By Sarah Rogers, PhD Student University of Huddersfield

Recently, whilst reflecting on a circular letter which Eva Lückes, matron of The London Hospital (1880-1919), wrote to her nurses during World War 1, I was struck by how apposite her introductory passage was:

The sudden outbreak of war at the beginning of last August divided the work of the past year into two distinct parts, and you can easily imagine what a difference the mere fact that war is going on is making in the daily lives of us all. If we had not lived through the experience, I doubt if any of us could have realised how far-reaching, in small matters as well as great, the influence of war is. It so alters the values and proportions of things in general and of the ordinary interests of life.’[1]

The Coronavirus epidemic has had a profound impact on all our lives. Nurses are facing unprecedented challenges, some are ‘retraining’ and changing roles, and all are at risk of contracting a highly contagious virus. Much of the world is in ‘lockdown’ in a bid to save lives. Like the Covid -19 pandemic today, World War 1 had a seismic impact on the work, and lives of nursing staff. With a record number of nursing posts currently vacant, the pandemic has again highlighted the immeasurable value of skilled, trained, professional nurses: 

We are living through a very stirring epoch in the world’s history. Never before have so many countries been engaged in such a terrible war,… Never before have trained nurses had such a chance of proving, and on so large a scale, what their services are worth,…[2]


[1] Royal London Hospital Archives, RLHLH/N/7/2 Volume containing Matron’s Annual Letter to Nurses, 1894-1916, June 1915, 1

[2] Royal London Hospital Archives, RLHLH/N/7/2 Volume containing Matron’s Annual Letter to Nurses, 1894-1916, June 1915, 33