The British Empire Library

Angels in Africa: Memoir of Nursing with the Colonial Service

by Bridget M. Robertson

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Pat Dickson (Cyprus and Somaliland 1954-58)
As the author of The Badge of Britannia and in which I included material supplied by Bridget Robertson, I was delighted to read this book. It provides further and fascinating information on the life and work of a nursing sister in the Queen Elizabeth's Overseas Nursing Service in various colonial territories between 1947 and 1964. It describes the dedication, pride and joy, success and frustration, and the delights and sometimes sadnesses that a nursing sister in the Colonies in those days would experience in her everyday work. In addition, it emphasises the comradeship of fellow nurses, the excitements and friendships of colonial life and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Bridget wants especially to remind the younger generation of today that the Colonial Nurses of yesterday were not aloof, uncaring members of a bygone regime; but were dedicated, skilled and devoted professionals, who loved their life and work in the District/Provincial hospitals of the Colonies in which they served - in her case Kenya, the Seychelles, Zanzibar and Nigeria. She also wants to revive memories, for nursing friends and colleagues, of happy days now past in their respective colonial territories. She has accordingly described the patients she encountered, together with their tribal backgrounds, habits and customs; the layout of the various hospitals in which she worked, and the medical problems with which she was involved. She has mentioned her recreational activities and local leaves, and the excitement of special occasions such as Royal visits. She has also commented on the various Nurse Training Schemes with which she was involved, and the way nurses were graded; and has tried to show how well (or otherwise) the local African staff were prepared to take over their own nursing services and to run their own hospitals, with the onset of Independence for their territories.

Her book brought back many happy memories for me, and will I am sure give great pleasure to many ex-Colonials, whatever their role in the Service was; for the nurses of those days not only provided much needed nursing care to the sick and suffering, but also played their part in the social life of the community. All in all I found this a fascinating and most enjoyable book.

British Empire Book
Bridget M. Robertson
The Radcliffe Press


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