Panel 6

    …………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

CRC nurse uniforms

Exiled governments in GB assumed the uniform of the British model for their armies. Ultimately, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile decided to do so too. Men and women in the army were distinguished by sleeve badges with the inscription CZECHOSLOVAKIA located under the shoulder seam on both sleeves of the uniform. The nurses of the CRC, as a civilian organization, although subject to the MND, had more or less a free hand in the selection and creation of their uniforms. They were however restricted by war measures and clothing vouchers partly handed over by nurses and partly by organizations, and were subject o permission of the competent British authorities. According to archival documents, the Nursing Department emphasized that the Czechoslovak nurse uniform should be different from those of allied colleagues to make clear the involvement of Czechoslovaks in the war effort.
As of yet, we do not know of any fully preserved work or dress uniform. From discovered monochrome photographs, images in the period press and documents in the archive, it is seen that when the style of uniforms, the Nursing Department mainly gathered inspiration from the uniforms of the British and American Red Cross. The Nursing Department was in charge of providing nurses with work uniforms. They were the property of the CRC and were lent only to those graduates of nursing courses who had passed the CRC course exams and helped voluntarily or worked full-time or part-time as nurses. If the woman left the CRC, she had to return the uniform – cleaned, ironed and repaired. The CRC had no funds to have uniforms sewn often. Letting nurses keep their work uniforms for a fee was not an option, not only because of the war measures, but also because most nurses couldn’t afford it anyway.
The basic work uniform issue consisted of three work dresses, five to ten white aprons based on her job, three white hats, one coat and one dark beret. Dress uniforms for nurses were introduced only at the beginning of 1944, when negotiations on their form starting from about mid-1943 ended. Dress uniforms for nurses differed from those of senior CRC representatives in several details. Nurses did not need them for their work, they were not a mandatory part of their issue, so if they had them they paid for them themselves. The CRC granted a loan to purchase a dress uniform to those nurses with meager financial resources. A selected company ,Austin Reed of Regent Street, sewed nurses‘ uniforms based on confirmation that they were entitled to wear it as an active duty nurse. The CRC Presidium issued the certificate.

Work uniform
This consisted of a work dress, white aprons and a white hat. The CRC also provided nurses with dark blue summer and winter dress coats and berets. The “ward dress” as it was known was probably pale blue and without a pattern. On the first work dress, Czechoslovak nurses had a vertically placed, triangle-shaped Czechoslovak flag sewn on the left sleeve. Later, a horizontal rectangle was added with the inscription “Czechoslovak Auxiliary Nurse” and a nursing insignia pinned under the collar. In later photographs, apparently in newer dresses, sleeve badges are no longer noticeable. They involved a white apron cut around the waist, with a shirt-front and suspenders that crossed in the back. A red cross was embroidered on the front of the apron of the BRC uniform. CRC nurses did not assume this variant. The white cap largely covered the hair. As with the apron of the BRC uniform, the cap had a red cross embroidered, CRC nurses also didn’t assume.

Dress uniform
It consisted of a dark blue costume: a tunic, skirt and dress storm cap. Also prescribed were a white shirt, navy blue tie and black service shoes. The service dress tunic was sewn from dark blue fabric. CZECHOSLOVAKIA sleeve badges were sewn on both sleeves along the sleeve seam and underneath was a sleeve badge with a red cross embroidered on a round, dark blue background. Registered nurses with the title S.R.N. were marked on epaulettes at the sleeve seam with the letters ČSDO (Czechoslovak Registered Nurse), embroidered with silver thread on a dark blue background. The chair had gold embroidery. The black bakelite buttons with the inscription “Czechoslovak Red Cross” around a raised cross were inspired by the buttons of the American Red Cross. The skirt was made of the same fabric as the tunic, with a simple cut and length below the knees. The service dress storm cap was made of the same fabric as the tunic and skirt. The decision on the cap design was left to honorary chair Hana Benešová, who chose it inspired by the dress storm cap of the British Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Registered nurses wore the CRC badge on their caps, and auxiliary nurses had the badge CZECHOSLOVAK RED CROSS AUX. NURSE

Illustration on the left:

  • CRC nurse in uniform with a Czechoslovak soldier, probably in the years 1940-1941. (Archive MFA) 

    Illustration on the right:

  • Hana Mejdrová in dress uniform (cca 1944–1945). (Private archive of Milan Hájek)
  • Hana Benešová in a dress uniform, which she started wearing in April 1944. The tabs on the lapels of the tunic were grayish blue. Her sleeve badge differed from the nurses‘ sleeve badges and that of vice-chair Marina Paulina. With the President of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile Dr. Edvard Beneš at the celebration of his 60th birthday (1944). (Archive MFA)
  • Confirmation to authorize the wearing of the CRC uniform signed by the CRC chair. The license for the company from which they ordered the production of dress uniforms was given to those nurses who attended the CRC course, were CRC members and were fully engaged in nursing work. (The author’s private archive)
  • Deputy chair of the CRC Marina Paulina in dress uniform. Her sleeve badge differed from the nurses‘ sleeve badges and that of honorary chair Hana Benešová.
  • CRC nurse in uniform with a Czechoslovak soldier, probably in the years 1940–1941. (Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and private archive of Tomáš Jambor)
    Illustrations below:
  • CRC nurse in uniform with a Czechoslovak soldier, probably in the years 1940-1941. (Archive MFA)