Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915

Read by LibriVox Volunteers

(3.9 stars; 22 reviews)

The title is, I think, self explanatory. The nurse in question went out to France at the beginning of the war and remained there until May 1915 after the second battle of Ypres when she went back to a Base Hospital and the diary ceases. Although written in diary form, it is clearly taken from letters home and gives a vivid if sometimes distressing picture of the state of the casualties suffered during that period. After a time at the General Hospital in Le Havre she became one of the three or four sisters working on the ambulance trains which fetched the wounded from the Clearing Hospitals close to the front line and took them back to the General Hospitals in Boulogne and Le Havre. Towards the end of the account she was posted to a Field Ambulance (station) close to Ypres. (Summary by Andy Minter) (6 hr 58 min)


Waiting for Orders 46:11 Read by Ruth Golding
Le Mans - Wounded from the Aisne 45:15 Read by Ruth Golding
First Experiences 21:02 Read by Julie VW
First Battle of Ypres 42:46 Read by Julie VW
Ambulance Train British and Indians 44:14 Read by Jacquerie
Ambulance Train Christmas and New Year 30:35 Read by Jacquerie
Ambulance Train - Winter on the train and in the trenches 45:37 Read by Marianne Coleman-Hipkins
Ambulance Train - Rouen, Spring in NW France 53:22 Read by Jacquerie
Field Ambulance - Billets, Life at the back of the front 51:54 Read by Jacquerie
Festubert, Boulogne, Posted 37:38 Read by Marianne Coleman-Hipkins


A rather wrenching book

(4 stars)

Excellently read, and terrible at one remove. That is, it doesn't quite hit you until you think afterwards about what you've just heard. The nurses are so into the situation that their descriptions almost shield you in understatement. "It was a bad night tonight" actually means she's been up to her elbows in people's innards for six hours. The beeps didn't bother me.

Interesting insights into WWI

(4 stars)

I really appreciated how this diary brought a "real" view of World War I. It didn't glorify the war, it didn't even give context for the pictures and experiences that it related, but it had a stark honesty that put a face on the horrors of this war. The waiting, and more waiting. Then the intensity of the battle. How the men just accepted the maiming injuries as a part of their duty to country and how glad they were not to be among the thousands of dead - that was a personal perspective that seems to get lost in the factual recitation of many history books. And the more practical effects of war - How do you eat when your jaw is shot off? What happens to your feet when you stand in a trench of mud unable to get dry for a week on end? What torture to be infested with fleas (JJ's) and unable to get away from the itching and biting? And as a nurse, how do you treat the infested without getting it yourself? And how did just 3 nurses and a couple of orderlies take care of 300+ injured men for days as the train made its way to a hospital further back from the lines? I wondered how the author kept her own sanity in dealing with so many injured - she mostly kept her emotions from her writing. I appreciated how she let us see her grief at the numbers of men who died at the field ambulance station, but of course, there is a job to do and it is amazing to me how she keeps doing it through the bombing and the gassing. Overall, this was a book well worth listening to. By the way, I listened in my car and did not find the "beeps" distracting or exceptionally loud. It was clear to me that they indicated censored info, and it was just a natural part of hearing a diary from the front lines of the war. And a last btw, the extent of facial injuries in WWI gave plastic surgery a wealth of opportunities for experimentation. The Gillies Archives at Queens Mary Hospital, Sidcup, has a treasure trove of interesting material on how these wounds were treated. http://www.gilliesarchives.org.uk/


(1 stars)

i know it is hard--just as with the novels that have incomplete names like Miss---- or years like 18--. I guess a rooster crowing, or a car purr are out of the question as solutions (just to be funny here) Can you just have the reader say "censored" or warn us of the beeps and why they are being used-'cause we so not know what the beeps are for (I thought my phone or the computer was firing off). But maybe next time beeps could be lower in volume..they are louder than the voice level, at least that is how it sounds....but no worries..i love librivox and you have changed my life. Thanks for everything!


(0 stars)

I agree the beeps are distracting. The way it's normally handled is dead air. Just leave a long obvious pause where things are deleted. So for example a line that reads "In 19__ we went to the front," there would be a long pause between "19" and "we". It sounds like someone deleted it from the recording, leaving a blank space in the recording. Which is how it looks in the text, the effect your trying to emulate. Other LibriVox recordings do it this way. Thanks for the fine recording otherwise! Best, Stephen.


(0 stars)

I am sorry you thought the beeps spoiled the recording. We thought long and hard how to deal with the censored references in the writer's letters. Saying "blank" did not indicate the censorship. Using numbers for the blanks indicated that the text included numbers, which caused confusion. Short beeps seemed the best solution. "Constant" is an exaggeration, however, and each is less than half a second long. If you have a better solution, I am sure it will be considered if there should be another recording of this work.

Fascinating book.

(5 stars)

This book is captivating and very well written and tells what people who lived through it endured. I could do without the beeping sounds . Fans of thus book may be interested to know that there's a book also written by the author Kate Evelyn Luard but its NOT in Public Domain. I haven't read it yet but hope to soon. Check out Unknown Warriors if you enjoyed this book.

Interesting and compelling!

(5 stars)

I for one didn't find the beeps bothering at all. I can't imagine any other way of dealing with the censorship. I think this diary gives us a very hands-on view of what life was like in that terrible period, from a new point of view. The fact that this is an actual diary, not a fictional one, makes it all the more compelling for me. Well done!

More about the author

(5 stars)

This is a moving book by a kind, professional caregiver who served as a combat nurse during the Boer War and WWI. Her full name is Katherine Evelyn Luard (1872-1962). You can read more about her amazing life here: http://www.essexrecordofficeblog.co.uk/an-essex-nurse-on-the-western-front-sister-katherine-evelyn-luard-1872-1954/