Letters to VAD nurse Rose Mary Savage


These letters were received by the VAD nurse Rose Mary Savage during World War One from a range of people in her life. They offer an insight into the vital role – both medical and pastoral – that nurses played in the recuperation of soldiers.

Who was Rose Mary Savage?

Rose Mary Savage (1893–1983) was living in Ireland at the outbreak of World War One. She first joined the Ulster Volunteer Hospital in Belfast in January 1916, serving up to seven hours a day for three months, after which she applied to serve overseas (f. 35).[1] By July, Savage had been posted to the No. 12 General Hospital in Rouen, France – her first day coinciding with the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. Savage remained in Rouen for over two years (July 1916 to 20 January 1919). Her hard work did not go unnoticed: in December 1917 she received a mention in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatches for her ‘distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty’.[2]

The movement of soldiers in war

The course of triage followed by the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) often meant that injured soldiers were caught up in a constant stream of movement. The majority of soldiers writing to Savage had been treated at No. 12 General Hospital and were then sent to convalesce in ‘Blighty’. They were sorted into categories, dependant on their injuries, and transported from Rouen to London Waterloo (via Southampton) where they were dispatched to specialist hospitals.

This meant that battalions, who would often be treated within close proximity to each other along the Western Front, were subsequently split up for specialist care ‘back home’.

Relationship with soldiers

Within this set of letters, there are numerous examples of genuine friendships that had developed between Savage, her colleagues and the patients in their care. Many of the correspondents ask after other nurses, provide personal updates (including the progress of their recovery) and thank Savage for her kindness.

The letters also show how the wounded regarded nurses as useful points of contact while being transferred between hospitals. In the letters penned by ‘Snowy’ (ff. 61–62) and Stanley J Noble (ff. 63–64), the men use the exchange to pass on information and catch up with the progress of the friends they left behind.

What else do these letters tell us?

Lieutenant W W Brown (ff. 46–47), who was recovering in Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital in 1916, discusses ‘The Rebellion’ – also known as the Easter Rising of April 1916 – and states his hope that ‘“Home Rule” is properly finished now’.

Stanley J Noble (ff. 63–64) discusses the arrival of the ‘Yanks’ (United States of America) in 1917, and details how the USA military absorbed control of existing hospitals in France, including No. 12 General Hospital.


[1] Miss Rose Mary Savage, VAD Cards, RedCross, (1919), <http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War/Card?sname=savage&page=4&id=183943&forwards=true[accessed 26/03/2018]

[2] Letter from Field-Marshal, Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, (7 November 1917), as published in The London Gazette, no.30421 (11 December 1917), p. 12907. Rose Mary Savage’s name appears in a later supplement of The London Gazette (24 December 1917), p. 13488.


Botanic Avenue,


Dear Nurse Savage

I am very sorry to hear that you also

intend to leave us. However I must not try 

and wage you to stay when your people wish you

to take up work else where. And I only think 

that your short stay here may be of benefit to 

you in your new undertaking.

It was very kind of you to come and help 

us. And I much appreciate your willing

help. And will be at all times 

pleased to help you in any way. If you give my 

name as a reference to the Red+. I will fill in

your recommendation form with pleasure. 

You will have finished your months night duty on 

the 3rd of April. And are entitled to leave them _

Yours sincerely

Janet D Bruce


7070. Black Watch

Craig Ward

U . V . F Hospital

Botanic Avenue, 


May. 7. 16

Dear Nurse Savage, 

Many thanks for the lovely cake

which you sent, & which I enjoyed imensely.

It was indeed kind of you to remember me

I went through my operation, & am on the high road

to recovery. I don't know whether the operation will be

successful or not, in the end. Apart from the pain I 

have in the wound, I still have some of my old

painds, which make me dubious, & doctor Ray says

that time will perhaps chase away all pains

Lets hope it will be soon. The Ward has chang-

ed a good deal once you left Nurse, & I don't 

suppose you would know many faces now. 

Sister Johnston has left us, & now looks after

the Sisters' Home; & that reminds me, She was

in seeing some of us, the day I got the parcel

from you, & she said that you had never

written her since you went away, & that I had 

to give you her new address which is “U. V. F

Sisters' Home, University Street, Belfast. Nurse

Vernor is in the Carson Wing now. We do miss

Smith in the Ward. McLean is still here & also

Savery. The Rebellion was serious while it lasted

Botanic Avenue, 


but thank goodness it didn't last long. I am sure

'Home Rule,' is properly finished now. If not it should

be. I am indeed sorry to hear about your friend

being wounded. I hope you will see your way to

drop me a note now & again Nurse. My Wife &

little girl are both keeping very well Nurse, thanks. 

