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War Love Stories
Love stories of the First and Second World War of British nurses military doctors and soldiers and later army years
Despite the horrors and hardships of war love blossomed between the QAIMNS (Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service) nurses and soldiers of the British Army. Many QAs fell in love with their patients and soldiers who worked at the hospitals or Field Dressing Stations.
The book It's a Long Way to Tipperary: British and Irish Nurses in the Great War by Yvonne McEwen tells of the love between composer, poet and soldier Ivor Gurney and nurse Annie Drummond. They met when he was evacuated to Bangour War Hospital near Edinburgh in Scotland.
Army Love Story
The army wedding photo above is from the collection of a QAIMNS(R) Sister Joan Cooper (nee Cameron) who served in India in 1946 and was the bridesmaid in the wedding photo taken in Secunderabad where the Matron was Margaret Hare. The groom is Captain Thomas Hunter, RAMC, and his Bride Miss Theresa Macaulay who was serving as a nurse. They returned to England and he became a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in Romford, Essex and had a son. See more of Sister Cameronís photos on the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service for India page.
Below are a collection of war love stories from the QAIMNS and the QARANC. If you would like to add your own war love story or those of your family then please contact me. I would particularly like to add army love stories from the Falklandís Conflict, the Gulf War and Afghanistan.
World War 1 Love Stories
Here is a collection of World War 1 love stories:
Edward Boulton and Hilda Ward
Our first love story from the First World War was kindly narrated by the grandson (Andrew Fyfe) of Edward Boulton and Hilda Ward. His grandparents met at British Military Hospital Alexandria in Egypt and here are the events that led to their meeting:
Captain Edward Boulton served in the Rifle Brigade and was aboard a ship in the Mediterranean during the Great War. His ship was torpedoed and he was injured. Fortunately the ship took some time to sink and he was able to be rescued. He was placed on a stretcher because of a serious leg injury and wound. Before he abandoned ship he asked his friend to take some photographs with his camera. This included a photo of his men leaving the sinking ship and going into the life rafts, jumping into the water (where sadly many lives were lost) and of himself on the ship lying on the stretcher despite his painful wounds. The next picture in the album were of Capt. Boulton wearing a dressing gown on crutches in BMH Alexandria with a British military nurse on each arm. One QA officer and nursing sister appears more and more in the photograph collection which is thought to be dated to 1914 to 1915 and this included visits to the pyramids and temples and swimming in the Red Sea. Captain Edward Boulton was unmarried and aged nearly forty and soon fell in love with Sister Hilda Ward.
Captain Boulton recovered from his wounds in Egypt and was repatriated back to Britain though he would always walk with a limp. He had survived WWI and found love. He married Hilda Ward in Marylebone and was then dispatched to Falmouth in England, where he commanded a gun battery overlooking the harbour for the rest of the war. After World War One he retired from the army a received a disability pension from the Government.
In 1918 their first child, Andrew's mother, was born in Falmouth.
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The Drummer Boy continues the adventures of QARANC nurse, Scott Grey, who has the special gift of seeing military ghosts. In this novel he is haunted by the ghost of a Gordon Highlander Drummer Boy from the Battle of Waterloo. It is based on the legends of the Tidworth Military Hospital Drummer Boy.
Chapters take place in modern day Aberdeen, at the Noose & Monkey bar and restaurant as well as His Majestyís Theatre and Garthdee. Other scenes take place at Tidworth and during the Napoleonic War where I describe battlefield medical care of this era.
Read the first three chapters for free on most devices.
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Hilda Ward QAIMNS
A bit of background about Hilda Ward QAIMNS:
Hilda Ward was born in 1882. She was the youngest child of a well to do father who was the Managing Director of Stead and Simpson in Leicester. Hilda was bored by this life of considerable luxury and left home, against her fatherís wishes, to become a nurse. Hilda Ward trained at the London Hospital and for many years assisted a famous eye specialist at Moorefields Eye Hospital in London before going to Egypt with the British Army as a QA Nursing Sister.
The photos of Captain Edward Boulton and Sister Hilda Ward are with their daughter in the UK and Andrew, who works in the USA, hopes to be able to make copies soon.
Some QAs were not as lucky in love as Hilda Ward. Some soldiers and officers took advantage of the love of the nurses and during the daily struggle of life and death of war created an urgency to marry so that they could make love to their new sweethearts. Bigamy was a common occurrence and many wives left behind in Britain were unaware that their husbands had remarried without a divorce. Some of these bigamists had no intention of leaving their wives at home and only wanted a sexual relationship as some comfort of war. Others may have fallen in love with their new wives but were killed in action and only found out about the other wives when they padres or COs returned effects and send letters of condolences to the registered next of kin.
In her book A Nurse's War Brenda McBryde recalls one such whirlwind romance in which Mary MacDonald, a QA sister from the Highlands of Scotland, fell in love with an Artillery Captain. He was later killed in action and she received his personal effects from a dispatch rider. She took some comfort from these and that her lover had given his life for his country and men until a padre arrived to ask for the items back because they had been sent to her in error. They should have been sent home to his wife in England. Mary had to had his effects over, after taking out her love letters o him. She later learnt that he had also become engaged to a French woman.
