Panel 3

    …………IN GREAT BRITAIN 1939–1945
  2. Panel – Assistance to compatriots
  3. Panel – Nursing Department and nursing courses
  4. Panel – S.R.N. – State Registered Nurse
  5. Panel – Location of Czechoslovak nurses
  6. Panel – CRC nurse uniforms
  7. Panel – Components of the uniform of Emília Součková
  8. Panel – Medical expeditions
  9. Panel – Marie Rechtová
  10. Panel – Period Press

Nursing Department and nursing courses

Nursing Department
Created upon establishment of CW. After the establishment of the CRC, it came like the other departments under the leadership of its Headquarters Tent, which, e.g., appointed a chair to a one year term. CRC nurses made up the department members. At the meetings of the Committee, they elected a vice-chair, executive director and other representatives to their committee. Registered nurse Marie Rechtová and Olga Löwyová were elected as the chair and vice-chair respectively of the CW. These functions accompanied them their entire time in exile. The department trained auxiliary (volunteer) nurses for service during the war and for post-war assistance to the liberated homeland. It organized Czech nursing courses and mediated such courses for the British Red Cross (BRC). It kept records of Czechoslovak registered nurses, voluntary nurses in GB, Czechoslovak students in English nursing schools and nurses who had previously graduated – registered nurses. It placed nurses as needed in Czechoslovak health institutions, British or allied hospitals.

Nursing courses
A group of Czechoslovak paramedics organized the first course, including Marie Rechtová, who contributed experience from her many years of hospital practice in Czechoslovakia. The first course began on 13 October 1939 and took place on the borrowed premises of the Royal Polytechnic on Regent Street in London. The course had 50 lecture hours, was lectured in the Czech language and, according to the preserved schedules, tried to capture the most important topics needed for the war and for post-war aid. Czechoslovak physicians and experienced registered nurses presented the lectures , including M. Rechtová.
“Most of the Czechoslovak nurses passed with 80% and one of them even with 100%. These are extraordinary marks, especially considering that the course participants usually did not speak such good English, had to learn this language and take the exam in English too.” (D. Šperková: Czechoslovak Red Cross in London, Czechoslovak no. 22, 30. 5. 1941)
The students of the first course had no learning materials. From their notes, they created a textbook for students of the next courses. After one of the bombings on the building of the CRC, only a few volumes remained, but a new edition was immediately being worked on. By establishing close cooperation with the BRC, Czechoslovak women were given the opportunity to attend its course as foreigners. Without it, they could not help in English hospitals. The BRC course had a total of 16 lecture hours and consisted of two parts: Home Nursing and First Aid. The course was taught in English, and the students took their final exams in English. After passing the exams, the graduates received a diploma for both the Czech and the English courses. A diploma from the BRC entitled them to use the title of Auxiliary Nurse. After that, they had to complete a one-month internship in the hospital, 60 hours, of which at least one night duty.
After completing their internship in the hospital, Czechoslovak auxiliary nurses took an oath „in the name of humanity and love for their native country“. The first group did so on March 5, 1940 at the Czechoslovak Embassy in London. President Dr. Eduard Beneš also attended the oath-taking ceremony, at the time, along with his wife Hana Benešová, CW chair at the time . The first oath is also significant in that nurses were dressed for the first time in working uniforms of the Czechoslovak Red Cross, funded by the personal donation of Czechoslovak President, Dr. Edvard Beneš, to Nursing Department. In July 1940, as a result of the situation on the battlefield in France when the British army withdrew from the German port of Dunkirk, the British government, fearing an invasion of the United Kingdom, issued a decree prohibiting foreigners from entering war-important institutions. This also applied to Czechoslovak nurses who were forbidden from working in British hospitals. This changed only later that December, when they were again allowed to work. At that time, the first graduates of the course proved themselves. Other compatriots fled from defeated France to GB. They found themselves in an unfamiliar country mostly without means and without personal belongings. The nurses, in cooperation with the Social Department, helped them find housing, assisted them at the authorities, visited the sick or interpreted for them. By the end of 1942, there were five nursing courses in which over 200 Czechoslovak nurses were trained.
The nurses continued to be educated. They attended English courses for such jobs as X-ray techs, dental assistants or pharmacists, and worked in their respective areas. In addition to BRC courses, Czechoslovak nurses were allowed to study English nursing schools. At the turn of 1945, the Nursing Department had in its register 90 auxiliary nurses, five registered nurses from the Czechoslovak Republic, 25 students in English nursing schools and twelve nurses, graduates of these schools with the academic title of S.R.N. (State Registered Nurse). More than 100 female graduates of the courses worked outside the healthcare sector: they were housewives or assisted in social and health services on a part-time basis.

Illustration on the left:

  • The Nursing Department kept records of Czechoslovak women who had undergone earier health education back in Czechoslovakia or nursing courses and English medical schools in GB. (Čechoslovák no. 33, 16. 8. 1940)
  • The condition of being over 30 years of age was an an order of the British authorities – women of working age from 18 to 30 years were preferentially employed in the war industry. (Čechoslovák no. 29, 17. 7. 1942)
  • Schedule of one of the nursing courses. (NA)
  • The Czechoslovak also regularly informed about nursing courses (on the left: (Czechoslovak no. 6, 17. 11. 1939, on the right: (Czechoslovak no. 10, 8. 3. 1940, below: (Czechoslovak no. 17, 26. 4. 1940)

    Illustration on the right:
  • A photograph of Czechoslovak girls listening during a nursing course. Image published in the British press on June 4, 1940. (
  • The first Czechoslovak auxiliary nurses at the oath-taking ceremony of March 5, 1940. They are dressed for the first time in the Czechoslovak Red Cross working uniform with the badge of their nation’s flag on their sleeves. (

    Illustrations below:
  • Czechoslovak nurses at the oath-taking ceremony at the Czechoslovak Embassy in London with the honorary chair of the CW Hana Benešová and the President of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile Dr. Edvard Beneš. March 5, 1940. (Čechoslovák, English Edition 1941)