District Nurses

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District nurses relax in 1939 - Picture Evening Post

This article by Marie-Louise Backhurst was first published in the 2007 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

District nurses with their bicycles in 1939

It is not exactly clear when the first District Nursing Association was set up in Jersey, but it is likely to have been in Grouville. A Mrs Diaper seems to have been employed by the Gorey and Grouville Association which started on 18 February 1904. Although an association may also have been set up in St Helier in the same year, it was not, however, until 1909 that the Dean, the Reverend Samuel Falle, applied for affiliation of the St Helier District Nurse Association to the Queen Victoria's Jubilee Institute for Nurses.

Jubilee initiative

It was in 1859 in Liverpool that William Rathbone had first employed a nurse to assist people in their homes. Fund-raising for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 had led to a surplus and he and Florence Nightingale were approached to organise a body of district nurses which would oversee training, supply nurses to associations and give awards to the nurses. Queen Victoria's Jubilee Institute for Nurses was set up in 1888, but in 1928 the name was changed to The Queen's Institute of District Nursing and in 1973 became the Queen's Nursing Institute.

A preliminary report to the Institute was made by A L Wimberley, who visited the island in January 1910. Referring to the St Helier Association she wrote:

"I met the sub-Committee, consisting of the president, secretary, one of the doctors and one other. It is proposed to hold a general meeting next week, to arrange about raising funds, and then they hope to apply for two nurses. The doctors are all in favour of the scheme, and no difficulty is anticipated about the funds. It is not necessary to have French speaking nurses. It would be best to have cyclists, and bicycles would probably be provided. The Roman Catholic population are nursed by the Sisters."

In October 1910 Miss Wimberley reported:

"The patients welcome the nurses, and say that it is what they wanted long ago. There are a great many old people, and they strongly object to going into the States Hospital which is attached to the Workhouse. There is a dispensary, which seems to be mismanaged, and its use abused. Consequently, the nurses get a good many chronic cases.'

The association was funded by subscriptions collected by ladies in the parishes, parochial funding and donations. The poor were not to be charged. Inspections were made on a regular basis and reports sent back to London. St Helier employed two of the Queen's nurses, Rosalie Chadwick from Portsmouth and Lilian Coulson from Shoreditch.

Nurses' day

In 1922 the Association moved into new rooms at 12 Halkett Place, alleviating the problem of housing the nurses, one of whom, Miss Broadhead-Williams, had been staying with the Matron of the Westaway Creche; the other two nurses, Miss Deacon and Miss Poulouin, had had to find accommodation with friends. Miss E Vaudin, the honorary assistant secretary, described a typical day for the nurses in 1925:

"The nurses work very hard, they start at 8.30 am and keep at it till 1.30 pm, and out again soon after 4, for another round. They are entitled to 2 hours off every afternoon, one half-day a week and alternative Sundays, but many times they willingly give up their rest and leisure if they have sick ones needing special care and attention. Many of the cases are chronic and have been on our books for some time. One case has been with us since August 1921 and has received 1,000 visits. Another has been visited twice daily for some time and will need the services of our nurses every day of her life, and she is only 34.

Island-wide associations

Over the next few years a somewhat complex web of nursing associations was set up which spread throughout the island. There was a Western Association established in 1908, which may have included St Ouen. It seems that the Jersey District Nursing Association was inaugurated in 1926, although St Ouen and St Helier remained apart from it. The objects of the JDNA were: 'To provide nursing for the poor and sick, and for persons of limited means, and for the treatment of such persons in their homes.'

By 1928 there were five associations in the island affiliated to the Queen's Institute of District Nursing: St Helier, Carrefour Selous (St Lawrence, St Mary and St John), Grouville and St Clement (founded 1926), Trinity and St Martin (also 1926) and Gorey; between them they employed eight Queen's Nurses. The St Ouen's Nursing Association was not yet affiliated.

In 1929 the Inspector reported: 'A motor car has been bought for the St Martin's nurse since my last inspection. The five associations of the Jersey Federation were visited and the work seen with the nurses was excellent.'

The St Peter branch, which first started in 1928, asked St Brelade to join them, but it is not clear from the records if in fact they did so. The St Saviour's branch of the JDNA was not founded until 1937.

The Queen's Nursing Institute kept detailed records of all its nurses, including those who came to Jersey; Mary Eliza Clarke, for example, came to the island as a nurse in 1924 and stayed until 1930; she is described as 'a very good midwife and much liked; rather talkative'.

