Softcover. Oblong quarto. Measuring 12.5" x 9.5". String-tied cardboard photo album. A collection of 170 sepia toned or black and white gelatin silver photographs, measuring between 1.5" x 1.5" and 6" x 8", affixed to stiff gray paper with some captions. The photographs are near fine with occasional creasing in a very good photo album with edgewear and lacking the cloth over the boards. A photo album assembled by Clara R. Wells, an English nurse, between the mid-1930s until 1945. The beginning of the album is of Wells's home life living near Ascot, England, including her two infant children and various get-togethers, parties, and weddings with friends and family throughout the 1930s.
The last few pages begin in the early 1940s, and continue well into World War II. During this time Wells was a nurse working at the Free French Nursery in Ascot, roughly 25 photographs show the nursery. Wells was part of the AVF, (Amis des Volontaires Français – Friends of the French Volunteers), which was established after the French defeat and occupation by Germany in 1940. According to Nicholas Atkin, "the AVF aimed to establish a link between organizations and individuals who wished to extend moral and material aid to the French Volunteers and also assisted French Forces fighting for the Allied cause. The latter would include setting up of canteens, hostel facilities and clubs for French troops and French civilian evacuees in Britain." For her part Wells volunteered as a nurse for the children of the French Volunteers who were sent to England. She cared for the children, threw them parties, and attempted to keep their spirits up and them safe until their parents could return. Among the images captured is a young nurse with a group of children and a pony in and around the grounds of the hospital, as well as a group photo from story time and another of children, a clown, and some soldiers from a "Canadian party."
Also included are magazine clippings about the nursery, Wells's employment registration form, her nursing diploma, a letter from the National Society of Children's Nurseries, and two letters from a head nurse at another AVF operation asking her to come back because Wells is more experienced than the nurses currently on duty. In the letter dated November 3, 1943 she writes: "I simply must have a night nurse; the staff here is too inexperienced to be taking night duty in turn... we are having six babies in Christmas time... I would love to have you back." A magazine clipping, with pictures taken from Wells's photography, is captioned, "young sons and daughters of parents serving in the French forces at the French war-time nursery in the home countries." Due to internal conflicts between the British and the French the AVF dissolved shortly before the war's end.
A modest but interesting collection from a little-know branch of World War II volunteer service that is often overlooked.