Devotion: Stories of Australia’s wartime nurses

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Devotion

SIERS, Robyn Devotion: Stories of Australia’s wartime nurses Aust Govt/Aust War Memorial, 2013 52pp $19.95 pbk ISBN 9781877007835 SCIS 1602136

At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra there is a stained-glass window of a military nurse bearing the single word ‘Devotion.’ This text traces the history of that devotion from its origin in the Boer War, through the two World Wars, then Korea and Vietnam and continuing on to the contemporary conflict in Afghanistan.  Humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, such as the Tsunami relief at Banda Aceh, are also included.

Using the extensive resources of the War Memorial, the text abounds with fascinating photographs of historical events and artifacts associated with military nurses.  The history of these brave nurses and the perilous conditions they often endured, including brutal deaths and imprisonment in horrendous conditions as prisoners of war, is a story worthy of being retold to the younger generation.  The text is divided into chapters focusing on particular nurses from different eras making the information very personal and authentic.  The heroic stories of famous nurses, such as Sisters Vivian Bullwinkle and Ellen Savage, provide the framework around which the information is centred.  It is also interesting to see the changes in uniform and equipment over a century as well as the presence of male nurses in recent times.

The book is printed on quality gloss paper while the soft covers and the placement of the photos at angles and often overlaying each other creates the visual and tactile appeal of a scrapbook.  Headings such as ‘Did you know?’ provide interesting detail while the occasional ‘Fast facts’ section gives concise background information.  Each chapter also has one or two open-ended questions, printed in red.  An extensive glossary, bibliography, world map and index enable easy access to information.  The clever use of colour, sepia and black and white photos and clear printed text combined with a creative layout, make this a most attractive book.    Devotion is suitable for upper primary and lower secondary students and deserves a place in every library.  JN

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