Property purchase

The Association had benefited by testamentary donations of money since its inception and in 1933 the Jersey District Nursing Association was incorporated so as to enable the organisation to purchase property and to accept donations of real property. Shortly afterwards the newly incorporated JDNA purchased, for £2,100, Gloucester Lodge in Stopford Road, St Helier, as a nurses' home:

"The new home is a fine house and very comfortable. Many gifts in kind are made, especially at Christmas and on Pound Day.'

Several properties have been left to the Association over the years and many of these have been sold and the money invested. For example, in her will of 1947 Mabel Filleul left the JDNA her property, Fauvic House, to be used as a home for the district nurses of Grouville and St Clement and as a clinic 'to be free for the use of all doctors in cases of general vaccination or inoculation in times of epidemics.' The property, however, was considered not to be suitable and so was sold in 1949.

The Queen's Nurses came from all over England and in 1937 some difficulties were noted by the inspector in relation to their employment in Jersey: 'Mrs Vaudin [secretary of the JDNA] spoke of the non-settling atmosphere prevailing amongst the nurses and how unfortunate St Helier had been in having nurses who would not consider remaining longer than a year. It is causing disturbance to the work and expense to the association. We spoke of the need of an emergency nurse for special calls and relief in the country districts.'

During the same visit the inspector also spoke to a Dr Marett:

"I then emphasised how much more could be done if the nurses were recognised by the authority as health visitors, doing so much good preventative work between infancy and school age, especially in view of a recent case of neglected children which had been brought before the Courts. The nursing work seen on all districts was extremely well carried out and the care given to several heavy chronic cases was very commendable. The general methods and technique were of excellent standard, the nurses hardworking and unsparing shewing interested and sympathetic attention to the needs of their patients."
Katherine Bond's Occupation identity card


In 1938 the JDNA sought advice from the institute on the possibility of employing a superintendent. The institute's reply laid out in some detail what the responsibilities of a superintendent would be, and although some nursing might be undertaken, this would not be on a regular basis. A salary of about £130 all found was considered to be suitable. It seems that Katharine Bond was appointed to the post in May 1938.

As most of the nurses came from the United Kingdom there were concerns raised in 1938 that those who came to work in Jersey should not lose out as a result of not paying the UK National Health Insurance. By 1939 there were 16 Queen's Nurses working in the Channel Islands. In that year one of them resigned and although the Queen's Institute advertised for a replacement, none was forthcoming. A midwife was needed, but nurses earned more money as private nurses and were reluctant to apply.

The archives of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing are divided between the National Archive and the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine: the correspondence files are at the Wellcome Library and these include letters sent from Jersey during this period.


By March 1940, as Britain was at war, the Institute pointed out that: 'nurses are a little frightened about work in the Islands as it is the general opinion that it is difficult to reach the mainland owing to the present restrictions.' The staff shortages meant that when a Miss Milligan married, she was allowed to stay on, as the regulation of resignation on marriage had been rescinded for the period of the war, although it was hoped that being married would not interfere with her work.

In May 1940 an inspection by Miss Radcliffe reported that: 'The equipment and records were well kept and up-to-date. The Central Home well kept and admirably managed by Miss Bond, who is unremitting in advance of the association's work.'

By 2 June 1940 the nurses decided to remain at their posts for the time being; Dr McKinstry, the Medical Officer of Health, was anxious for them to do so and the decision was taken 'after much hard thought'.

Katharine Bond wrote to the Institute on 12 June 1940: 'I feel I would like to be doing some sort of war work instead of being tucked away in safety.' The reply dated the following day made an attempt at reassuring her:

"Dear Miss Bond, I was very pleased to hear that you feel you are 'tucked away' safely in the Channel Islands as we have been thinking about the nurses there in these difficult days. It seems quite impossible to persuade nurses to apply for the vacancy owing to the difficulty of getting back home again. More than ever nurses are wanting to be as near as possible to their own people."

At this time two nurses were in the UK visiting their families.

As the situation worsened, on 20 June Miss Bond wrote to Miss Wilmshurst, the Superintendent of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing at Lower Belgrave Street, London.

