Xmas 1917 at the Queen Alexandra Hospital

Molly Evans spent the last Christmas of World War 1 in Dunkirk, France working as a VAD nurse at the Queen Alexandra Hospital run by the Friends’ Ambulance Unit. 100 years on we would like to share her personal account of the events which happened that day.

Christmas Day 1917 at Dunkirk was a white Christmas – cold and snowy. At the Queen Alexandra Hospital it was a day of duty and celebration. Flowers, presents, festive food and a party spirit on the one hand and a fully functional wartime hospital on the other.

There was some degree of hope that this one might be the last away from home. But it would be another 11 months of hard work and heavy losses until the end of the war. And it would be another Christmas which would bring the “Year of Peace”.

Here are a couple of illustrative extracts from  her pocket diary.

Firstly, from Molly’s Cash Account:

21.12.17Sub to Capt. Maxwell’s present3.00 fr
“   “  Flowers for Christmas0.50 fr
23.12.17Present for matron2.00 fr
(exchange rate £1.00 = 26.10 frs)

Secondly, the diary entry itself gives a very vivid description of what happened during the day. After a very busy Christmas Eve (she was working between two wards covering for nurse Greeves whose brother was killed the day before and died in the hospital), Molly was on duty again:

Molly Evans’s Diary, 23-29 Dec 1917

Molly Evans’s Diary, 23-29 Dec 1917

25 December 1917
Tuesday, Christmas Day

On duty 6 a.m. Freezing & snow. Early service in our Mess Room. Crowded. Breakfast for day & night staff in kitchen. Glorious carnations. Scramble for food & parcels. Cheery ward. Dear old men pleased with their presents. Visitors from other wards. Great preparation for dinner. Doctor in to carve! Immense pleasure & gratitude of pts. Cheering. Cook’s visit. Getting off stretcher cases to concert. Sweeping & cleaning & preparation for tea for 40 people. Cutting sandwiches. Arrival of “crowd”. My “hostess” efforts. Touching return of old patient & gift. Further concert. Admissions. Clearing up again. Heavy snow. Bright moon awfully pretty. Visits to other wards. Mistletoe!! Walk up 8:30 in snow.

Finally, there are a number of cards, pictures and photos in Molly’s Nursing Scrapbook to illustrate all the above.