English Heritage calls for help to identify forgotten WWI nurses

English Heritage has colourised wartime photographs and is now appealing to relatives of nurses who worked at Wrest Park to come forward and help identify these heroes.

Researchers at English Heritage are calling for the public’s help to trace the identities of World War I nurses who worked at Wrest Park.

The charity is hoping new colourised photographs showing nurses at Wrest Park will help family members identify their ancestors.

Wrest Park, in Bedfordshire, was the country’s first wartime country house hospital. For many of the 100 plus nurses who served at Wrest Park, no formal records exist, but these photographs could uncover new stories about the 19th-century estate.

English Heritage Lead Properties Historian, Andrew Hann, said:

"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 house soldiers traumatised by the horrors of war. They worked tirelessly and deserve to be known as individuals, just as the soldiers they cared for do.

‘We have a team of volunteer historians at Wrest Park who have done lots of excellent research into the property’s history as a military hospital, but they’ve hit a brick wall in finding out more about the staff who worked there.

‘We are interested in the human stories that are hinted at from the photographic evidence we have. It would be wonderful if the public could help us identify these forgotten women."

Bringing the photographs to life

Marina Amaral, Digital Colourist, said:

"To see images in colour is to see the real people behind the photographs. Humans live in colour, and this helps us see people from a more personal perspective – they are no longer removed from reality, but real people with lives and purpose. These women did remarkable jobs during the First World War and if my coloured images help people recognise their family members then that would be an amazing outcome."

Wrest Park as a hospital

Wrest Park was offered by its owner Auberon Herbert, the 9th Baron Lucas, directly to Winston Churchill as a place to treat wounded servicemen.

By 7 September 2014, the house had been transformed into a convalescent hospital and was ready to welcome its first patients.

Overseen by the no-nonsense Nan Herbert, sister to Auberon (Bron) Herbert, there were up to 24 nurses at any one time in the house, caring for 150 – sometimes 200 – patients.

Wrest Park functioned as an auxillary hospital for two years before being forced to close after a fire on 14 September 1916.

The coloured photographs will be on display at Wrest Park from Saturday 8 September until the end of the month.

If you recognise any of the nurses in the photographs, please email Wrest Park’s Volunteer History Team:

Find out more about the nurses at Wrest Park.

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