North East nurse's WWI heroics remembered in London exhibition

Veronica Nisbet, a St John Ambulance and RVI nurse, was a volunteer in French battlefield hospitals during the First World War

Veronica Nisbet. Museum of the Order of St John Archive, London
Veronica Nisbet. Museum of the Order of St John Archive, London

As the North East descended into darkness to honour 100 years since Britain entered the Great War this week, the spotlight has been cast onto the life of a former nurse who served on the front line.

On Monday, hundreds of people across the region turned out the lights to remember those who lost their lives during the conflict, while other remembrance events took place across the region.

And now the story of a nurse from Newcastle is going on display in London.

Elisabeth Veronica Nisbet, born 1886 in Newcastle, began her career as student of art in Gateshead, before serving as a nurse with St John Ambulance and the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

But when war broke out, she volunteered to serves overseas.

Elisabeth - who was known by her middle name, Veronica - took her nursing skills to France where she voluntarily aided wounded soldiers at St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples from 1917­ to 1919.

Extremes meet on the gangway. Museum of the Order of St John Archive, London, by kind permission of the estate of Veronica Nisbet
Extremes meet on the gangway. Museum of the Order of St John Archive, London, by kind permission of the estate of Veronica Nisbet
 

This hospital was the largest to serve the British Expeditionary Force in France and treated over 35,000 casualties.

During her time in France, Veronica kept a scrapbook of cartoons, sketches and photographs and her work is set to be immortalised at the the Museum of the Order of St John.

Her memories will also serve as a platform for St John Ambulance cadet’s to learn about the charity’s wartime heritage by being adapted into an interactive learning resource.

The display has been made possible through the £69,400 received by the museum on behalf of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the project as a whole is commemorating the work of 45,000 St John volunteers.

Hannah Agass, learning and access officer of the museum, said: “We are delighted to have received this grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which will enable us to commemorate the work of thousands of St John Ambulance men and women who offered their support to the armed services during the Great War.

“Veronica’s scrapbook provides a moving insight into everyday life in a theatre of war and offers and a unique opportunity for St John Ambulance Cadets to learn more about the wartime legacy of the charity they volunteer for.”

The exhibition is free to visit and is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For more information, visit: www.museumstjohn.org.uk

Guy Bell

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