‘The First World War: Nursing’ A report from the front line of the Women’s History Network Midlands Region Conference

This year’s Women’s History Network Midlands Region Conference entitled ‘The First World War: Nursing’ took place at the University of Worcester (City Campus) on Saturday, 21 November 2015.

A group photograph showing Nurse Edith Cavell (seated centre) with a group of her multinational student nurses whom she trained in Brussels’. © IWM (Q 70204)

A group photograph showing Nurse Edith Cavell (seated centre) with a group of her multinational student nurses whom she trained in Brussels’. © IWM (Q 70204)

In combination with a wide and varied programme, we received a keynote address from Prof Christine E. Hallett, The University of Manchester: ‘Le Petit Paradis des Blessés: Nurses, Nursing and Internationalism on the Western Front (1915-1918)’.

Prof Christine E. Hallett, The University of Manchester speaking about ‘Le Petit Paradis des Blessés': Nurses, Nursing and Internationalism on the Western Front (1915-1918)

Prof Christine E. Hallett, The University of Manchester speaking about ‘Le Petit Paradis des Blessés’: Nurses, Nursing and Internationalism on the Western Front (1915-1918)

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The remainder of the morning was given to a series of papers reflecting on the subsequent political and literary representations of the execution of the English nurse, Edith Cavell, by the Germans in Belgium in 1915. The speakers were Professor Alison S. Fell, University of Leeds; Professor Jean Webb, University of Worcester and Steven Moralees of the Cavell Nurses’ Trust.

Three panels were held in the afternoon: V.A.D. [Voluntary Aid Detachment] Nurses, Nursing in Europe and Trauma, Death and Therapy. Details of the speakers and their papers can be found in this pdf: WHNConf-November2015-Final

It was an absolutely exhilarating day – roomfuls of Women’s history academics generously sharing their research with each other and supporting independent researchers like myself to find out more about the hidden stories of women’s work during the First World War.   Please forgive my indulgence in storing my tweets here – I wanted to set up a Storify, but find myself mysteriously locked out from paradise. Whilst I debate my social media manners with the app moderators, I’ve gathered the commentary from the day here. As you’ll gather from my tweets, I attended Panel 3: Trauma, Death and Therapy.

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Edith Cavell and her dog. After her death, 'Jack' was adopted by Princess Mary de Croy. He died in 1923, and his stuffed remains can be seen in the Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas' Hospital, London. (IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30083371)

Edith Cavell and her dog. After her death, ‘Jack’ was adopted by Princess Mary de Croy. He died in 1923, and his stuffed remains can be seen in the Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas’ Hospital, London. (IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30083371)

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Celebrate! £20,000 in HLF funding secured for the WW1 in the Vale project!

We’re on our way! I’ve had to be very quiet about this one, whilst it was in development, but I am now happy to report that Pershore WI and Pershore Heritage & History Group (alias the WW1 in the Vale team) are celebrating the award of £10,000 each from the Heritage Lottery Fund First World War: Then and Now programme.

Getting started! (From left to right) Back row: Professor Maggie Andrews, University of Worcester, Susanne Atkin, volunteer researcher, Audrey Whitehouse and Beth Milsom of Pershore WI Front row: Elspeth King, University of Worcester, Audrey Humberstone, Margaret Tacey and Jean Haynes from Pershore Heritage & History Society

Getting started! (From left to right)
Back row: Professor Maggie Andrews, University of Worcester, Susanne Atkin, volunteer researcher, Audrey Whitehouse and Beth Milsom of Pershore WI
Front row: Elspeth King, University of Worcester, Audrey Humberstone, Margaret Tacey and Jean Haynes from Pershore Heritage & History Society

It’s been a long journey and a lot of hard work all round since Maggie Andrews and I produced the first public consultation event back in October 2014 at the Almonry in Evesham, but this grant award means that we can now get cracking on our research and events programme to find out more about life in the Vale during World War One. 

Over the next year, each group will follow a particular theme:

Pershore WI members will celebrate the centenary of their branch, founded in November 1916 as one of the first Women’s Institutes in the county. They will uncover the lives of its original members, including Viscountess Deerhurst of Pirton, Mrs Beynon, wife of the manager of the Pomona Jam Factory, and the wives, daughters or servants of engineers, bricklayers, tradesmen and market gardeners in the area.

Pershore Heritage & History Society will be investigating ‘How the Pershore Plum Won the War’. The fruit and vegetables grown in the Vales of Evesham and Pershore were essential to the nation’s food production. Many local residents combined market gardening and fruit growing with other trades such as pub landlord or wheelwright.

The project team will be co-ordinated by Jenni Waugh Consulting Ltd (me!) and supported by Professor Maggie Andrews, students from the University of Worcester, the Voices of War and Peace World War One Engagement Centre, Pershore Library staff and Pershore Town Council,.  We will also work with artists, an oral historian and a film-maker to record our discoveries, and have a year’s worth of exciting events and activities planned.

We also plan to produce touring exhibitions, a WW1 Pershore Town Trail and films of Food Preservation Demonstrations. We will also host a number of craft activities for children in the local library and other public events.

A book based on our research, How the Pershore Plum Won the War, will be published by the History Press and available for sale in time for the Pershore Plum Festival in 2016.

For further information about World War One in the Vale or to get involved, follow the project blog or contact me directly.

My new qualification: CIPD Level 3 Learning & Development

It’s finally arrived!  After 9 months of hard work last year and a lot of new experiences and ideas, I have just received news that I have attained Level 3 Accreditation in Learning & Development Practice from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.

The certificate arrived in the post last week and, as I don’t really have a public office wall upon which to hang my new certificate, I thought I would share the news with you via my blog.

My certificate!

My certificate!

The part-time course was offered by DPG and took place in Birmingham. Over the nine months we covered the following elements:

  • Developing coaching skills for the workplace
  • Delivering learning & development activities
  • Evaluating learning & development activities
  • Understanding organisations and the role of learning & development
  • Undertaking a Learning Needs Analysis
  • Preparing & designing learning & development activities
  • Recording, analysing and using learning & development information
  • Developing yourself as an effective learning & development practitioner

My associates in the class came from a fascinating range of business backgrounds – a kind of United Nations of the workforce. It is easy to forget how different working cultures can be.  Having worked for many years in the public and heritage sectors, I found it very refreshing and challenging to hear from colleagues in private industry, commerce and professional HR.

In particular, I found their arguments around evaluating value for money and calculating the return on investment of learning in the workplace to be both terrifying (who knew you could do that?!) and invigorating (you can do that! Excellent!).

DPG classmates learning the art of effective poster making during our Demo Sessions Day

DPG classmates learning the art of effective poster making during our Demo Sessions Day

We concluded the course in the ninth month by pairing up to present short L&D sessions to each other, to demonstrate what we had learned and to teach each other new ideas.  The climax of our work, these sessions were enormous fun and nerve-wracking at the same time.  I have never spent so long planning a 25 minute session!  On the day however, the delivery of the sessions was  warm and reassuring – we wanted each other to succeed and although we had all learned the same techniques, we played the game, opened our minds and learned a lot.

I know the experience has already improved my own practice.  In the middle of delivering 2 sessions on Community Archives Management, I learned new Brain-Friendly Learning techniques which made the second session much more interactive and engaging.  How do I know that?  I remembered to ask for evaluation feedback and used assessment and monitoring methods learned on the course.

I look forward to continuing to apply and develop what I have learned on the CIPD course and promise to post updates here.