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Civil Nursing

General information on nursing in India can be found in the book A Brief History of Nursing in India and Pakistan by Alice Wilkinson (1958).1 Wilkinson was associated with nursing in India for more than forty years and in 1908 was the first trained British nurse to join St Stephens Hospital, Delhi. Alongside a history of the development of the profession from its earliest times, she describes nursing specialities, including leprosy and tuberculosis work.

A History of Nursing in the British Empire by Sarah A. Southall Tooley (published 1906) has a section on India, pages 339-349.2 Interesting information in the book:

  • It is stated that the Calcutta Hospital Nurses Institution was founded in 1859 “with which is associated the Lady Canning Home, Calcutta, institutions doing valuable work today in supplying nurses to hospitals and in the training of skilled private staff."
  • Nurse training at the General Hospital, Madras and the Cama Hospital, Bombay was also mentioned. The latter is a hospital for women and children. It subsequently became affiliated with the Grant Medical College in 1923 and part of the Sir J.J. Hospital Group.
  • “The nursing of Europeans in India has been met to some extent in the large towns by the Clewer, Wantage and All Saints Sisterhoods and kindred private institutions." (Refer Religious Orders below).

Training and Hospital Nursing

This article abstract refers to the training of midwives in Madras in a Government lying-in [obstetrics] hospital from the 1840's

For many years nursing training was the preserve of Europeans and Anglo-Indians. The Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (JJ) Hospital (Bombay) was the first to train nurses in western India. The first Indian lady to come forward for nursing training was Bai Kashibai Ganpat in 1891 in Bombay, implying that European and Eurasians were training prior to this date. In the years that followed, nursing schools were established all over the country in collaboration with government, state and private hospitals. [1]

St Stephens Hospital, Delhi started a training School for nurses under Alice Wilkinson — the first trained British nurse who joined the hospital in 1908. Wilkinson became the hospital's nursing superintendent and is credited with raising the standard of nursing not only in St Stephen's but in the rest of India as well. She founded the Trained Nurses’ Association of India and worked as its secretary until 1948. [2]


The Association of Nursing Superintendents was founded in 1905 at Lucknow. The organization was composed of nine European nurses holding administrative posts in hospitals. At the 1908 Annual Conference held in Bombay, a decision was taken to establish the Trained Nurses’ Association. This Association was inaugurated in 1909. The Association of Nursing Superintendents and the Trained Nurses’ Association were amalgamated in 1922 and renamed The Trained Nurses’ Association of India (TNAI).

The Up-Country Nursing Association for Europeans In India, founded in 1892 in the UK, sent trained nurses to India for employment under local committees nursing sick Europeans in up-country districts. Lady Minto’s Nursing Association, established 1906 in the UK, sent nurses to India, its chief object being to supply trained female nurses and midwives to patients requiring attendance either in their private residences or in public or private hospitals in any part of the Indian Empire. The former organisation later amalgamated with the latter.

The Royal College of Nursing Archives (Edinburgh) (see Other Libraries and Archives) holds the record "Lady Minto's Indian Nursing Association" (catalogue reference C/123). This British Journal of Nursing article gives staff numbers in 1926. Emma Wilson was working in India with the Lady Minto’s Indian Nursing Association from the 1920’s? until 1947. She was Chief Lady Superintendent from 1938 to 1947. Wilson wrote Gone With the Raj, published 1974.3

The Medical Missionary Association of India was established in 1905. In 1925 there was a name change to the Christian Medical Association of India


The Nursing Journal of India (Nurs J India) began publishing in 1912. It would be expected there would be mention of many individual nurses in the Journals. The British Library has the Nursing Journal of India from December 1926 (with a few scattered editions prior to this) to February 1939 and Cambridge University Library has an incomplete holding from 1935 to 1989. The Royal College of Nursing Archives in Edinburgh (refer section below) believes they have early issues of this Journal (or they can obtain them) but they are not in the computerised catalogue at present.

