Battered Suitcase Provides a Treasure Chest of WW1 Memories.
Earlier this week I read a great story in the Daily Mail about a recently found old suitcase that held a plethora of items relating to the life of a WW1 nurse. Margaret Maule was a nurse for 52 years, until she retired in 1969 aged 82. During that time, she cared for wounded WW1 German soldiers at the Dartford War Hospital. Despite reservations about treating prisoners of war (PoW), following the death of her brother in action in 1917, Nurse Maule was desperate to do her bit for the war effort. This intriguing insight into life as a nurse during WW1 is thanks to the discovery of a battered old suitcase, at the back of a cupboard, at the University of Abertay in Dundee. Born in Scotland, Margaret’s diary, sketches, thank you letters from PoWs and photographs were discovered in the suitcase, although there is no known link to the University at this stage.
Personally I think that this is a hugely important discovery. We do not know much about WW1 nursing, and even less about the ladies who carried out this important role. The discovery gives historians and researchers the opportunity to understand more.
Also, and, maybe more importantly, it sheds light on an aspect of the War that many people pay little attention to. We forget that many POWs were badly injured and needed to be looked after. It shows that far away from all the mayhem and slaughter of the front line, back in the relative peace and tranquility of British hospitals and POW camps, wounded soldiers from both sides were treated with the kindness and compassion they deserved, whether they were perceived as enemies or not.
Finds such as these remind us that the war was not just some kind of huge, mechanical beast wreaking havoc across mainland Europe and beyond, but it was made up of millions of personal stories – many heroic, many tragic – and it is these personal stories that have kept the fascination of the First World War alive for so long.
You can read the full story here.