Orphan Mabel Court's dreams come true when she enters the Booth Street Poor Law Infirmary as a probationer nurse. But it is August 1914, and her world is about to be turned upside down.
She soon meets Norah McLoughlin, another probationer, and the two girls - together with Mabel's childhood friend Maudie, now a music-hall dancer - become firm friends.
As war rages across Europe, they try to keep their spirits up but when Mabel's fiancé Harry Drover is wounded at the battle of the Somme, Mabel realises that the life she and Harry had always hoped for is now an impossibility. Then when Maudie falls pregnant by an officer, and Norah's young man is lost at sea, all three girls are forced to face the fact that life will never be the same again.