Did Nurse Howard tell you I wrote her. We

could do with you here again Nurse. I still have

my little nightcaps at 9.30pm. I think I will

stop now, trusting you are keeping well. I am

keeping alright myself up to the present

Remember me to Nurse Malcolm when you 

see her next. So GoodBye. For the 

present Nurse.

Kindest Regards

Yours Sincerely

Lt W. W. Brown

4530. Pte Peter Smith

17th Batt A. I. F.

No 1 Command Depot. 

Perham Down. Hamp. Eng.

June 26-17

Dear Sister, 

you will no doubt be thinking

that I have forgotten you, but that could

never be. The fact is I haven't been properly

settled since I left No 12 General.

We had an unexciting trip across the

channel to Southampton.

I went to Richmond Military Hospital,

Surrey, where I only lasted 3 days.

While there I saw “Charlie Chaplin, Bomb Boy”

He is getting along fine and looking forward

to his furlough.

I haven't seen anything of Skeen since

I left him at Waterloo station. Probably he

went to a different Hospital. 

I have just got back from 14 days

furlough. I visited my old home in Scotland

and had a splendid time. I met an old

schoolgirl friend of mine (still unmarried) 

and we became great friends. If I had

stayed there much longer she might have

“popped the question”.

I also stayed a few days in Whitehaven

Cumberland. Everywhere I went I was made


I suppose you will have left

Rouen long ere this, and I sincerely hope

you are in a good Hospital. 

They talk about their Blightly

Hospitals, but No12 will do me. 

Of course it will be different now

that the “Yanks” have got it. 

Remember me kindly to Sisters

Coombs, Verling, Barrie and last but

not least Sister Smith. 

Are you all in the same Hospital?

I am now in camp getting

ready for France again. I expect 

to be here about a month yet.

I would like very much to

hear from you Miss Savage. 

You were always very kind to me

while at No12 and I can never

forget the part you played in getting

me to Blightly.

Before concluding I wish to

thank you to your kindness and I hope some

day in the near future to meet you 

under similar circumstances. 

Yours very sincerely


L/Cpt. S. J. Noble 267/04

2/1 Bucks Battn

“13! Division, Ward 0/111

Military Hospital

Eastleigh. Hants.


Dear Miss Savage, 

You will notice I have arrived in “Blightly”

safe and sound so that I need not state the fact.

Before I begin relating experiences etc I wish to

thank you very much indeed for all you did for 

me while I was at No12, I had a very

pleasant time indeed while there, enjoying myself

thoroughly and I know my good luck was mainly

through you. I was sorry I did not see you

before I went but it could not be helped.

We left Rouen at 9.30am on Tuesday

morning and arrived at Southampton 8am the

next morning. The trip up the river was 

fine and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We did

not cross the channel till night. I expect

they were afraid of an attack of “submarinitis”.

Eastleigh is not a bad little town at 

all. We are allowed out anywhere within a 

mile radius between the hours of 1.30pm and

8pm. The people are very good and invitations

are very frequent. 

The hospital itself is all small

little huts, each containing 5 beds, table and

chairs etc. We are waited on “hand and foot” and 

live very well indeed. I do not mind staying 

here for 8 weeks on even duration. 

The leg is much the same, still getting

“smaller” as per usual. I am certainly not very

particular how long it is getting smalled now. 

They very politely informed me yesterday I have

to be inoculated every week while it is open. 

I hope they will not make up for last time. 

It does seem good to be back in Blighty

again. I am just beginning to realise the

fact that I am there now. 

I hope everyone is keeping quite well

in D7 especially “Squatts” Sens and “Squatts” James. 

I forgot to bring the latter with me. Has

the former been marked up yet? I hope so.

Please remember me very kindly to “Squatty” (not the

kitten) and am writing to Miss Coombs. I 

forget the Head Sister's (American) name but please

remember me to her. How is Pannett progressing?

I trust you are all well. Kind regards to all

I am, yours sincerely

Stanley J. Noble

Full title:
Letters to Rose Mary Maxwell, nee Savage, from family, friends and other acquaintances
c. 1914 - 1919, Western Europe
Letter / Ephemera
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