A poignant painting, which once hung in Cardiff Royal Infirmary that depicted life on its Mametz Ward during the First World War, will soon be adorning the walls of the hospital’s Chapel once again, thanks to a donation from the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Association (QARANC).
The QARANC Association kindly donated a print of a painting by Margaret Lindsay Williams – The Care of Wounded Soldiers in Cardiff Royal Infirmary is an oil painting on canvas, created in 1916.
Artist, Margaret Lindsay Williams was born in Cardiff, the eldest of the two daughters of Samuel A. Williams, a shipbroker of Barry Docks and Martha Margaret Lindsay. She lived much of her life at Windsor Road, Barry.
The painting currently hangs in the Headquarters of the Army Medical Services (AMS) at Sandhurst, on long term loan from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. It depicts a typical scene from the Mametz Ward at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary, during the Great War.
Local ex-servicemen and citizens of Cardiff raised money to commission the original Mametz Ward painting in memory of the men of 16th Cardiff City Service Battalion, Welsh Regiment, who fought and died at Mametz Wood in July 1916.
It was unveiled and dedicated in November 1924 by the widows of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hill Gaskel and Company Sergeant Major T John.
There are a number of interesting features in the painting. On the windowsill on the right hand side of the painting the artist has painted a vase of Arum or Calla Lilies. These flowers have been used by artists to symbolise many different things of the years. The cone-like flowers are thought to symbolise trumpets heralding victory.
Calla lilies also symbolise Christ’s passion on the cross, the Christian Easter service also uses the flower’s meaning as a symbol of Jesus’s ‘Resurrection’.
Throughout history, calla lilies have been expressed in art and paintings with the Virgin Mary or with the Angel of Annunciation. This is because they symbolise purity, holiness and faith. They are strong symbols of rebirth at spring, youth and innocence.
The nurses in the painting both have a ‘T’ on the lower border of their tippet which indicates they are members of the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS).
A spokesperson from the QARANC Association said: “The painting was brought to the attention of the QARANC Association in 2005 by one of its members, Mrs Mary Read, who had noticed that the painting was no longer hanging in Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
“Mary spent months locating it, eventually discovering it rolled up in a store room. Mary was then instrumental in arranging for the painting to be displayed, on loan, at the AMS Regimental Headquarters.
“Funding to restore and frame the painting was provided by the QARANC and RAMC Associations. It currently hangs in pride of place in the grand entrance hall and is much admired by all who pass through. We are truly grateful to the University Health Board for the loan and were delighted to be able to help fund a print for the newly restored chapel.
To find out more about the painting please visit: https://britisharmynurses.com/care-of-wounded-soldiers-at-cardiff-royal-infirmary-during-the-great-war/
To find out Cardiff and Vale Arts for Health and Wellbeing programme please visit: www.cardiffandvale.arts