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Army Student Nurse

Memories of an army student nurse at the Cambridge Military Hospital during the 1970s

Arlene Quinn recalls:

I was Q/Pte 1001065 ( I think ) and served at the CMH May 1971 to November before a posting to BMH Munster and then back to London at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital Millbank for the rest of my service until I qualified in June 1974 and left the service in May 1975.

Student Nurse Army 1971 QARANC

I was in a training group with Arlene Selkirk, Anne Laidlaw, and Agnes ? ( now Marie Evans). I met my husband RAMC Private Clive Quinn when he was doing his 3 months general, posted temporarily from Tri- services hospital at Netley in Hampshire, as part of his RMH qualification.

I can remember Sister Slattery on ward 2 respiratory: "Flattery won't get you Stattery" was one of her sayings to the men. The AMSET (emergency trolley ) was based on ward 2. It was a huge red thing with a cardiac monitor and drugs. It had an anaesthetic box that lived on the top. If the cardiac arrest alarm came up for another ward, we had to grab the box and sprint down the corridor to where the emergency was. Two of us has to wheel the trolley as fast as we could to the ward. I can remember one event where I was on the end of the trolley wielding this heavy beast down past ward 4 to spy coming up from ward 8 ( High dependency unit ) their AMSET trolley coming the other way. We had to lean back and use our heels to slow our trolley down to turn the corner into the ward.

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PTSD assistance dog Lynne book

My PTSD assistance dog, Lynne, and I have written a book about how she helps me with my military Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and depression. I talk about my time in the QAs and the coping strategies I now use to be in my best health.

Along the way, I have had help from various military charities, such as Help for Heroes and The Not Forgotten Association and royalties from this book will go to them and other charities like Bravehound, who paired me with my four-legged best friend.

I talk openly about the death of my son by suicide and the help I got from psychotherapy and counselling and grief charities like The Compassionate Friends.

The author, Damien Lewis, said of Lynne:

"A powerful account of what one dog means to one man on his road to recovery. Both heart-warming and life-affirming. Bravo Chris and Lynne. Bravo Bravehound."


Buy the Paperback.

QARANC Poppy Pin Badge Royal British Legion RBL
This beautiful QARANC Poppy Pin Badge is available from the Royal British Legion Poppy Shop.

For those searching military records, for information on a former nurse of the QAIMNS, QARANC, Royal Red Cross, VAD and other nursing organisations or other military Corps and Regiments, please try Genes Reunited where you can search for ancestors from military records, census, birth, marriages and death certificates as well as over 673 million family trees. At GenesReunited it is free to build your family tree online and is one of the quickest and easiest ways to discover your family history and accessing army service records.

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Matron and Lieutenant Colonel inspections regularly took place. As students we were expected to look busy which was crazy as everything had been done for the inspection. So, we walked holding a bed pan or a jug from one bathroom or sluice at one end of the ward to the annex at the other end, smiling at the patients as they knew what we were doing. The "almost ready to go home" ones would take pity on us and call out nurse as we went by to keep us occupied.

Another memory was my first ward, Gynae ward 3, particularly surgery days. I dreaded being the "runner nurse" you had to roll down your uniform sleeves when in the corridor and roll them up when you were on the ward or pre- op or post op recovery Theatre area. With D&Cs being a short-operation you could be taking a patient down the long corridor to opposite ward 8/9 to theatre and get into a blue coverall and then bring back the next patient form recovery to handover to the ward nurse and then run back down again to theatre for the whole am or pm list! Exhausting. I remember the joke played on students was to get us to go to OPD for a "long wait" ! Or theatre for a "fallopian tube". We were rather naive as I recall. Sister Bradshaw ( I think) on Ward 3 caught me one day without my scissors and stated to the entire office "A nurse without scissors is a lavatory without paper!"

As a student nurse I was never very fond of children, however I loved working on ward one annexe on the babies' side, except at nights when it was so hot you could drop off before you knew it . The Senior in charge of training found out I hadn't done any children's nursing on the opposite nightingale side of ward 1 and I was transferred back for the final 2 weeks of my placement to get the experience checked off.

Night duty was a hoot, we had to do a round with night sister on the condition of the patient's and be expected to use our memory for handover and the first few hours on duty. I primed the patients to agree with whatever diagnosis and story of their condition I gave them. I did memorize the very ill ones on cardiac monitors ( again HUGE boxes- like a Dr Who Tardis size).

Once in the balcony ward, I had a patient go AWOL, he had slipped out to the pub for a bevy. I was so angry as I would have been put on a charge if night Sister found out.

I think it was ward 13 where patients had TB and during every shift we had to collect the sputum pots and tip the contents into a big bucket to take to the incinerator which was out the back, down a slope as I remember. We had to go fully gowned and masked with gloves on to hand the infectious sputum over: yup, I still have memories of cleaning the bucket and sputum pots which were stainless steel not disposable in my day.

The Grey Lady featured in many a night-time story, as we ate our supper. Whilst I personally didn't have an event there was always a very cold place in the upstairs corridors between ward 14 many sections (A,B,C,D and ward 13.

Because patients were posted to the hospital, they tended to stay there much longer than in a civilian hospital, so two of them were allocated (told) in the evening to be rostered to make the wake-up morning tea. They were grumpy sometimes, still it saved us a job first thing.

It saddened me to see that BBC documentary on the CMH hospital, with it all run down, and I didn't recognise bits of it at first. The historical element about the wars and plastic surgery was of great interest.

I have enjoyed my memory lane. I have had a fabulous nursing career that has taken me to Australia in the 90's and have only relinquished my license in May last year.

Arlene now works as a Coach and Facilitator at

Read about the history of the Cambridge Military Hospital.

Secret Tunnel CMH Aldershot Undertakers.

Grey Lady Ghost.

Aldershot Military Hospital Original Plans.

1932 Plans of the Cambridge and Louise Margaret Hospitals in Stanhope Lines, Aldershot Garrison.

Inspectors Report 1902 by Surgeon-General Keogh and Mr Fripp Cambridge Military Hospital

Miss Sidney Browne Matron-in-Chief Hospital Inspection 1903.

New post apocalyptic military survival thriller

Former Royal Air Force Regiment Gunner Jason Harper witnesses a foreign jet fly over his Aberdeenshire home. It is spilling a strange yellow smoke. Minutes later, his wife, Pippa, telephones him, shouting that she needs him. They then get cut off. He sets straight out, unprepared for the nightmare that unfolds during his journey. Everyone seems to want to kill him.

Along the way, he pairs up with fellow survivor Imogen. But she enjoys killing the living dead far too much. Will she kill Jason in her blood thirst? Or will she hinder his journey through this zombie filled dystopian landscape to find his pregnant wife?

The Fence is the first in this series of post-apocalyptic military survival thrillers from the torturous mind of former British army nurse, now horror and science fiction novel writer, C.G. Buswell.

Download Now.

Buy the Paperback.

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.

Free Book Operation wrath

Free Book.
The death of the Brotherhood will be avenged.
RAF gunner Jason Harper and a team of Special Air Service operators are enraged after the death of their brothers by a terrorist drone strike. They fly into south-eastern Yemen on a Black-op mission to gather intelligence and avenge the death of their comrades.
Can they infiltrate the Al-Queda insurgents' camp, stay undetected, and call down their own drone missile strike and get home safely?
Will they all survive to fight another day?
Operation Wrath is a free, fast-paced adventure prequel to the non-stop action The Fence series by military veteran author C.G. Buswell.
Download for free on any device and read today.

This website is not affiliated or endorsed by The Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) or the Ministry of Defence.

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