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"...humane adj.Kind, compassionate, merciful." and this was indeed so in the case of the volunteers who worked tirelessly to ease the suffering of the wounded soldiers of all combatants in the fields of northern France and Belgium, during the First World War.

In the early days of the war, army nursing was strictly a male preserve, until it was necessary to recruit female nurses from the ranks of middle and upper class ladies.

The warm summer days preceding the outbreak of war lent an air of adventure to the proceedings, and the feeling was that the coming conflict would be fought in a similar fashion to the previous cavalry and infantry- based battles of the nineteenth century.A few months intensive combat would be sufficient and everyone would be back in time for Christmas dinner.Similarly, these ladies were caught up in the initial fervour of patriotism, and being prohibited from fighting at the Front, were keen to "do their bit" for their country and their soldiers.

Tired of knitting items of clothing destined for the trenches, they wanted to do something a little more substantial.The concept of `noblesse oblige` was suddenly revived as many stately homes and country houses opened their doors to wounded officers in need of convalescence, and everyone wanted to be seen in a nurse`s uniform.

Indeed there were many well- connected aristocratic ladies who set up their own private ambulance groups, much to governmental consternation.The Dowager Duchess of Sutherland, through her contacts and single-minded determination, assisted the wounded at Namur, and used the fact that she was previously acquainted with both the German commandant and aide-de-camp to pester them for safe passage to Maubeuge.

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