Obituary: Dame Monica Golding

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The Independent Online
Monica Golding's prime concern in life was to offer help and comfort to those in need. In culmination of her service and dedication to the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, she was appointed Matron-in-Chief and Director of Army Nursing Services in June 1956 and DBE in 1958.

She was born Monica Johnson, in Chiswick, west London, in 1902, and began her lifelong dedication to nursing at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford, in 1922. From Guildford she moved to Aldershot in 1925 for midwifery training; her close proximity to the Army there encouraged her to consider a life in the Services.

Her concern for those around her was never more apparent than during the years of the Second World War. She recalled some years later her experiences during Christmas 1939, when she found herself in Northern France as Matron of No 3 Casualty Clearing Station. It was the first Christmas of the war and very little had been organised in the way of festivities. Monica Johnson gladly took part in a broadcast home compered by Richard Dimbleby and by way of thanks he asked her what she would like as a small token of gratitude from the BBC. She asked him somewhat timidly if it were possible to have some extras for the patients. To her amazement and delight Dimbleby flew down to Paris and brought back turkeys, oranges, apples, nuts and crackers, and a present for every patient. The sisters, too, enjoyed a good lunch.

Later on in the war when she was in Egypt she arranged further live broadcasts to the United Kingdom. She was well aware of the joy that it would give relatives back home to hear the voices of their loved ones.

The war brought changes to the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and Monica Johnson's experience both at home and abroad was invaluable in the unstable atmosphere which prevailed.

Between 1946 and 1948 she served in India as Principal Matron, the last QA sister to serve there. Her authoritative manner must have been well known: when she was approached and asked if the nursing sisters could take part in a farewell parade prior to Indian independence in 1947 the parade commander was most surprised that she was not "up in arms" at the request. She told him firmly that she would have been very annoyed if the QAs had not been represented.

In 1949, the Army Nursing Service was formally integrated into the British army and the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service was renamed Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC). In 1950 nurse training was established and when she took up her appointment in Singapore as Matron she had the additional responsibility of young nurses under training.

Monica Johnson was capable of accepting a wide and diverse range of responsibilities but never failed to give individual consideration to the welfare of the patients and nurses. She took immense trouble to put people at their ease, and always gave sensible and wise advice. She recognised the need for non-nursing officers to relieve the sisters of onerous clerical duties and worked tirelessly until the first administrative officer was commissioned.

As Director of Army Nursing Services, she represented the Corps on many great occasions, but one of her proudest moments was attending a dinner offered by the Army to the Queen after her accession to the throne in 1952. It had been over 100 years since a banquet of such military magnitude had been held, and present with her were most members of the Royal Family, and over 100 generals. Well aware of the unique occasion that she was attending, she had supervised the design of a new QA mess dress and it was worn for the first time on this evening.

She retired in 1960 and was invited to become Colonel Commandant of the Corps in 1961. During her term of office she witnessed the marriage of the Colonel-in-Chief, Princess Margaret and the opening of the new QARANC Training Centre in Aldershot.

Life was generous to her and her marriage from 1961 to Brigadier the Rev Harry Golding was an immensely happy period. Visitors to their home remember the shared fun and laughter.

Cecilie Monica Johnson, army officer: born London 6 August 1902; Matron- in-Chief and Director of Army Nursing Services 1956-60; DBE 1958; Colonel Commandant, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps 1961-66; married 1961 Brigadier the Rev Harry Golding (died 1969; two stepdaughters); died Bourne-mouth, Dorset 6 June 1997.