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Lorraine Dyer Bizek
July 10, 1915-December 6, 1991
Pioneering Nurse-Midwife; Queen’s Nurse

Lorraine Dyer Bizek was one of the first Bermudians to venture to the UK for nurse’s training and the first Bermudian to become a Queen’s Nurse.

Her top-flight credentials as a State Registered Nurse (SRN), State Certified Midwife (SCM) and Queen’s Nurse—in addition to her experience caring for civilian and military casualties during the Second World War—made her one of the most qualified Bermudian nurses of the 1940s and 50s.

But they counted for nothing in the land of her birth. Denied a position at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital because of her race, she spent her whole working life in the United Kingdom.


The second youngest of Helen (Ingham) and Edward Dyer’s eight children, she grew up in the family homestead at Ingham Vale, Pembroke. Known as “Dye” to family and friends, she attended Edith Crawford’s primary school at Alaska Hall in Hamilton and Millicent Neverson’s Excelsior Secondary School in Pembroke.

She was among the 32 original members of the First Excelsior Girl Guide Company, the Island’s first Black Girl Guide company, which Neverson founded in 1932.

Although shy as a young girl, she blossomed as a teenager. A talented athlete, she won top prizes at school sports meets. She enjoyed swimming and the outdoors in general, and produced and acted in skits at Girl Guide camps.  

As a young adult, she was a cultural whirlwind.  Inspired by US fitness pioneer Bernard McFadden, she founded the Pembroke West Physical Culture Club, comprised of girls from her neighbourhood, and trained them in physical fitness. They performed acrobatic stunts and sang at community concerts. Bizek also sang solos at these events.  In August 1937, she teamed up with Louise Smith to present an Emancipation Concert at Hamilton’s Alexandrina Hall.


With a lifelong desire to be a nurse, she started out at the Bermuda Nursing Home on Curving Avenue, Pembroke, where a practical nurse’s programme for Black women had been in existence since 1904.

But she set her sights higher. In September 1937, she set sail for England to enrol in an SRN (RN) programme. In January 1938, she entered Birmingham General Hospital nursing school. Her studies were delayed by three months because she required eye surgery in a London hospital. She had sustained an eye injury in childhood when she was struck by a flying golf ball from a neighbouring golf course (Bermuda Golf Links).

In 1939, when she was in her second year of the three-year programme, the Second World War broke out.  In 1940, war intensified. The Dunkirk Evacuation began in late May. Several months later, as part of their bombing campaign on Britain, the Germans dropped bombs on Coventry, then Birmingham, causing devastation in both cities.

Bizek was among the nurses rushed to Coventry to treat casualties after the first bombs were dropped. Bombing of UK cities continued well into 1941. In December 1941, with war still raging, she qualified as an SRN.


In January 1942, she was transferred to an emergency hospital in Litchfield to care for wounded soldiers and civilians. Her war-time service was recognised in Bermuda. In February 1943, her name appeared on a list compiled by the Bermuda Overseas Services Association of Bermudian men and women who were serving overseas.

In June 1942, she moved to Scotland to enrol in a midwifery programme, becoming a SCM in 1943. In 1945, she became a Queen’s Nurse in Scotland, after successfully completing an 18-month course in district nursing.  She did an additional year’s training in England to qualify as a Queen’s Nurse in that country.

Bizek had always intended to return to Bermuda. In 1943, she appeared in a BBC film ‘Hello! West Indies’ (1943), which featured Caribbean people in the UK and highlighted their contribution to the UK war effort. Viewers heard that she  planned to return to Bermuda and open a nursing home. The film was screened at Bermuda’s Opera House in March 1944, with many of her proud relatives in attendance.


In February 1947, Bizek returned to Bermuda after 10 years in the UK. During her absence, The Royal Gazette had run the occasional article about her accomplishments, but once back on home soil there was a lengthy feature—the article began by pointing out “an arm full of certificates.”