Historical Nursing Journals is an online searchable database of PDF images showing British journal pages from the Royal College of Nursing Library, then select Archives/Family history/Historical nursing journals or direct link Search The Nursing Record / The British Journal of Nursing 1888-1956 image database. There are many mentions of India in these Journals. Examples include:

Also see Historical books online. below

Nurse Registration


In England, legislation was passed in 1919 which became effective from 1921. The National Archives has Registers of Nurses from 1921 in the series DT 10. This link gives some details about records originating from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. It seems likely that some Indian trained nurses were also registered in England, as there is an associated series DT 18 General Nursing Council for England and Wales: Registrar: Correspondence and Papers, Overseas, which has the following catalogue entries:

  • DT 18/72 West Bengal; (India) general 1937 June 7-1948 July 28
  • DT 18/76 India Office, London 1924 Mar 25-1941 Dec 22
  • DT 18/77 Nursing Council (In Sub series Bengal) 1921 Jan 18-1947 Oct 18
  • DT 18/101 General Hospital, Rangoon 1926 Oct 11-1935 July 12
  • DT 18/141 Trained Nurses Association 1923 Mar 15-1958 July 24
  • DT 18/146 Presidency General Hospital, Calcutta 1923 July 11-1932 June 21

The British Library has a catalogue entry: Nurses: registration under the Nurses Registration Act 1919 of Nurses on the Register of the State Medical Faculty of Bengal IOR/L/E/7/1167, File 4082 21 Aug 1923-13 Oct 1932. This link gives details of the State Medical Faculty of Bengal.


It appears that registration of nurses in India commenced on a Provincial basis, first in Madras in 1928 and in Burma from 1922. This RCN link is from October 1933 and indicates that the UK and Madras had reciprocal registration.

The British Library has two registers of nurses and midwives in Madras:

It has the following catalogue entries which indicate some of the particular Acts:

  • Medical: General questions - Bengal Nurses Act X of 1934 IOR/L/E/9/617 Collection 100/12, Aug 1933-Oct 1934
  • Medical: General questions - Punjab Nurses Registration Act 1932 with Amending Acts IOR/L/E/9/627 Collection 100/22, May 1932-Feb 1937
  • Medical: General questions - Central Provinces Nurses Regulation Act 1936 IOR/L/E/9/630 Collection 100/24, Dec 1935-Jan 1937
  • Medical: General questions - Bihar and Orissa Nurses Registration Act 1935 with Amendments IOR/L/E/9/637 Collection 100/31, Aug 1934-May 1947
  • Medical: General questions - Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Registration Act 1935 IOR/L/E/9/638 Collection 100/32, Mar 1935-Jun 1935
  • Medical: General questions - Orissa Nurses and Midwives Registration Act 1938 IOR/L/E/9/641 Collection 100/35, Aug 1938-Oct 1938
  • Medical: General questions - Sind Nurses, Midwives, Health Visitors and Dais Registration Act 1939 IOR/L/E/9/645 Collection 100/39, May 1939-Jun 1945
  • Medical: General questions - North West Frontier Province Midwives Act 1939 IOR/L/E/9/646 Collection 100/40, Jun 1939-Jul 1942
  • Burma Nurses and Midwives Act 1922 IOR/L/E/7/1156 File 1869, 5 Apr 1922-29 Mar 1928
  • As to the registration of nurses and midwives in Madras: enactment of legislation IOR/L/E/7/1350 File 2905, 12 Jul 1924-13 Sep 1935.

Religious Orders

  • The Clewer Sisters were Sisters from the Anglican Community of St John the Baptist from Clewer (near Windsor in England) who came to Calcutta in 1881. They were involved, at various times, with nursing at the Calcutta General Hospital, Medical College Hospital, and the Eden Hospital (a maternity hospital) and also with nurse training through the Calcutta Hospital Nurses Institution, which was based at the Lady Canning Home. Scroll to the end of this link for brief details of their work in India.
  • All Saints Sisters of the Poor indicates this order was in India from 1878. [3] All Saints Sisters were at the J.J. Hospital, Bombay from 1880 and at St George’s Hospital Bombay from 1885 until 1902 [4]

Military Nurses in India

Female nursing was introduced in army hospitals in Madras in the late 1860’s, well before Calcutta. [6]

The Indian Nursing Service for the British Army in India was founded in 1888, when Miss Catharine Loch and five sisters went to Rawalpindi and Miss Oxley and three sisters went to Bangalore. Nurses were recruited in England. (Brief details of the conditions.[7]). The service became known as Queen Alexandra's Military Nursing Service for India in 1903, and in 1926 was amalgamated with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.
The Nursing Service for Indian Troops Hospitals was formed in 1926 (Later renamed the Indian Military Nursing Service). This was a permanent nursing service. In the prior years from 1916 the Indian Government had employed many nurses on six months contract.[8]

The work of Australian Army nurses in India in the First World War:

