A Trainee Nurse’s pay at the outset of World War Two

A historian friend has written me about a Jewish woman who left Berlin, and saved her life, coming to England and starting her training in 1939. She had free board and bed and earned just 36/- per month. That is £3 and 6s. By November 1943 she was fully qualified and working in a General Hospital and her new salary became £5 and 5s-nurses were considered professionals before the NHS was formed and  were paid in Guineas (I Guinea= £1 and 1s). In order to fathom what this might have bought I looked up some figures in a couple of hours in a local newspaper archive. The following is what I discovered there.

Image result for Nurses Uniform in 1940

West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser  Feb 8th 1940    Price 2d
(12d= i/- (shilling) and 20/- equals £1 (a pound) )
Cockerels £1 per 100
Rental for a 2 bedroom house, sitting room, kitchen and scullery in Richmond Terrace in Truro £20 per annum
500 stamps 2/6 i.e. 2 shillings and 6d= 1/8 of a Pound
Cure for corns on feet 9d per bottle or 10 and 1/2d by post
Newly soiled Army boots 6/6 approx 1/3 of a Pound
soled and heeled 7/-
Unbleached bed sheets -double bed sized 7/11 and 1/2d (So it doesn’t seem 8 shillings!)
Turkish towels 1/11 and 1/2d
Unused 30 horsepower Electric Motor secondhand cost 50/- (Two and a half pounds) for sale at 30/-
Graham Piano in a walnut case £14 and 14/-
Other modern pianos in part exchange £7 and 10/-
Ginger wine 3/- for a bottle
Port styled wine (i.e. not real Port) a quarter bottle 9d
Full bottle of Sherry 2/6= 30d
Large oval bottle of port styled wine 3/6
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser  Feb 12th 1940    Price 2d
 
Truro City Band – Grand Dance -admission 1/3 (obviously haf of half a crown!)
Kidney Pills on offer 1/3 and at 3/- and at 5/-
The Cornishman Dec 28th 1939 
 
Weekend Return Fare to Isles of Scilly 12/6 from Penzance!
New Agricutural Wages Act 1924 Update-comes into force on 1st Jan 1940
Minimum Wage for Male over 21 at 37/- (up from 34/-)
                                                14 year old  11/6
                           for Female over 20 6d per hour
                                                14-15 3d per hour
An advert 14 inches by 16 inches (half page) cost £18
80 word advert for 3 weeks cost 7/3
(It announces in this edition that overworked Nazis will be getting 3 weeks extra holiday next year and those cancelled in September will have their holidays restored}
(Also British Contraband seize 7000 tons of goods of contraband of which…
4000 tons are petrol
600 tons of foodstuffs and beverages
200 tons of tin
100 tons of rubber
Image result for Russo-Finnish War in 1940
and in North Finland 5000 Russians captured by Finns
Berlin Wireless announces Hitler to visit Western Front)
Wife’s Maintenance set by Camborne Court after husband’s pretty clear adultery = 15/- per week
Fees for a Girl’s School relocated from Isle of Wight-Westwing- to open in Jan 24th 1940
£30 and 30/- under 8 years boarding and £35 and 35/- boarding
Kindergarten £5 5/- per term.
The other authority on prices at this moment in time was, of course, George Orwell’s account of the reasonable cost of reading compared to smoking and drink. Sadly, it appears that so-called Agency nurses may be reasonably paid but if Jeremy Hunt’s pronouncements are anything to go by, nurses are scarcely likely to have a much better time in the forthcoming period. The long shadow of Brexit has already, as is well known made for a severe shortage of staff. The Conservative Party are great believers in the so=called free market, except of course when it applies to Public Sector Pay!
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George Orwell’s Poem from The Adelphi (December 1936)

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A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;

But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.

And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.

All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough
Could make my enemies tremble.

But girl’s bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.

I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;

And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn’t born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?

Commentary

This appears in a new collection and their is a witty comment at https://www.theguardian.com/books/shortcuts/2015/nov/04/love-george-orwell-never-read-poems-poetry

It somehow reminds me of a favourite poem by Louis Mac Neice in its energetic and upbeat tempo- Bagpipe Music. Perhaps it is not surprising that Mac Neice sounds so much like Auden-but it certainly surprised me!