"Dear Miss Wilmshurst,
Your wire arrived at 4.30 pm. I have been down to the States Offices to try and see the Bailiff, who is in charge of the Island, but was unable to do so as no one knows his whereabouts. Miss Harris and Miss Thomas and myself are remaining. A hard decision for the two of them, but they have made their choice themselves, Miss Brooks also. I cannot get news of Miss Milligan or Holmes. Miss Robinson and Thompson and Ashworth are on holiday, and I do not think will be allowed over here from the mainland. In any case they can be useful over there. Miss Ashworth is at Hove at present. Will you please give her some work. I have wired her to inform you and to stay. It seems that crowds of nurses have left - sent the patients home from Hospital and dispensary and just gone. Also Matron of General Hospital - which is all very demoralising. I saw the MoH, Dr McKinstry, he was very relieved when I told him three of us were remaining - also some of the country nurses. I saw Mrs Vaudin yesterday, but all she did was weep on me.
"We quite realize what we are in for - the hard part will be when we are cut off from the mainland entirely - I always did dislike islands, now I know why. What is going to happen - no money, no news, one prays we may land in England before we become too ancient! I asked Dr McKinstry if he would guarantee the nurses personal safety in the event of the worst happening, in the hope that they could get home eventually, he is not hopeful. The town is the most nightmarish place you could wish to see, thousands of people pouring in, and queueing up for evacuation, no method and panic ridden, many of them queued all night.
"At first the rumor was compulsory evacuation and at 6 pm last night was the first news of a voluntary scheme. I was up until 2.30 trying to get things in order should it be made compulsory agam. Farmers have even gone off and left their cattle in the fields unmilked and unwatered. The NSPCA are trying to deal with hundreds of dogs and cats etc: it is pitiful to see them. One cannot telephone. This morning I waited three hours to get into the bank to cash the nurses cheques. It is apparently the last money we shall have. It was terrible, the squash. The Post Office is queued six deep for telegrams. I hope Miss Ashworth will get her luggage safely. I have done my best to get it off. All the shops are closed today, in some cases shut down - in others no staff to open.
"The stories of panic are something terrible. We had Saturdays newspaper on Tuesday, that is the last English paper so far. The harbour is crowded with people waiting to get on boats, children asleep in heaps on the quayside. The trouble is that it has all been so sudden. Monday, the troops poured in, guns ammunition etc. Wednesday, they were being removed as fast as possible and no one knew why - then when it was declared an open town and people were advised to evacuate and line up outside the Town Hall from 6-10 pm and 6-10.30 am this morning - then the panic began. I hear they are still there, and it is now 8.15 p.m.
"My cook - has gone - the daily maid is wavering - am sure she will be gone by morning. We have a curfew at 9 pm. I hope you will get this and understand this somewhat jumbled affair, but I thought you might be interested.
"I hear that the States are considering cash coupons. I wonder if we will be paid in those - or not at all! Miss Thomas allots her mother so much each month and is wondering how she can manage. Am afraid she will not get any now. The St Saviour's Miss Maby is back on her district, but that her secretary & treasurer have decamped without a word. Several firms have closed and gone without paying their men - one to Canada. I was starting my holiday on 4 July. Miss Brooks also, and Miss Thomas in August. Rumor has it that we have left, so have inserted a letter in the paper, stating that we are still here.
"Schools have been called together today for the purpose of finding out who remains. Miss Ashworth has written begging to return but, candidly, I do not think she will stand being cut off from her sisters. She finds the island too small on normal occasions. The other nurses are calm so far, and are just carrying on and we live from day to day. Fortunately the Cinemas open today, which helps a great deal in restoring normal balance. Mrs Vaudin has just been talking to me about Miss Ashworth on the phone. She has had a letter also from Dr McKinstry. He says she may return on her own responsibility, as there will be plenty to do. She is not due back in any case until 4 July, so please advise her to wait, anything may happen between now and then. Am sending you the cutting which caused all the panic, as I expect you wonder what it was all about. The Bailiff is in charge of the Island as the Governor and his secretary have left.
"I will let you know as far as possible what is happening."

Yours sincerely, Katharine J Bond


Miss Bond sent a telegram on the same day requesting advice: 'Voluntary evacuation taking place Wire instructions re nurses Urgent'. The response was to advise her to speak with the secretary of the association, Mrs Vaudin; this was followed by a letter saying: 'we do hope that the Islands will be left alone, but if at any time you find it necessary to come home you should not hesitate to do so, though I am more than glad that at present you can remain with your patients who will appreciate your selflessness in doing so.'

On 24 June Miss Bond wrote again:

"Dear Miss Wilmshurst
"Am afraid you may have heard some awful tales about Jersey as they are just beginning to trickle back here. Lies, spread by panic stricken people who have left, and we have been bombed, that the town was in flames - don't believe any of them. At present the town is trying to return to normal, and as long as the British flag is flying we feel fairly secure, altho' everyone feels the suspense of waiting. What for, no one knows. Rather an undefined dread of the future, which may turn out to be not so dreadful after all. Shops are very depleted as regards staffs. 2,000 dogs and 3,000 cats were put to sleep. 23,000 people men, women and children have left so far. Others are leaving. We hope to carry on as well as possible under the circumstances and you may be sure we will do our best to keep the flag flying in our hearts."

