Fund raising and making clothes for the troops at the front were often seen as primary contributions of women to World War One. But for those who wanted a more hands-on role there was nursing.
The starting points were basic first aid courses run by the British Red Cross Society that could lead to courses in home nursing and from there an opportunity to qualify as nurses with the local Women's Voluntary Aid Detachment working at military hospitals such as Wardown. Some would also do voluntary work at Bute Hospital to gain further experience.
More than 50 Luton women initially took up the challenge soon after the outbreak of war. The Luton News marked their continued successes by printing the names of those who gained certificates and badges, and many would appear as part of a group in photographs taken with wounded soldiers at Wardown during the course of the war.
The initial presentations at the end of first aid courses took place in December 1914 and that was followed by the next series of successes at the end of February 1915. Below is the Luton News report of the latter event in the March 4th, 1915, edition.
A gathering of local ladies to receive certificates recently gained for home nursing in the Red Cross examination, took place last Friday evening in the Christ Church Institute, Inkerman Street, Luton. There was a large attendance.
On the outbreak of war some 50 or 60 ladies responded to the invitation of the Red Cross Society to attend a course of lectures in first aid. The whole of these ladies entering for the examination were successful, and it became necessary to take a second examination - in home nursing - before the students qualified to act as nurses in the local Voluntary Aid Detachment.
This was held on January 25th under the auspices of the British Red Cross Society, when a good number of first certificates were gained, and the opportunity was also taken by a number of ladies already acting in the Voluntary Aid Detachment to secure the second certificates or proficiency badges. The award were:
First certificate - Miss Ivy Brown, Miss Lilian Burgess, Mrs Alexandra Barnard, Miss Dorothy Coles, Miss Agnes Cookson, Miss Mabel Cole, Mrs Nita Davies, Miss Beatrice Deacon, Miss Olive Deacon, Miss Rene Deacon, Mrs Emma Ebbs, Miss Edith Eustace, Miss Winifred Dales, Miss Louise Escott, Miss Edith Fyson, Miss Dorothy Oates, Miss May Gilder, Miss Maggie Godfrey, Miss Stella How, Miss Alice Howard, Miss Gladys Mitchell, Miss Marjorie Plummer, Miss Elsie Rohner, Miss Gertrude Sheriff, Miss Charlotte Shorthouse, Miss Madge Shoosmith and Miss Agnes Worsley.
Second certificates - Miss Mildred Brown, Mrs Annie Barford, Miss Anna Batchelor, Miss Eila Cumberland, Miss Elizabeth Crabb, Miss Phyllis Inwards, Mrs Maud Lloyd, Miss Emmie Paine, Mrs Constance Sanderson and Miss Doris Tomson.
Proficiency badges - Miss Margaret Tomson and Miss Dorothy Williams.
The certificates were presented by Mrs J. W. Green, and members were then asked by the two commandants (Mrs Green and Mrs Robert Durler) if they would take their turn in the help at Wardown Military Hospital. Many expressed their willingness to do so.
Lieut Wood, R.A.M.C., who was formerly medical officer at Wardown, gave a short address on the duties of nurses there.
[The Luton News, March 4th, 1915]