Billie Melman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


On a scorching July 11, 1917, temperatures in the hospital base in Kirkee in India reached 121°F in the shade. Mary Ann Brown, staff nurse in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (Reserve) (QUAMNS[Sj), entered them in her diary, in which she punctiliously monitored the traffic in her ward: “head strokes [sic] coming by the dozen” and “several deaths already… 9 buried.” On July 15, when temperatures soared to the mid-120s, strokes continued to pour in, and Brown was busy preparing bodies for burial. In her sparse prose she noted that most patients found it easier to drop out. l The war took Brown across many borders. Her itinerary included its theaters in the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, and India. From aboard a series of hospital ships, river boats, and paddle steamers she watched the spectacle of evacuation in the Dardanelles, Cape Helles, and Thessaloniki, the Serbian exodus from the Balkan hinterland to the Albanian coast, the last of the Mesopotamian campaigns of Kut and Basra, and the ravages of climate and epidemics upon the remnants of the Allies’ and Central Powers’ armies. In one rare moment of irony she described herself as a “Kitchener tourist.” The evocation of Britain’s imperial icon seems appropriate: the floating hospitals in which Brown spent most of World War I were microcosmic empires, carrying a multinational and multi-ethnic cargo between ports of call that were also imperial outposts. Her “cases”-never “men”-included British men and officers, Australians, Serbs, Greeks, Turkish POWs, and Indian troops.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBorderlines Genders and Identities in War and Peace, 1870-1930
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781136043826
ISBN (Print)9780415911139
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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