The People of Gibraltar
1915 - Alice Welford - Gibraltar - Introduction

Alice Welford was in the QAIMNS during WWI – and if like me you find acronyms hard to decipher it means that she was nurse in the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service during the Great War. In 1915 she was transferred to a military hospital at Europa Point in Gibraltar. During her time there she collected a series of photographs - many of which she presumably took herself - depicting her patients and her colleagues as well as views of Gibraltar. About eighty of these appear in an album which she began in 1915 soon after her arrival on the Rock.

Alice Welford

The description on her album page is “Twenty-two patients and one QAIMNS(R) nurse.” I suspect that the nurse is Alice – If so, it seems unlikely that she took this one herself.

As something of a coincidence, she was a contemporary of Luisa Hooke, an Australian staff nurse also enrolled in QAIMNS and stationed in Gibraltar in 1915, She was also an amateur photographer and also produced an album - two of them in fact - with a similar set of photos which she took while working on the Rock. The fact that at least two of these also appear in Alice Welford’s album makes me wonder whether they knew each other.

Louisa Hooke

Alice Welford was a Yorkshire girl born in 1887, the daughter of a shoemaker. In 1911 she left home to study at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London – a brave decision for a working-class girl in those days.

It paid off and in 1914 she graduated as a nurse and immediately joined the QAIMNS. After a stint in France, she was transferred to Gibraltar. The first photos in her album are all from this period of her life, the very first ones dated June 1915. 

The first page of Alice’s photo album

It was the beginning of the Dardanelles fiasco and most of the men she cared for were Australian, New Zealand and British soldiers injured during the disastrous Gallipoli landings. There were so many of them arriving by hospital ships such as H.M.H.S. Mauretania that temporary wards under canvas had to be erected by the dockside.

Other than her album – and as was usual for young women at the time - Alice also owned an autograph book. Many of the patients who signed it were very appreciative of how they were being looked after and I am sure that more than one of them must have fallen in love with nurse Alice. The following autograph entry dates from her time in Gibraltar.  

Welford is your name
Single is your station
Happy be the little man
That makes the alteration

By the beginning of 1916 she had been moved to St Ignatius Hospital Malta where she was faced by 20 000 new patients on arrival. Her hard work in Malta was appreciated and by the end of the year she had been promotes to “Sister”.

St Ignatius Hospital, Malta – Taken by Alice in 1916 or 1917

An extract from Alice’s autograph book recorded while she was in Malta

Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Silver Service Reserve badge which Alice received when she was promoted to Nursing sister.

In 1918 she was transferred to Salonika in Greece where she remained for a short while until moved yet again to the No 3 British Field Hospital in Basra, southern Iraq. Soon enough the commander of an officers’ hospital on the opposite side of the Shatt al-Arab waterway invited the newly arrived and very popular nurses to meet with his convalescing officers.

Shortly after they had set off for the hospital, darkness fell and their motor launch was hit and cut in half by another boat. Alice Welford and several of her colleagues tragically lost their lives in the waterway. She was 30 years old.

With special thanks to Andrew Schembri who found the photos and pointed me in the right direction.

To view most of her photos click on the link below.

1915 - Alice Welford - Gibraltar Photos - Part 1
1915 - Alice Welford - Gibraltar Photos - Part 2