By the 27th she received a reply from Miss Bingham of the institute who wrote: 'I do not want to expose you to any unnecessary danger; I do understand your wish to remain by what appears to be your duty. You should keep in close touch with the Bailiff for advice.'

Red Cross message

Miss Bond managed to get out a message via the Red Cross, on 29 July 1941, which stated succinctly: 'All well and carrying on. Hope you are likewise. I miss your visits. Am with you all in thoughts and prayers. Love from Sammy and Katharine.' Miss Wilmshurst has scribbled the word 'dog' underneath 'Sammy'!

This was to be the last communication with Jersey for the next four years. Miss Wilmshurst received several letters from worried relatives concerned about the fate of the trapped nurses; she was not able to reassure them.

During the German Occupation the associations had to apply for permission to continue their work, although by an order of the German authorities dated 22 July 1940 they were not allowed to undertake maternity cases. Despite this order such cases were still undertaken; nurses were told to use their own judgement, although by September 1942 conditions did not permit home confinement cases.

In October 1944 the Western Association gave permission to use a tyre from the car and have it adapted to replace one on the nurse's bicycle. Finally a second Red Cross message managed to get through and was received in London on 20 April 1945: 'All well. Still going strong. Parcels much appreciated. Love all.'


Miss Wilmshurst sent encouraging words on 11 May:

"At long last we are able to greet you and to express our very great pleasure in hearing that the Channel Islands are at last free.'

On 19 May 1945 Miss Bond was able to send a long letter to Miss Wilmshurst:

"Dear Miss Wilmshurst,

Firstly, hearty greetings to you all, yourself and staff and all Queens Nurses from us all at Jersey. Your letter arrived this afternoon, for which many thanks. I expect you will have received my pc by now. We are all well, naturally rather frayed and tired, and longing to get home. Don't worry about us in Jersey. We have certainly been hungry. I speak for the town, but on the whole our treatment has not been too bad. Many galling minor things, resulting in extra difficulties for all of us, but we have all, I think, carried on and done our best.

"No electricity, gas and fuel made it hard, but, when the water was turned off at 8.30 am until 11.30, nearly did upset us. I am speaking of town life, for I don't think things were so difficult in the country. Last winter was pretty grim for most folk, added to food shortage. What a boom our Red X parcels have been, though we only had them once a month, they did make a change of diet. Vegetables get very monotonous, especially swedes, even they gave out. The old folk suffered keenly but on the whole the children are not too bad. They have been hungry and have eaten plenty of vegetables, resulting in an improvement in teeth, also skin trouble except scabies and in some cases a persistent form of impetigo.

In 1940 Dr McKinstry ordered all maternity work to be centralized and the Dispensary was turned into a Maternity Hospital, a wise move, as it became very difficult to get a doctor out during the night if required. Nov 1942 he wanted another midwife, so commandeered Miss Harris, she is still there.

"January 1943 we had a diphtheria epidemic, in February he commandeered Miss Thomas for isolation. She is still at Overdale. He gave me a general trained nurse from the Dispensary, Miss Perree, a Jerseywoman, who has been a brick. She has helped me to do everything and anything, and done it cheerfully. I think she will remain on the staff, but she needs a good holiday. Mrs Vaudin has retired from secyship (sic) in March last, Miss Le Lacheur is carrying on temporally, until someone can be got. You will be hearing from her shortly.

Don't worry about food, things are beginning to make appearances in the shops, and as they are rationed we shall get our fair share, there must be many worse off. By the time you see us, we shall be fighting fit again.

"I would like to hear about the Queen's Nurses in England. I am sure that you have all had a very trying time. There must be many heroines, both sung and unsung. I think those who have worked in the Blitz and V1 and 2 areas deserve the George Medal. It makes me feel flat and drained, we used to feel so helpless I've more than once wished I'd gone and been able to do my bit. You ask me about plans, it is very difficult at present to say, but we shall all need relieving, but each nurse will tell you herself what she wishes to do.

As for myself, I should like to come home as soon as possible, but can't leave until relieved. In any case there will a lot to settle and straighten on the domestic side. Have had an old woman of 70 working for me. Domestic labour is difficult, my last had Germans in when my back was turned.

