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Unearthed images show nurses singing carols and hanging out stockings

A fascinating collection of images taken during the Christmas’ of the Second World War showing nurses bringing festive cheer to the hospital wards have been unearthed.

The images depict hospital staff rallying together over the Christmas period, gathering around an organ to sing carols to patients, distributing present-filled stockings to sleeping children and making Christmas pudding.

These photographs are part of a 4,000 strong collection of pictures discovered by Historic England’s Archive in Swindon, which document healthcare in Britain between 1938 and 1943, before the inception of the NHS.

 Several years before the war began, a picture of two nurses holding babies whilst another nurse holds mistletoe over the group at Scarborough Hospital was taken (pictured 1936)

Nurses prepare to entertain their patients at the West London Hospital as they practice old English carols to sing in their wards over the festive season (pictured 1938)

Nurses prepare to entertain their patients at the West London Hospital as they practice old English carols to sing in their wards over the festive season (pictured 1938)

They offer invaluable insight into the practices of the time as well as portraying the more positive moments of the war, where the nurses brought joy to the children on Christmas Day.

The archive began the Christmas before WWII, where singing nurses gathered around an organ in the chapel at the West London Hospital in one of the historic images.

The caption attached to the old image revealed that they met in the little hospital chapel to practice new carols to music played by one of the sisters from the hospital, ahead of the festive season.

More than a year into the war in 1940, another photograph shows a nurse at St Bartholomews Hospital in West Smithfield, laying out gifts at the end of her patient's bed ready for them to wake on Christmas morning

Ensuring that the mixture was up to scratch, one of the bakers tasted a spoonful of Christmas pudding before they were put into the oven to bake

More than a year into the war in 1940, another photograph shows a nurse at St Bartholomews Hospital in West Smithfield, laying out gifts at the end of her patient’s bed ready for them to wake on Christmas morning (pictured in 1940)

In another photograph that predates the war, a group of students and nurses celebrate Christmas in a ward at the Nightingale Training Home at St Thomas' Hospital, as Father Christmas arrives on a miniature Studebaker car (pictured in 1938)

In another photograph that predates the war, a group of students and nurses celebrate Christmas in a ward at the Nightingale Training Home at St Thomas’ Hospital, as Father Christmas arrives on a miniature Studebaker car (pictured in 1938)

More than a year into the war in 1940, another photograph shows a nurse at St Bartholomews Hospital in West Smithfield, laying out gifts at the end of her patient’s bed ready for them to wake on Christmas morning.

At the same hospital that year, a nurse was pictured holding a small child as they looked out of the window together, it is believed that the patient was questioning how Father Christmas would arrive at the hospital.

Making Christmas pudding proved to be a popular trend at the hospitals during the festive season, several images document nurses whipping up the delicious treat.

Nurses prepared early for the annual festivities, as one picture displays a group of nurses removing stones from a tray of raisins at Middlesex Hospital six weeks before Christmas Day in 1939.

A nurse was pictured holding a small child as they looked out of the window together, it is believed that the patient was questioning how Father Christmas would arrive at the hospital (pictured 1940) 

A nurse was pictured holding a small child as they looked out of the window together, it is believed that the patient was questioning how Father Christmas would arrive at the hospital (pictured 1940) 

Elsewhere, at Watford Maternity Home in 1940, a photograph portrays a ward which was decorated with a Christmas Tree as nurses tend to the new mothers (pictured in 1940)

Elsewhere, at Watford Maternity Home in 1940, a photograph portrays a ward which was decorated with a Christmas Tree as nurses tend to the new mothers (pictured in 1940)

The description discovered on the back of the photograph, read: ‘London hospitals prepare for Christmas. Although Christmas is still six weeks ahead, the staff are already thinking of the festival and making plans and preparations, for despite the evacuation of many patients, quite a large number of people will have to spend Christmas in hospital.’

Two years on the tradition continued, as nurses at St Bartholomew’s Hospital used a Hobart mixing machine whilst making Christmas puddings, adding fruit into the appliance in order to create the tasty mixture.

Ensuring that the mixture was up to scratch, one of the bakers tasted a spoonful of Christmas pudding before they were put into the oven to bake. 

One image captured from the time shows 20 employees engrossed in opening envelopes containing money for the British voluntary hospitals in response to the appeal (pictured in 1939)

One image captured from the time shows 20 employees engrossed in opening envelopes containing money for the British voluntary hospitals in response to the appeal (pictured in 1939)

Making Christmas pudding proved to be a popular trend at the hospitals during the festive season, several images document nurses whipping up the delicious treat (pictured in 1941)

Making Christmas pudding proved to be a popular trend at the hospitals during the festive season, several images document nurses whipping up the delicious treat (pictured in 1941)

Another old image from the same time at the hospital shows the mixture then being poured into basins by the staff and being covered with cloth.

Elsewhere, at Watford Maternity Home in 1940, a photograph portrays a ward which was decorated with a Christmas Tree as nurses tend to the new mothers. 

On 24th December 1939 the BBC broadcast from France an appeal by Gracie Fields on behalf of voluntary hospitals in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Previously, the BBC had allowed individual hospitals to broadcast separate appeals; in 1939, however, the funds raised through the appeal would be shared between all voluntary hospitals. 

Two years on the tradition continued, as nurses at St Bartholomew's Hospital used a Hobart mixing machine whilst making Christmas puddings, adding fruit into the appliance in order to create the tasty mixture (pictured in 1941)

Two years on the tradition continued, as nurses at St Bartholomew’s Hospital used a Hobart mixing machine whilst making Christmas puddings, adding fruit into the appliance in order to create the tasty mixture (pictured in 1941)

One image captured from the time shows 20 employees engrossed in opening envelopes containing money for the British voluntary hospitals in response to the appeal.   

Several years before the war began, a picture of two nurses holding babies whilst another nurse holds mistletoe over the group at Scarborough Hospital was taken during the festive season, which was captioned: ‘Their first Christmas.’

In another photograph that predates the war, a group of students and nurses celebrate Christmas in a ward at the Nightingale Training Home at St Thomas’ Hospital, as Father Christmas arrives on a miniature Studebaker car.  

The photographs were taken by the Topical Press Agency, but how and when they were acquired by the Archive remains a mystery.        

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive, said: ‘The Historic England Archive is full of countless gems but the Topical Press Agency images are particularly striking.  

‘Thanks to the Wellcome Trust we are able to conserve these photographs and share them with new audiences.  

‘They have the potential to expand our knowledge of wartime medical practice and revolutionary treatments and help us delve deeper into the history of healthcare.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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