  • "Nursing for the British Raj" by Ashleigh Wadman 28 October 2014 Australian War Memorial website. Suggested further reading includes Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War by Jan Bassett 1997 which is stated elsewhere[9] to provide “the best most accurate info on Australians nursing in India”.
  • "Reading between unwritten lines: Australian Army nurses in India, 1916-19" by Ruth Rae. Australian War Memorial website, archived webpage. Describes the 34th Welsh General Hospital (34 WGH) at Deolali.
  • Constance Jessie Brooks was one of over 500 members of the AANS [Australian Army Nursing Service] who served in India during the First World War although it was not recognised officially as a theatre of war. She was posted to Rawalpindi, the Victoria War Hospital in Bombay and subsequently on His Majesty’s Hospital Ship ‘Ellora’, then finally the Gerard Freeman Thomas [War] Hospital in Bombay. In 1919 she married in Bombay, one of the 20 Australian nurses who married in India.
  • A List of Australian Army nurses who married overseas during WW1 includes those who married in India.[10]
  • "Australian Nurses in India 1916-1919 " commences page 124 With Horse and Morse in Mesopotamia : the story of Anzacs in Asia edited by Keast Burke 1927, and is available online below.

Also see Historical books online below.

First World War hospital for wounded Indian soldiers

The Lady Hardinge Hospital at Brockenhurst, in the New Forest, [England] for wounded Indian soldiers The sisters at the hospital , who performed mainly supervisory duties, all spoke Hindustani.[11] The newly constructed hospital, consisting of a series of huts, opened 20 January 1915[12], although there had been other hospital facilities from about September 1914[13], when Balmer Lawns and Forest Park Hotels had been commandeered and fitted out as a medical facility, with temporary structures in the grounds providing additional accommodation. Later Morant Hall became Meerut Indian General Hospital to provide additional accomodation. The Lady Hardinge Hospital for Wounded Indian Soldiers was used from the outbreak of war until the end of 1915, when the Indian Army Corps which it supported, was transferred to Egypt. The Indian hospital was then transferred to Brighton and the Brockenhurst site became No 1 New Zealand General Hospital. At the same time Morant Hall became Morant War Hospital. For more about Brighton, see Western Front.

Brockenhurst a First World War Hospital village 1914 by Gareth Owen. This article contains further links and there are a number of photographs.
Names of some of the nurses from BJN 21 November 1914-23 October 1915:1 2 3 4 5 6

Second World War

See Historical books online, refer below.

During WW2 a large group of VADs left London who ended up working near the Burma Front.[14]

Records about Military Nursing

Records at the British Library about Military Nursing

Records relating to nursing at the British Library include:

  • The Indian Nursing Service-Registers of Candidates IOR/L/MIL/9/430-432 (1887-1920). The nurses were recruited in England.
  • Collection 262 Indian Nursing Service IOR/L/MIL/7/11316-11616 (1886-1940), which includes items 262/1-270 and 262A/1-188 with many individual names mentioned.
  • Collection 262/103 IOR/L/MIL/7/11421 (1913) states "Candidates for Queen Alexandra's Military Nursing Service for India must either be of British parentage or naturalised British subjects."
  • Nursing sisters and higher ranks are recorded in the Indian Army List from 1891. Staff Nurses are recorded from 1926.

Other records are listed on the British Library webpage, now archived Indian Medical Service

Records at the National Archives

  • The National Archives Research Guide British Army nurses contains no specific reference to India.
  • Nursing Service Records, First World War allows search and download of information. The records relate to "over 15,000 First World War service records for nurses who served in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) and the Territorial Force Nursing Service". Some records relate to a period before the First World War but none post date 1939.

Online records

  • findmypast contains a database "Military Nurses 1856-1994" (located in Armed forces & conflict/Regimental & service records). These are five sets of records transcribed from those held at National Archives, and other sources, as explained in a findmypast article. These include 783 names from Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. (Free to search but pay for full view).
  • Ancestry, a pay website, contains the following databases, located in Schools, Directories & Church Histories (Search the Card Catalogue)
    • UK & Ireland, Nursing Registers, 1898-1968 (source: Royal College of Nursing, London)
    • Scotland, Nursing Applications, 1921-1945 (source: Royal College of Nursing, London)
    • UK & Ireland, Queen's Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses, 1891-1931 (source: Wellcome Library, London)
    • UK, The Midwives Roll, 1904-1959 (source: Wellcome Library, London)
Family History/Digital publications Royal College of Nursing website includes some details of the Ancestry databases.