"I forgot to mention that we have been helped by an elderly woman, Mrs Le Brun, who has done bed baths for us and straightforward washing cases. I kept my wireless and managed to distribute the news, was searched once, but managed to get away with it, then buried the set, as I had a few 'visitors' at critical moments, then dug it up, and repeated the process, but must say I felt shaky at times.
" think according to rumour, Guernsey has been worse off than Jersey. I have kept up the reports and if they are any good, will forward them.
"Am sorry to hear that Miss Radcliffe has retired, it would have been nice to have had her for the last time. Mrs Skillet and Tipping will tell you their news. Ask me any questions you want to know, and I will do my best to answer them, otherwise I should ramble on, it is so very long since I wrote any letters, that to get two batches in two days is nearly too much for me. My thoughts have never been far from home for long and have thought and prayed for you all, especially during the Blitz and V2 period. Here's to the day we return. May it be soon.

Yours sincerely, Katharine J Bond

Occupation nurses

The nurses of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing had raised £1,300 to help out the nurses in the Channel Islands. Apart from Katharine Bond, the nurses who were in the island during the occupation were:

Miss Mary Joy Brookes lived at La Grange, St Mary; she came from Scarborough and had worked in Hackney; Miss M Mulligan, who lived at Mon Reve, St Peter, came from Kirk Connel, Scotland and married Edwin Skillett; Miss M Thomas who came from Glamorgan and worked in Southampton and Miss Nellie Harris, born 1902, from Bristol, both lived at 79 Stopford Road; Mrs Thompson, lived at Archirondelle Villa, Gorey and came from Lancashire, having worked in Surrey, and Miss H. D. Holmes, born 1902 in Gloucester, having worked in High Wycombe, lived at Tranquil, Gorey and married a Mr Tipping during the occupation.

Final letter

The final letter in the collection at the Wellcome Library was sent on 6 June 1945:

"Dear Miss Wilmshurst,
"Thank you very much for the notepaper, letters and enclosure. I have heard on the wireless about the salaries, but did not know to what extent. We were ready for the procession today and had invited various people to the house, as it passes here. Most people were very disappointed as it is, up to the present, a lovely day. We were to parade for inspection - I only heard about it Sunday afternoon - and spent the rest of Sunday ringing up or trying to ring up the District Nurses, so as to give them time to clean up their uniform. Am afraid we will look rather like a stratch (sic) crew of the Merchant Navy as uniform is decidedly shabby after five years but we are doing our best.
"I am overwhelmed at the amount of money collected for us. We have been receiving our salaries, and had little to spend it on, but, of course a certain amount of expenses accruing re insurance etc. At present no one is allowed to take more than £20 out of the Island. For myself, I would prefer any money to be kept for me. Thank you very much for arranging with Miss Partington, but I shall be staying with one of my oldest friends in East London. It will not be so central, but she has 'mothered' me since I was 14 and would be very hurt if I stayed elsewhere. They have had a very tough time, but as usual most of their worry has been for me and I feel I don't deserve it, when I hear their tales. Did you get my long and maybe somewhat rambling letter and do you wish me to send the back reports? We all say the same thing, our memories are terrible and when we start a letter there's no stopping us! I hope I haven't bored you.
"I have sent in my resignation to Miss Le Lacheur, (she will have had it before you get this). Am afraid she will be rather upset as she has set her heart on my staying, but I feel I must get away. I have suffered from homesickness these last four years as never before in my life. Also at present I know too much about the people, which makes impartiality difficult. I would like to leave about 13 September if travelling is permitted, otherwise I shall only have a winter holiday. I don't yet know what sort of post I want but shall be in a better position to judge after a holiday, and when I know more about things.
"Have not yet seen a Nursing Mirror - papers are still difficult to get. Food is coming slowly but is being doled out rather queerly. Folk literally fighting in queues for clothing. Not much else obtainable. There has been a lot of consternation over the Royal visit, as there are Germans still at large, and I think the officials will be truly glad when it is over. If anything thrilling happens I will let you know.
"The laundries have started this week, which is a great blessing. I am now trying to get hold of some domestic help. Poor Miss Brooks is without a car and her cycle tyres are almost irreparable. Germans took her car, cycle tyres are badly wanted by District Nurses, is there any hope of you being able to do anything about it. We are now allowed nine gallons petrol monthly. All our cycles are practically worn out, which makes work very difficult, especially in the country districts. I'm using solid tyres, and for the first six weeks had a perpetual headache, but at least it was better than continued punctures. Many folk rode on their rims, on hosepipe if big enough.
"Is it possible that on 6 May we were still under German rule? It is like a bad dream. Am afraid I've taken rather a long time to write, but life is very full these days."

Yours sincerely, Katharine J Bond

The minutes of the Trinity and St Martin's District Nurses Association in May 1945 noted: 'Thank God we are free once again, free to speak, to act without fear.' On 11 December 1945 the London Gazette announced that Miss Bond had been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

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