Nurse Florence Nicholson

Stop number YELLOW 7: Walk down to the lower path and then turn right. Walk along here until you see the tall stone plinth and cross for the Taplin family. Nurse Nicholson was the sister of Lena Taplin. Lena was married to Ben and Jane Taplin's son Albert. This seems as good a place as any for Florence to tell you her story because the Benjamin Road VAD/Military Hospital was just on the other side of the road from here.
Taplin family plot
Taplin family plot
Read the story below and when you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for R Coltman.

VAD Hospital, Benjamin Road Hospital building
VAD Hospital, Benjamin Road (SWOP BFP50362) Hospital building (SWOP RHW01301)

Florence Nicholson 1878-1958

I am Florence Irene Nicholson but friends call me Flossie. I was born in Brixton, Surrey into a large family. I was one of thirteen children but only eleven of us survived into adulthood. We moved around quite a lot and my mother was always pregnant or in poor health and so I had plenty of practice at being a nurse, not only to my mother but to my little sister Elsie, the last of the brood. Our father died when he was only 38 (from eating a toadstool which he believed to be a mushroom) leaving my mother, brothers and sisters to manage as best we could. Fortunately he had been an inspector of taxes, a well paid position, and we were able to afford a nice house in Wycombe, a town where my uncles, the wealthy Griffits, lived. Aveling Lodge was along Aveling Road, and its downside was that it was noisy near the railway, but it was also very handy for the station.

I was always mindful of my position – a single woman whose brothers thought should be married off as soon as possible - but I was happy as I was. I didn’t want to be like Mother with endless pregnancies, or like Elsie, now a mother of four but worn out with ill health and the effort of having to look after soldiers billeted in her house. So I occupied my time with good causes and I could often be found fund raising for the Red Cross. We raised a lot for Red Cross ventures, such as the purchase of an ambulance boat to be used on the Tigris, or Christmas gifts for the men in the VAD Hospital in Benjamin Road, or for the cost and maintenance of a motor ambulance.

The VAD Hospital was once, of course, the girls High School but the girls had been moved to new quarters when it was decided that a military hospital would be needed in Wycombe to care for the casualties returning from the Front. Although the girls were briefly allowed back the buildings were soon requisitioned again and were to remain in military use for much of the war. Although men did die there, usually through unexpected complications, it was mainly a convalescent hospital and not suitable for the seriously wounded.

So I became a VAD and the war rather played into my hands, giving me a chance to prove what I was capable of. VAD nursing could be rather repetitive, constant dusting and cleaning, bed making and tea-time sandwich making, and I wanted to learn how to do more – like the trained nurses who I saw around me. So I did my training and I was eventually sent to Egypt where I continued nursing after the war.

When I finally returned from Egypt a nursing friend and myself shared a flat in the London Road opposite the cricket ground. But we will both remain single!

As a family we are very lucky and there will be no Wycombe Nicholson deaths due to the war. My sister Lena married into the Taplin family and they too will get through the war without loss, likewise my sister's Skull family. There are not many families who will be able to say that here in Wycombe.

Although our parents' generation expected to be buried in the local cemetery Elsie and I will be cremated because, by the 1950s, this will have become much more acceptable. War had a lot to do with this change of mind. With so many men lost without trace, blown to smithereens with no bodies to be buried, we will begin to see death and burial in a different light. We will no longer believe that the body has to remain in one piece in order to get to Heaven. Well, we couldn’t believe that any more now could we?

(In my old age I will become a lodger with Elsie Skull's son and his family in The Greenway, just down the hill from here. My ashes, like Elsie's, will no doubt be sprinkled somewhere in Wycombe.)
Florence Nicholson researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Mrs Gill Evans, Wycombe Abbey The real Florence Nicholson in old age
Florence Nicholson researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Mrs Gill Evans, Wycombe Abbey The real Florence Nicholson in old age

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