WWI nurse’s suitcase found in university cupboard

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A BATTERED suitcase, filled with mementoes from the life of a First World War nurse, has sparked a nationwide appeal for information after being mysteriously discovered languishing in a cupboard at a Scottish university.

• Nursing staff have issued an appeal to find out more about suitcase found in cupboard at Abertay University

The contents of the suitcase included letters, photographs and sketches

The contents of the suitcase included letters, photographs and sketches

• Suitcase contains mementoes from life of First World War Nurse Margaret Maule

The suitcase, believed to have belonged to a nurse from Paisley called Margaret Maule, was discovered by chance as staff were clearing out a cupboard in the Psychology department of Abertay University.

But no-one at the Dundee-based university knows why the suitcase ended up in the possession of the academic institution or of any links between the nurse and Abertay.

And nursing staff today issued an nationwide appeal for clues in the hope of solving the riddle of the suitcase.

A suitcase thought to belong to a WWI nurse has been found in an Abertay University cupboard

A suitcase thought to belong to a WWI nurse has been found in an Abertay University cupboard

Robin Ion, head of Abertay’s Nursing and Counselling Division, said: “The contents of this suitcase are absolutely fascinating, but we know very little about the person who owned it. There’s no record of her ever having been to Abertay, so how it came to be in our possession is a complete mystery.”

The contents of the suitcase include an autograph book signed by German prisoners of war, a signed photograph of Queen Mary, Nurse Maule’s qualification certificates, letters, and a copy of an article she had written for a Scottish women’s magazine.

Mr Ion explained: “All we know about her is what we’ve been able to piece together from the things we found in her suitcase. It contains documents dating back to 1914, including her diary and an article she wrote for a newspaper called The People’s Journal.

“There’s also an autograph book filled with detailed sketches drawn for her by her patients by way of thanks for the care she gave them, and a number of faded photographs of her and her fellow nurses dressed in their pristine white uniforms.”

The nursing staff have managed to confirm that Nurse Maule looked after badly wounded German soldiers at the Dartford War Hospital in Kent during the Great War and also cared for wounded British soldiers at the Shakespeare Hospital in Glasgow, before training to qualify as a Queen’s Nurse in Greenock.

Mr Ion said: “From her diary it is clear that Nurse Maule initially had misgivings about having to care for German prisoners of war. However, she was able to overcome these feelings and provide a very high level of care for her patients.

“When she graduated as a nurse at the age of 30 in 1917, after three years of training in Glasgow, she became part of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) and signed up instantly to be sent overseas.”

He continued: “From the documents in the suitcase, we know that her brother had been killed in action, and that she was desperate to do her bit for the war effort. So it came as a shock when she learnt she was to be sent to Dartford to care for prisoners of war.

“However, the fact that she managed to carry out her duties in spite of her misgivings, and that she did so in such a way that her patients went to the trouble of crafting gifts for her to show their appreciation, indicates that she was one of the best.”

Said Mr Ion: “Nursing has always been about showing compassion – without prejudice – and Nurse Maule showed an enormous depth of feeling to her patients under very difficult circumstances.

“If anyone knew Nurse Maule, or has any information about where the suitcase might have come from, I’d be very keen to hear from them – she’s a fantastic example of what nursing is all about and it would be wonderful if any of her relations alive today could tell us more about her.”

A spokeswoman for Abertay University said: “After the war, Nurse Maule went on to train as a Queen’s Nurse at the Greenock District Nursing Association from 18 November 1919 to 17 May 1920. She retired in 1969. A letter of appreciation for her service from the Ministry of Defence was sent to her at her home at 46 Dunchurch Road, Oldhall, Paisley.”