The story brought no work offers from either KEMH or the district nursing service, which was run by the Bermuda Welfare Society and required its nurses to have the Queen’s Nurse qualification.

Official records are silent on any encounter she may have had with Bermuda health authorities. But according to her memorial service obit, KEMH told her she  was overqualified. After a four-month stay, she returned to the UK, where she gained an additional qualification as a Health Visitor (a community public health nurse) in 1948.

She spent the rest of her career working as a Health Visitor; this branch of nursing was her favourite. On March 19, 1952, she married Polish national Wladek Bizek.  She continued to work in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, where she had been employed since 1950, but the couple made their home in Bristol, 20 miles away.

Although her talents were lost to Bermuda, several nephews and a niece followed her lead and studied in the UK. She persuaded nephew Edward Dyer, who had planned to study engineering, to take up nursing. He earned qualifications in psychiatric (RMH) and general nursing (SRN), becoming the first Bermudian male nurse. He worked at St. Brendan’s Hospital, then joined the Prison Service. He  moved up the ranks to become Commissioner of Prisons.

Edward’s brothers Charles became a urologist, while David became a dentist and MP. Both returned to Bermuda to practise. Their sister Maura-Jean Hendrieth was also a UK-trained nurse. She worked for a short time in Bermuda before making her home in the US. Their cousin Norman Dyer was sent to the UK at the age of 12 to live with the Bizeks and attend high school. He became a Royal Air Force Pilot.


In the post-war years, Black Bermudian women began to enter UK nursing schools, unlike earlier generations who trained in the US.

Bizek became a mentor to many of them, among them Joan Dillas-Wright, who after a successful career in the UK and Bermuda in nursing, moved into hospital administration, eventually becoming CEO of the Bermuda Hospitals Board.  She was later appointed to the Senate as an Independent, before occupying the top spot in the Upper House: Senate President.

In 1958, the first Black nurses Juanita Guishard Packwood and Barbara “Lovey” Davis Wade, both UK trained, were employed by KEMH. Although much too late for Bizek, the tide was turning.

Bizek would visit Bermuda over the years. In 1957, she attended a 25th anniversary celebration of her former Girl Guide troupe, but England had become her home. She outlived her husband and died on December 6, 1991 at age 76. A memorial service was held in Bermuda in January 1992.

Bizek was among the scores of Black Bermudian nurses who, after training in respected US and UK hospitals during the first half of the 20th Century, returned home to Bermuda with high hopes of making a contribution. But there was no welcome mat.

So, the UK became the beneficiary of Bizek’s talents. 

Editor’s Note:

Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Dr. E. F. Gordon and Clara Christian Gordon, is believed to have been the first Bermudian to enrol in a UK nursing school. She entered in 1937. But she dropped out and enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), as a section officer representing Bermuda.  She appeared in the same ‘Hello! West Indies’ film as Bizek, and her name joined Bizek’s on the 1943 list of Bermudians doing wartime service.

Barbara’s younger sister Joyce became an SRN.  In 1955, three years before the ban on Black nurses was lifted, she was given special dispensation to care for her father on his death bed at KEMH.

Another sister Marjorie Davis, the mother of pioneering BBC presenter Moira Stuart, also began nurse’s training, but had to abandon her studies when she married.  

Bizek, therefore, is likely the first Bermudian, black or white, to qualify in the UK as an SRN. It is unlikely that a white Bermudian would have aspired to train in the UK during this time. There would have been little incentive because of KEMH’s on-island nursing school. Students did 18 months at KEMH, followed by another 18 months at the McGill University-affiliated Montreal General Hospital, earning an RN (Registered Nurse) upon completion of the course.

Black leaders, beginning with Dr. E. F. Gordon in 1924, were highly critical of KEMH and the Bermuda Welfare Society for their refusal to hire Black nurses and in the case of KEMH, admit them to its nursing school.

