The memorial, which carries the names of the nearly 1300 of the nurses - identified as having died during or as a direct result of their war service - is the culmination of more than six years of work by the Nursing Memorial Appeal. During the event, the Countess was introduced to Margaret Bearley, a former VAD, and Ethel Lote, a retired nurse (pictured below).
The nurses who served came from across the world, many from Commonwealth nations. The soldiers they worked alongside valued them highly, however they received very little political or public recognition for their service. Wartime conditions meant that many also returned home traumatised by their experiences and never felt comfortable telling their story.
The Nursing Memorial Appeal was established in 2011 to raise funds for a permanent memorial at the Arboretum and shine a light on the contributions of nurses during conflict. HRH The Countess of Wessex, Colonel-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps is Royal Patron of the Nursing Memorial Appeal. Lord and Lady Fellowes were also in attendance, as the most long-standing patrons of the campaign.
During the service Lord Fellowes announced a new initiative to provide an ongoing, living legacy of the appeal. ‘Extreme Nursing Today’ will fund bursaries and research grants for students in humanitarian and conflict nursing. The Nursing Memorial Appeal has partnered with the University of Huddersfield with a view to developing a curriculum and providing accreditation.