Sale of Second World War nurse's cape to benefit Royal British Legion
A decorated cape worn by a volunteer nurse during the Second World War has sold for £5,800 at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers.
The scarlet and navy woollen cape belonged to Esme Kathleen Robinson (1922-2017), who as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) treated soldiers at Churchill Hospital in Headington, Oxfordshire, from 1942 to 1945.
The garment was sold to a private buyer at the Stansted auction house on August 30. The sale proceeds were donated to the Royal British Legion. Sworders has also donated its fees to the charity.
The cape's scarlet lining is decorated with 201 cloth regimental badges that were given to Miss Robinson by soldiers she treated as a sign of gratitude for her service. There are many stories of nurses competing to get the most formation signs from their patients.
Esme enrolled as a British Red Cross nurse on January 6 in 1943. Between June that year and May 1947, she worked as a VAD nurse and the cape formed part of her uniform.
For formal events – such as the annual VAD carol concert – she wore it navy side up as the display of so many regimental badges was frowned upon by her superiors. It was during one of the concerts in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, that Esme met her future husband.
A spokeswoman for Sworders said: "She passed away in 2017, since when her daughter has pondered what to do with the cape and associated memorabilia such as a soldier's service and pay book, certificate of enrolment and a needlecraft for HM Forces kit.
"After being rebuffed by specialist museums, she decided instead to sell the cape and give the proceeds to the Royal British Legion."
Founded in 1909 with the help of the British Red Cross and Order of St John, the VAD was a civilian unit that provided nursing care for military personnel during both world wars.
The nurses – among them author Agatha Christie – worked in field hospitals and in places of longer-term recuperation back in Britain.