The First World War diaries of Emma Duffin

Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse


Trevor Parkhill editor

Hardback €11.25
Catalogue Price: €12.50
ISBN: 978-1-84682-522-4
August 2014. 256pp; ills.

‘Duffin’s word provide vivid pictures of her responses to the scenes of war … The compassion and sense of social duty amidst the tension of such emotionally and physically draining work is clear’, Family and Community History (October 2016). 

‘Trevor Parkhill’s timely edited edition of Emma’s First World War diaries provides a remarkable account of one Belfast woman’s experience … Parkhill provides useful biographical information and brief introductions to diary sections … The publication of these diaries provides an accessible source that brings home how much not only Emma but also those she worked with gave of their prime years (she was aged 31 when she enlisted), and how much they must have carried on their young shoulders during – and on their minds after – the war. Parkhill has done an excellent job in bringing their experiences to a wider audience’, Sandra McAvoy, Women's History Association of Ireland (March 2015).

‘In the book, [editor] Trevor Parkhill sets the scene and allows Emma to take over with her descriptive writing, giving a very accurate picture of her life as a VAD nurse, the countryside, the troop ships coming and going, one being blown up before her eyes and especially the work of her female companions’, Anne Hailes, The Irish News (November 2014).

‘The fascinating context of Emma Duffin’s life before and after the war is provided in an excellent introduction by editor Trevor Parkhill … Emma Duffin was well-educated and knew how to tell a tale. She wrote with the benefit of hindsight and leisure so it is more of a memoir … Her journey into the world of military hospitals is representative of what many women saw for the first time as part of a VAD … In 1915 Duffin signed up for overseas service, and her delight in travel and exploring new places comes across as she heads for exotic Egypt, despite the description of quite basic facilities for these women’, Fiona Bourne, Archives and Records (2015).

‘A wealth of valuable research has been undertaken in recent years on the experiences of Irish men and women during the war. The diaries of Emma Duffin add to this growing corpus, and interestingly, provide an insight into the experiences of a Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Nurse … the diaries provide a vivid and captivating account of Duffin’s experiences … Parkhill’s useful introduction contextualizes the diaries and provides background detail on Duffin’s life … Emma Duffin’s compelling wartime diaries contribute not only to our knowledge of the experiences of VAD nurses, but they also illuminate the stories of men who fought during the First World War and provide an insight into wartime medical care and hospital life. They will be of interest not only to historians, but to anyone with a general interest in the involvement of Irish men and women in the First World War’, Laura Kelly, Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 2016).

‘Trevor Parkhill presents a rare look into the day-to-day life of a Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse during World War I, a position that involved much more than nursing … In addition to helping treat their horrendous injuries, Duffin also assisted with cases of frostbite, trench foot, paralysis, pneumonia, rheumatism and broken bones. Her diaries are full of poignant observations, placing readers at her side and serving up lessons in the old “use it up, wear it out, make it do, and do without” work methods’, Mary McWay Seaman, Celtic Connection (March 2015).