The photograph above shows three nurses at St. George’s Hospital in Malta. Vera Brittain is the nurse on the right.
The recent film, Testament of Youth, based on the memoir of youth and warby Vera Brittain, one of the foremost feminists of the years between World War I and World War II, left off one of the most important periods of her service as a nurse during the war in 1917.
The film, excellent as it is in many ways, neglected to explore the last year of her service, which was not in England, but in Malta, where she served as a nurse in St. George’s Hospital, one of seven British hospitals on the island.
Her journal records her time there as having been more relaxed and more socially amenable than at any earlier time or place. Most of the patients were convalescent, so Vera and other nurses had time to play tennis in the afternoon and to socialize with the officers afterward. But it was not all a period of bliss. She had news of her brother’s death before she came to Malta, and then of her fiance’s death while there. She sat on the stones over the water in Draguenara for most of the day after she learned of Geoffrey’s death. The war was a monstrous episode in her life, and her years of writing afterward were a testament to her resilience and her profound life spirit.