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RD&E replace stolen nursing medal for 89 year old Doris



A former Nursing Sister who trained at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital during the Second World War has received a replica of a gold nursing medal which was tragically stolen from her during a burglary.
Eighty-nine year old Doris Sumption, from Spetisbury in Dorset, was devastated when her home was burgled three years ago and thieves took one of her most treasured possessions – a gold medal which she received for being top of her class during her nurse training at the RD&E in 1946.


Doris started her training with the RD&E, then based in Dean Clarke House in Southernhay, in June 1944 at the age of 18. She completed six weeks at the Preliminary Training School, then worked on various wards before undertaking her final State Registered Nurse Exams in 1947. She went onto become a Sister, worked in the community and undertook further training in midwifery at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London.       


Receiving the medal was one of Doris’ ‘proudest moments’ in her nursing career and she was determined to find some way of making up for her loss. After contacting the RD&E in the hope of tracking down a replica, the hospital searched through their archives and was able to locate a similar medal from 1924 on which to base a reproduction for Doris.


Deputy Chief Executive/Chief Nurse Em Wilkinson-Brice recently invited Doris and her family to visit the RD&E and presented her with a new version of her original medal. The medal was personally donated by RD&E Chairman James Brent.   


Em Wilkinson-Brice said: “We were truly sorry to hear that Doris’ original medal had been stolen, and so I am delighted that were are to be able to present her with this replica. Whilst it cannot replace what is lost, we hope that this will serve as a lovely reminder of Doris’ time at the RD&E and her achievements throughout her nursing career. I’d also like to thank Executive Support Secretary Stephanie Collins who has worked tirelessly, in her own time to commission the replica medal, which is an incredible gesture.”


Doris Sumption commented: “I was delighted when I heard that the hospital had been able to make a replica. I couldn’t believe it! I was so upset when I lost the medal; it was a horrible day. So it was lovely to hear that they have been able to replace it. It was so special to me. I would like to sincerely thank Stephanie, Em and the Chairman for their help. Nursing is not about seeking rewards, it is satisfying in itself to help people in their time of need. I feel so grateful for this replacement but above all hope the tireless work of nurses everywhere will be better recognised. "


During her visit, Doris was able to reminisce about nursing in wartime Exeter - surviving rationing, blackouts and bombing - before taking a tour of some of the hospital’s medical wards, her own specialty, to see how things have changed since her days at the RD&E. Later on she was also able to visit the former hospital in Southernhay, now a restaurant, to see the old ward she was responsible for.   


Her son Keith Sumption, a veterinarian working for the United Nations, added: "We are all deeply touched by the effort taken to replace Mum's medal. I think it was more than a medal to her, it was important in helping her confidence to develop as a nurse and when taking on greater and greater responsibilities. Her wartime generation went through enormous sacrifices, and nursing was a hugely important contribution. The medal helps remind us of how nurses have continually sought to lead improvements to care, despite the continual daily challenges".


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