Plaque in honour of trailblazing nurses unveiled at Belfast City Hall

The plaque, which has been placed inside City Hall, will remain as a permanent memorial. Credit: PA

A plaque in memory of trailblazing nurses has been unveiled at Belfast City Hall.

It will remain as a permanent memorial to those who served in the First World War.

Scores of nurses left Ireland from 1914 to serve on battlefields across the world, from northern France to east Africa and the Middle East.

The plaque was a result of a campaign by the Royal College of Nursing Northern Ireland's History of Nursing Network following research which discovered more than 100 names of those who served on battlefields.

The nurses they traced included Margaret Anderson, from Kilkeel, who became known as the Mourne's Florence Nightingale.

She received the Royal Red Cross for her service in the First World War, and later went on to work in Iraq before rejoining the nursing reserve at the age of 58 at the start of the Second World War, during which she took part in several sorties during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Others died in service, including Eveline Dawson on a hospital ship in 1917, and Rachel Ferguson, from Moneymore, who died of pneumonia in Italy in 1918.

A book telling the stories of these nurses was published earlier this year.

Heather Thompson from the group said it was a privilege to attend the unveiling by Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey.

"The plaque is dedicated to all nurses who came from our island and served in World War One," she said.

"It has been such a worthwhile and enjoyable project for all our group to be involved in, and the plaque is a perfect way to bring our project to a close."

Pat Cullen, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said it comes in a year that has seen nurses again display bravery in the battle against coronavirus.

"This is a fitting tribute to the many nurses who sadly lost their lives serving in World War One," she said.

"Some died from war injuries while other drowned following the sinking of ships. There are fascinating stories which our History of Nursing Network discovered through their research, but what is certain is that these were courageous nurses who were trailblazers of modern nursing.

"It is fitting that this plaque has been unveiled this year during which we have all seen the bravery and courage displayed by nurses today as they battle through the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Sincere congratulations to all of those involved but in particular Margaret Graham, Chair of the Network and Heather Thompson who led the work on WW1. It is so important that we remember the lives of those who have gone before us."