I was recently honoured to be invited to attend a wreath laying and memorial service for Edith Cavell.
She was an English nurse who worked as a nurse in Belgium during the First World War. She and her staff nursed soldiers from both sides of the conflict. She refused to hand over Allied soldiers to the German occupiers and worked for nine months with French and Belgian civilians to convey well over 200 of them to safety in Holland. Eventually she was arrested for her actions and executed by firing squad on 12th October 1915.
The service took place in St Martin in the Fields, close to the Cavell monument. Wreaths were laid by the Belgian ambassador and representatives of the Army Medical Services and the Royal British Legion.
There was also a moving tribute by two nurses from the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, where Edith trained.
I was particularly interested in this, because the London is a stone’s throw from my fictional Nightingale Hospital in Bethnal Green. With my usual obsession for detail, I got chatting to them about their ‘period’ uniforms. I was surprised to find that not only were those uniforms worn until the 1990s, the nurses also found them more comfortable and practical than modern day scrubs!
Edith Cavell’s good work continues today through the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, which offered support to nurses going through hardship. This can be financial, isolation or even domestic abuse.
It made me think about the lives of the nurses in the time I write about, the 1930s. They often had to decide between leaving nursing to get married and have a family, or continuing with their vocation. If they continued, once they retired they faced exactly the kind of isolation and hardship that the Cavell Nurses’ Trust seeks to mitigate these days.
I also thought about all the nurses, past and present, who had given their time so generously to help me with my research. I wanted to give something back as a thank you for all their help.
And so I came up with the idea of writing a Christmas novella. A Child Is Born is a digital story featuring many favourite characters from the Nightingale books, with a festive twist. It all begins on a foggy Christmas Eve in 1936, when a pregnant woman steps in front of a trolley bus. She is rushed to hospital, where she gives birth to a baby boy. But after the accident, she has no memory of who she is, or that she was even pregnant. As the mystery of the woman’s identity deepens, the Nightingale girls find themselves having to work a Christmas miracle.
Half of all the royalties I receive from the ebook will be going to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, to continue their wonderful work. To find out more about the charity, visit www.cavellnursestrust.org.
A Child is Born costs 99p and is available to download on Amazon or from the Random House website – http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/donna-douglas-digital-short/9781473505100.