Covid Vaccination programme. "Once a nurse..."
David Rauch has been a volunteer at Radio Brockley, the hospital radio service at the RNOH, since 1971. As well as presenting and producing programmes, including our game of Bingo (prior to COVID), he is a trustee of the charity. He is a retired IT Project Manager. He is married, with two children and one granddaughter.
David Rauch has been a volunteer at Radio Brockley, the hospital radio service at the RNOH, since 1971. As well as presenting and producing programmes, including our game of Bingo (prior to COVID), he is a trustee of the charity. He is a retired IT Project Manager. He is married, with two children and one granddaughter.
Timothy Morand is an actor. He trained at Lamda and has worked extensively in theatre, radio, TV and film. He is married to Nicola Lane, a lifelong patient at the Prosthetic Rehabilitation Unit at the RNOH, and like so many partners of patients, is very familiar with the hospital site!
Timothy Morand is an actor. He trained at Lamda and has worked extensively in theatre, radio, TV and film. He is married to Nicola Lane, a lifelong patient at the Prosthetic Rehabilitation Unit at the RNOH, and like so many partners of patients, is very familiar with the hospital site!
Mary Lauder worked in the world of theatre for nearly 40 years. Since 2013 she has been the Volunteer Coordinator for The Disability Foundation, a charity which offers complementary therapies to disabled people and their carers, which is based at the RNOH.
Mary Lauder worked in the world of theatre for nearly 40 years. Since 2013 she has been the Volunteer Coordinator for The Disability Foundation, a charity which offers complementary therapies to disabled people and their carers, which is based at the RNOH.
Cast in order of performance:
Narrators:   Keith Reeve 
                   Christine Bows
                   David Rauch
                   Ron Laver
                   Timothy Morand
                   Mary Lauder        
Sound Design: Louis Morand (https://www.louismorandsound.com/ )
Pegleg Productions warmly thanks the Radio Brockley team, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore and all those who generously volunteered to take part. 
"Episode 5: AUGUST 1914" is available to listen or download in the Podcast section of the Radio Brockley website:

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