Women staff at hospital in Huete, Spain

Women staff at hospital in Huete, Spain

Women staff at hospital in Huete, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, 1937. New Zealand nurse Millicent Sharples in shown in the photograph (fifth from the left, wearing the head-dress). A number of women in this photo have a hand raised in a pro-Republican salute.

The only organised New Zealand contingent sent to the Spanish Civil War comprised three nurses: René Shadbolt, Isobel Dodds, and Millicent Sharples. On their arrival in they were first based at a large makeshift International Brigade hospital in Huete, central Spain.

Dodds later wrote of the conditions they encountered during their final days in Huete as the Nationalist forces rapidly advanced towards them:

To go into this place and see several hundred people just lying side by side moaning is just like a symphony of pain, the moans and the wailing, and they say ‘Madre Mia’. It’s just something you never forget. We were able to do little for these people. We had limited staff, we had limited equipment. I walked along with a doctor. We stood by and looked each patient over, and he would say, ‘All right, this one we can do nothing for,’ and we passed on. Then we’d go to the next one, maybe you could do something for them; or if they weren’t badly injured we passed them by anyway. So there were only a very few we picked out and [who] received treatment.

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