In 1953, Gordon told a parliamentary Inter-racial Committee, the first of its kind for Bermuda, that since 1926, 128 women, most of them Bermudian, but also nationals of Canada, the Caribbean and the UK had trained at KEMH’s nursing school up to that point.  All were white. It would take five more years for the restrictions on Black nurses to be lifted.

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July 10, 1915—Bizek is born in Pembroke

1932—First Excelsior Girl Guide Company is formed; Bizek is one of the 32 original members

April 1934—Places third in high jump at her high school gymkhana

1934-1936—Is active on the cultural scene presenting performances by the Pembroke West Physical Culture Club, but also as a solo singer

1935-1937—Is a nursing student at the Bermuda Nursing Home

September 1937—Sails to the UK to begin nurse’s training; spends three months recuperating from eye surgery in London

January 1938—Begins studies at Birmingham General Hospital

September 1939—England declares war on Germany

November 1940—Is among the nurses rushed to Coventry to care for casualties

December 1941—Qualifies as an SRN

January 1942—Cares for war casualties at a Litchfield hospital

1943—Becomes a State Certified Midwife (SCM); appears in the BBC film ‘Hello! West Indies’ (1943)

1945—Earns the Queen’s Nurse qualification in Scotland and the same qualification in England the next year

February 1947—Arrives home after an absence of 10 years, but returns to the UK   after a four-month stay and no job offers

1948—Earns Health Visitor qualification

1950—Becomes a Health Visitor in Weston-super-Mare, where she will remain until retirement

March 19, 1952—Marries Polish national Wladek Bizek

May 1957—Attends the 25th anniversary celebration of the First Excelsior Girl Guide Company in Bermuda

1962—Nephew Norman Dyer, who had lived with the Bizeks since age 12, becomes a Royal Air Force pilot

1958—The first Black nurses are employed at KEMH

December 6, 1991—Dies in the UK at age 76



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Portraits of Lorraine Dyer Bizek

Left, Bizek began nurse’s training at the Bermuda Nursing Home on Curving Avenue.

Right, Bizek in England, which was more welcoming than Bermuda


Bizek (pictured top row, second from right) was one of the original members of First Excelsior Girl Guide Company.
Also pictured are Leaders Edith Crawford (left)  and Wenona Robinson (right).

Photo: Enith King Collection

Bizek (left) was featured in a publication 'Playing Their Part', which highlighted the contribution
of people from the Commonwealth during the Second World War.

Bizek made waves as a student at Central School and as a Girl Guide

Photos and images: Courtesy of the Dyer family



Further Reading

“Pembroke West Physical Culture Club”, Bermuda Recorder, June 15, 1935

“Successful Function by Excelsior Guides”, Bermuda Recorder, June 27, 1936

“Local Girl Makes Progress With Nursing in England”, The Royal Gazette, July 28, 1943

“Men & Women of this Colony Serving Away”, The Royal Gazette, February 10, 1943

“‘Hello! West Indies’ Presents Excellent Shots of Miss Lorraine Dyer,SRN, SCM”, Bermuda Recorder, March 4, 1944

“Bermuda Nurse Wins Highest Honours in UK Nursing”, The Royal Gazette, March 7, 1947

“Girl Guide Company Was Founded 25 Years Ago”, The Royal Gazette, May 19, 1957

“Begins 3-Year RAF Training”, The Royal Gazette, October 20, 1962

“Lorraine Lauretta Bizek: An Accomplished Nurse”, The Royal Gazette, March 9, 1992

Bermuda’s Architectural Heritage: Pembroke, Bermuda National Trust, 2017

Additional sources:  Edward Dyer, Lorna Dyer Sirjusingh, Maura-Jean Hendrieth, the late Warren Dyer and Chantal Simons, nephews, nieces and great-niece of Lorraine Bizek.


Bizek appeared in the BBC film Hello! West Indies’ (1943). She can be seen at the 12-minute point.  

She was also featured in the 2022 film ‘Health Care Heroines: Black Bermudian Nurses and the Struggle for Equality’, produced by the Department of Culture.



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