Nursing during the First World War will be the focus for an innovative remembrance event being held in Wakefield next month.
Nursing the Front Line, at St Andrew’s Church on Peterson Road, will be a day of songs, talks, exhibitions and anecdotes on Saturday 10th November – the day before the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
The day has been inspired by the life of Nellie Spindler, a Wakefield staff nurse who volunteered to care for injured and dying soldiers on the battlefields around Ypres in Belgium and who was, herself, killed, on 21st November 1917, by a German shell just three miles from the Front Line trenches in the Battle of Passchendaele. She was given a full Military Funeral, and hers is the only grave of a woman amongst those of 10,000 men laid to rest in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
A new composition, A Song for Nellie, will receive its first public performance. Sung by a small choir it was commissioned for the event and written by well-known Wakefield musician, Ali Bullivent.
The church will be open from 1.00pm to allow attendees to view pictorial images in a number of displays. There are activities for children, and an opportunity for visitors to record tributes and personal anecdotes about the war.
It is estimated that, including volunteers, over 200,000 nurses were involved in the war effort, with at least 300 losing their lives. The St Andrew’s event has been created as a tribute to this vast army of professional nurses and volunteers whose mission was to provide medical and psychological care for the injured amongst six million Allied soldiers.
The main event will commence at 2.00pm with an introduction by the Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor Stuart Heptinstall, who will introduce the keynote speaker, Professor Christine Hallett, Chair of the UK Association for the History of Nursing, and Professor of Nursing History at Huddersfield University. Professor Hallett has written a number of highly-regarded books on the role and challenges of Nursing during WW1 and her presentation will look at the life of Nellie Spindler and the contribution of nursing within the war effort
David Melia, Deputy Chief Executive of the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, will also speak, focusing on a number of medical challenges faced by nurses during the war, and breakthroughs in treatment which were made which have transformed medical care right through to the present day.
There will be well-known community songs from the First World War and a song and audio visual presentation by John Milne MBE, on what it was like to be involved, as a soldier, on the battlefield.
A ‘Poem for Peace’ written by three local Muslim women who are active in promoting harmony and fellowship in the community will also be recited.
The formal presentations will close at 4.00pm with an Act of Remembrance and the playing of the Last Post, with the church remaining open until 5pm.
Commenting, Professor Hallett said, “It is fitting that Nellie Spindler should be remembered on the day before the Centenary of the Armistice. She, and nurses like her, not only helped bring peace to the world in 1918, they also made that world a better place for those damaged by the war.
“We should never underestimate the number of lives they saved through their unflinching attention to the care and treatment of their patients under very difficult and often dangerous conditions. Many, like Nellie Spindler, sacrificed their lives by going willingly into the most dangerous areas, close to the front lines, because they could save more lives by doing so”.