The Services 1930 - 1956:
Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service
It is only recently that women have been admitted into the British Army in any numbers, but there has been one area where women have held a key role for many years, namely nursing.
It was during the Crimea War that the nursing care of British soldiers was exposed for its inadequacies. A nurse, Florence NIGHTINGALE was instrumental in forming a nursing service in the Crimea to care for sick and injured soldiers. By 1860, an Army Training School of nurses had been opened at the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, near Southampton. Six years later, nurses had been appointed to all military general hospitals both home and abroad. In 1881, these nurses were brought into an Army Nursing Service.
Sisters were also appointed to hospitals, including in Gibraltar and Malta, so by 1883, every military hospital with more than 100 beds had a staff of sisters and nurses. The South African War on 1899 until 1902 led to a further reorganisation of Army Nursing Service. In 1902, by Royal Warrant the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.I.M.N.S.) was formed, with Her Majesty as president until her death in 1925.
During the First World War, the Q.A.I.M.N.S. provided nurses across the world, with a Territorial Force Nursing Service being formed. A branch of the Q.A.I.M.N.S. was formed in India.
During the Second World War, the Q.A.I.M.N.S. expanded in order to provide nurses and sisters at all Military General Hospitals. In this capacity, nurses served in all the theatres of operations where British and Indian troops were deployed.
The Service was in effect officers only. The lowest rank was Staff Nurse, but this was phased out by 1944. The other ranks and their Army equivalents were:
Sister – Lieutenant;
Senior Sister – Captain;
Matron – Major;
Principal Matron – Lieutenant Colonel;
Chief Principal Matron – Colonel;
Matron-in-Chief – Brigadier.
Members of the Q.A.I.M.N.S., although treated as officers, were not in fact commissioned officers of the British Army, until this anomaly was rectified in 1949. At the same time, the service was admitted as a corps of the British Army, being redesignated as the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.
In 1950, servicewomen were recruited as other ranks, and student nursing training commenced. In 1992, male nurses were admitted to the corps.