The social exploits and behaviour of nurses during the Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902
in Colonial caring

At the commencement of the Second Anglo-Boer War the small cohort of nurses available for service in South Africa were insufficient to meet the demands inherent with the exigencies of modern warfare and ever-increasing numbers of sick and wounded. Around 1,400 civilian nurses from across the Empire served in varying capacities during the South African campaign, yet there was no defined overall control of those lay women and trained nurses who offered their services. From 1891 Nurse Registration in the Cape had been established in law, yet there was no demarcation over the role and responsibilities of British nurses serving in South Africa. Concerns were raised that some nurses were motivated for wartime service owing to a search for adventure in the colonies. Yet there were a number of motivators, including those of a humanitarian nature, combined with a patriotic sense of duty. This chapter will examine how accusations that nurses were ‘frivolling’ in South Africa, raised concerns over control and organization of nurses in future military campaigns and had an impact on discussions over levels of authority female nurses might be allowed in the new Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, established at the close of war in 1902.

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Colonial caring

A history of colonial and post-colonial nursing

Editors: Helen Sweet and Sue Hawkins
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