Other Libraries and Archives

  • Archive Search - browse or search the historical journals and read online, and browse or search the archive catalogue.
  • Library Catalogue. Some of the books mentioned in this article are also available at the Library in London.
  • Library in London W1
  • Restricted Online Archive from Teachers College Library, Columbia University
Search in “search and browse all items” using 'India, nurse' to see the books available. It may be possible to gain access to these online books. Read this page to find out how to contact the University Library.

FIBIS resources

  • The FIBIS database contains the following records:
  • "Image of a Qualification Certificate to practice as a midwife granted by the Government Maternity Hospital Madras" to Jane Bullock, dated 4th September 1909(?). There is a statement on the certificate advising “This institution is recognised as a training School by the Central Midwives’ Board, London”. Previously, but seemingly not currently, available on FIBIS on Facebook.
  • "Indian Army Prisoners of War in the Second World War" by Hedley Sutton FIBIS Journal, No 12 (Autumn 2004). For details of how to access this article online, see FIBIS Journals. An alphabetical listing by surname of nearly 900 Indian Army personnel who became prisoners of war between 1941 and 1945 is available at the British Library. Most were held by the Japanese, with some held by the Italians.The vast majority are Europeans, but a handful of Indians are recorded; plus a few Indian Medical Service nursing sisters
  • "Medals to a Nurse" by Allan Stanistreet FIBIS Journal Number 28 (Autumn 2012) pages 39-40. Miss W McGregor was a member of the Temporary Nursing Service, India during the First World War. See FIBIS Journals for details of how to access this article
  • "'Some hot water quickly' – Sister Sallie’s Kaisar-i-Hind" by Kimberley John Lindsay FIBIS Journal Number 35 (Spring 2016) pages 11-17. For details of how to access this article, see FIBIS Journals. Sarah (Sallie) Maria Round worked as a Missionary Nurse with the All Saints Sisters, mainly in the Bombay Presidency, but latterly at Peshawar, receiving the medal in 1946.

External links

Historical books online

Sisters in Arms : British Army Nurses Tell Their Story by Nicola Tyrer 2008. Books to Borrow/Lending Library. Second World War. Includes
Joyce's War : the Second World War Journal of a Queen Alexandra Nurse by Joyce Ffoulkes Parry, edited by Rhiannon Evans 2015. Books to Borrow/Lending Library. She served on a troop ship, a hospital ship and in land hospitals in Alexandria and Calcutta 1940-1944.


  1. The British Library has a copy of this book. You can search for a Library which has it, or see Google Books' No Preview link.
  2. A History of Nursing in the British Empire by Sarah A. Southall Tooley (published 1906) has a section on India, pages 339-349.
  3. Wilson's book is available at the BL and in snippet view on Google Books.


  1. Nursing in India by Shubhada Sakurikar
  2. St Stephen's Hospital, Delhi
  3. page 15 footnote All Saints Sisters of the Poor: an Anglican Sisterhood in the Nineteenth Century by Susan Mumm, (published 2001) Google Books
  4. Western medicine and public health in colonial Bombay, 1845-1895 by Mridula Ramanna 2002
  5. A History of Christianity (Volume VI) the Great Century in Northern Africa and Asia 1800-1914
  6. Page 73 Florence Nightingale and the Health of the Raj by Jharna Gourlay (2003) (page no longer available online)
  7. Angels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses, 1854-1914 by Anne Summers (1988), page 114, gives brief details of the conditions (page no longer available online)
  8. royalredcross [Norman]. QAMNSI Nurses Great War Forum 31 July 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  9. kjharris. Online articles: AANS (Australian nurses) in India Great War Forum 19 July 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  10. frev (Heather Ford) AANS NURSES WHO MARRIED OVERSEAS DURING WW1 Great War Forum blog 15 October 2023, retrieved 18 October 2023.
  11. The British Journal of Nursing March 6, 1915 Volume 54, page 187.
  12. page 36 The Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, and its Grand priory of England by H.W. Fincham 1916
  13. World War 1 document by Hampshire Record Office, page 18 pdf
  14. catblues44. V.A.D. nurses London Rootsweb Message Board: Military: World War II: Nurses 19 May 2015. Mentions the book Sister Sahibs: The VADs With the 14th Army 1944-46 by Marian Robertston. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  15. page 23 of the Appendix, The Indian Biographical Dictionary 1915. Edited by C. Hayavadana Rao There was also an obituary in The Times [London] dated 22 February 1940.