World War 2 Love Stories
Nurses in the Second World War also found romance with soldiers. For example Betty C Parkin was a member of the QAIMNS(R) serving in a military hospital in Cairo when an engineer officer called Stanley of the recovery unit came to her ward. They fell in love and despite his dangerous job of going into minefields and battlefields such as the battle of El Alamein to retrieve weapons and vehicles for salvaging and burying the dead and her frequent postings to other field hospitals and hospital ships around the world they married, served out the war and had two beautiful daughters before his sad and untimely death from an illness caught in the desert. More about their remarkable lives be read in the book Desert Nurse: A WorldWar II Memoir.
Another example of a Second World War romance was Sister Dorothy Phyllis Dart who was a member of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and served in the 74th British General Hospital.
Sister Dart met her husband when he was training with his regiment in the Scottish highlands and she was at Bridge of Earn hospital. Their romance managed to continue through the war as evinced by an entry in her husbandís war diary for the 2nd June 1945 - "June 2 -Course of instruction on dealing sitting on summary mil court on members of Wermacht. Returned via Luneburg and dined at 74 Br Gen Hospital. Arrived Biere approx 01:00 3 June".
They were married on 18th July 1945 in Glasgow, and their first child, Pamela was born the following year on 17th February 1946. Their son, John Hendry, told Qaranc.co.uk: ďI will leave you to do the calculations! I do know that if it had not been for the war they would never have met as they came from very different backgrounds, with her coming from a working class family in Birmingham and he from a well to do middle class family in Glasgow. Sadly she died in 1960 when I was only 6 and my father remarried. My father passed away in 1992 and we never really talked about my Mum so I know very little of her.Ē
Read more about Sister Dart and view her collection of photos.
Despite the dangers of Normandy and the advance through France, Holland and Germany love blossomed between Nursing Sister Lt Hilda Sharpe and Lt Col Reid (RAMC) They dated when they met in Europe but could not form a more serious relationship due to the war. After the war Sister Sharpe stayed in the forces and was posted to India. It was because of his feelings for her that Lt Col Reid decided to stay in the Army and follow her. He was able to convince his superiors to send him to India as well. So it was the love of a woman that he eventually married that made him stay in the Army and he didn't retire from the Forces until 1964. They wed in India, a year after World War Two.
Their invitation read:
The Matron - British Military Hospital - requests the pleasure of your company at the marriage of Ruth Hilda Sharpe to Lt. Col. Grainger Wilson Reid Royal Army Medical Corps at St. Johnís Church Calcutta on Saturday 31st August 1946 at 3-30pm and afterwards at the Sistersí Mess in Alipore.
This was a common practice for overseas weddings where it may not have been safe, or too far or expensive, for mothers and fathers to attend.
Their wedding took place just before India independence and there was a lot of rioting in the streets. Sister Sharpe told her son years later that it was a bit difficult preparing for the wedding under those conditions. She could only go into Calcutta under escort and he guesses that this may well have been an armed escort. He fondly calls this group photo her Hospital family which seems to have included staff that were either coming or going to do their shifts.
See more from the collection of Lieutenant Sharpe and Colonel Reid on the D Day Normandy Landings and Colchester Military Hospital and BMH Kaduna pages.
Military Love Stories
Katie Walker was a VAD during WWII where she met her future husband, Brian Thomas, a surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Their daughter has a blog which gathers their beautiful collection of letters and pictures which they wrote and sent to one another. See With Love from Graz .
Other military love stories can be read on the BMH Mount Kellett page and more recently in the Operation Telic section.
The old army hospitals also saw many other staff and serving soldiers and officers fall in love and marry. For example Brigadier JB Bloxham CBE recalls serving in Hong Kong as the Hospital Catering Officer to both BMH Mount Kellett and BMH Bowen Road Hong Kong from September 1960 for three years. He met and fell in love with Barbara, the Mess Supervisor of the Sistersí mess at Mount Kellett. Below are photos of their wedding at Hong Kong. Unfortunately they cannot recall the name of the officer below, perhaps you can help?
Her bridesmaids were Nursing Sisters Marie Cavanagh and Di Spooner taken on the lawn outside the QA officers mess.
The wedding reception with the bridesmaids and Captain John Holmes Royal Army Medical Corps standing between them.
Of his time in Hong Kong he said: My tour was an extremely happy one for I much enjoyed my interesting role as Hospital Catering Officer, playing a part in fostering the wellbeing of the patients and working alongside the RAMC and QARANC, for whom I retain the highest regard.
Forces War Records
Forces War Records are a genealogy site where you can find military records of over 6 million British Armed Forces personnel cross matched with over 4000 Regiments, Bases and Ships. This link includes a free search and a special discount of 40% off membership offer for visitors who use the discount code AF40 if they decide to become a member.
Search Now. A unique feature is their WW1 Soldiers Medical Records section.
If you would like to contribute to this page, suggest changes or inclusions to this website or would like to send me a photograph then please e-mail me.
Official QARANC webpage.
QA Association website.
In The Company of Nurses Book.
The Grey Lady Ghost of the Cambridge Military Hospital Novel - a Book by CG Buswell
The Drummer Boy Novel
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