Why everyone is trying to trace these incredible “forgotten nurses”

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Susan Devaney
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For the first time, English Heritage has released colourised images of nurses from the war in an effort to honour the forgotten women. 

From Fatima al-Fihr and Carol Shaw to Jerrie Mock, it’s of no secret that many incredible women throughout history have failed to be honoured or even recognised for their great achievements due to their gender.

Which is why English Heritage has acknowledged that the same can be said of many nurses who “were the backbone” of Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, England’s first wartime country-house hospital.

After carrying out extensive research into the hospital’s history, little could be found of the staff – especially 100 female nurses.

Now, in an effort to track details down about the women, the charity has colourised rarely seen black and white archive photos in the hope that people may be able to spot their ancestors.

“These women were the backbone of the hospital – and indeed the war effort – providing much-needed treatment to the wounded but also acting as a comfort to soldiers traumatised by the horrors of war,” said English Heritage lead properties historian Andrew Hann.

“They worked tirelessly and deserve to be known as individuals, just as the soldiers they cared for do. 

He said identifying the nurses would help the team better understand life at Wrest Park during the war.

“We are interested in the human stories that are hinted at from the photographic evidence we have. Women played a vital role in supporting the war effort at home, not least as auxiliary nurses in country-house hospitals such as Wrest Park, and we are keen to celebrate their efforts and achievements.

“It would be wonderful if the public could help us identify these forgotten women.”

Nurse Given and Staff Sister Whyly on the terrace at Wrest. © London Metropolitan Archives/Royal Sun Alliance

The coloured photographs will be on display at Wrest Park, which English Heritage looks after, from Saturday until the end of the month.

Anyone who recognises someone is asked to email Wrest Park’s volunteer history team at

You can read stories from Stylist’s Forgotten Women series here.

Images: English Heritage / Getty 


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.