Friday, 21 February 2020

Clara Frances Winterbotham MBE, JP (1880 - 1967) - five times Mayor of Cheltenham, UK

Clara Frances Winterbotham was born on 2nd August 1880 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK.  Her parents were James B. Winterbotham, a solicitor, and his wife Eliza Hunter Winterbotham, nee McLaren.

Cyril William Winterbotham, the poet, was a younger brother of Clara’s.  He was killed in action in 1916. See Forgotten Poets

Clara was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College,.

During the First World War, Clara joined the local Voluntary Aid Detachment in June 1915 and worked at St John’s Hospital, Cheltenham. 

Clara became a member of Cheltenham Town Council in 1918 and later became Mayor of Cheltenham, a post which she held in all five times.

Clara's WW1 Red Cross Record Card:


Saturday, 18 January 2020

Florence B. Olphert ( - 1917) - British Nurse

Nurse Florence B. Olphert died on 13th January 1917. A copy of Florence’s Imprial War Museum memorial photograph was posted by Sandra Taylor ‎on the Facebook Group page Remembering British women In WW1 -The Home Front & Overseas 13.1.2020
I contacted The Rector of St. Thomas’s Church - The Rev. Canon Gillian V. Wharton – to see if I could find out more and she sent me this reply: “Please let me assure you that we have not forgotten Florence Balfour Olphert in our parishes.   One of our parishioners, Michael Lee, researched each of the forty-one men and one woman from our parishes who died as a result of World War 1.   On the Sunday nearest the 100th anniversary of their deaths, we had a biographical note with a photo (if available) of each person, and we remembered them.   On Sunday 15 January 2017, we remembered Florence Balfour Olphert - please see attached service sheet (latter part). 

On each Remembrance Sunday in November and on the National Day of Commemoration, she is remembered by name with the others from our parishes who died in World War One.    She is not forgotten.”

Kind regards,


The Rev'd Canon Gillian V. Wharton
Rector of Booterstown and Carysfort with Mount Merrion, Diocese of Dublin, Ireland.
Clerical Honorary Secretary of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland.

The Rev’d Wharton forwarded my message to Historian Michael Lee, official historian of Mount Merrion, who sent me the following: “I have researched extensively 42 names from three war memorials in a Booterstown parish. My project for the period 1914-1918 was to research and write short biogs and to include a photo if possible in the service sheet, for the nearest Sunday to the 100th anniversary of each of their deaths. All were mentioned and prayed for on the appropriate Sunday. Florence was of course included in the commemorations. The St. John’s Ambulance sent a representative to the church on the 100 anniversary Sunday nearest her death and it was a very moving occasion.  Florence died of a fever and was buried in the family plot in Mt Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.  I have attached  photos for you.”

Florence's Grave

Friday, 27 December 2019

Gertrude E. Jennings (1877 – 1958) – British actress and playwright

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for this information

Born in 1877, Gertrude’s parents were Louis Jennings, a journalist who became Editor of the “New York Times” from 1870 until 1876 and who later became MP for Stockport, and his wife, Madeleine Louise Henriques, an American actress known for her work at New York’s Wallack’s theatre. Gertrude began her theatrical career as an actress, performing in New York under the name Gertrude Henriques and then touring in productions of English classical works with the Ben Greet Players. In the UK, Gertrude  lived in South West London (The Boltons) and began her theatre career as an actress before taking up her pen to write plays. Her 1912 play, “A Woman’s Influence” brought her recognition within the Actresses Franchise League and it became one of the organisation’s most popular and frequently performed plays.

Gertrude played a very important role in the women’s’ theatre movement in the early part of the 20th century. She had the sheer guts and determination to take a theatre company to France to entertain the troops there during the First World War.

When war broke out in 1914, the Actresses Franchise League disbanded and activists such as Lena Ashwell – manager of the Kingsway Theatre London – led the drive to provide entertainment to the troops. By 1917 there were 25 companies performing over 1400 shows a month. Material was drawn from classic and contemporary writers such as Shaw, Sheridan and Barrie, with Lena Ashwell being particularly enthusiastic about taking Shakespeare to the front line soldiers.

Gertrude Jennings formed her own company and travelled to France to entertain the troops.  In 1914 Samuel French published a collected volume of her plays under the title “Four One Act Plays”. The plays were also performed for the home front in London with full professional casts. “No Servants”, for example, was performed in April 1917 at the Princes Theatre with Lilian Braithwaite starring in the lead role as Victoria.

“Five Birds in a Cage” opened on 19th March 1915 at the Haymarket Theatre, then returned as part of the evening bill on April 20 and ran for 284 consecutive performances. The play was broadcast on the wireless (radio) in the first year of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s wireless broadcasts on 29th November 1923, with subsequent productions on 11th April 1924 and 23rd July 1926.

Gertrude died in Midhurst, Sussex, UK in September 1858.


Thursday, 21 November 2019

Florence Oppenheimer (1882 - 1980) – British WW1 Nurse

With thanks to Martin Sugarman, Archivist of AJEX  for telling me about Florence.

Born on 13th April 1882 in Islington, London, UK, Florence’s parents were Alexander Oppenheimer and his wife, Eliza Oppenheimer, nee Pool.  Florence had the following siblings: Cicilia, b. 1879, Rozalie, b. 1880, Eva, b. 1881, Violet, b.1883, Michel 1885, Beatrice, b.1886 and Eric Bernard, b. 1903.

Florence was educated at The Lady Eleanor Holles School in Middlesex.
She joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and served throughout the First World War, gaining Mentions in Despatches, Metirorious Service Medals and Territorial Force Efficiency Medals.  Florence kept a diary in which she recorded her experienced of the conflict.

Florence was serving in Egypt in November 1918.  After the Armistice, she signed on for a further six months and was posted to Palestine. In December 1919, Florence decided she wanted to return home, “After 5 years of really hard work I was very tired and thought I would be wise to return home.”

In 1920, Florence married Leopold Jacob Greenberg in Marylebone, London.  She became a journalist, lecturer, BBC broadcaster and food writer, with her book “The Jewish Chronicle Cookery Book” being published in 1934.  Widowed in 1933, Florence worked for the Ministry of Food during the Second World War.

Florence died on 4th December 1980. 

Florence Oppenheimer’s WW1 Diary has been digitized by AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex Service Men and Women) and much of this is available if you follow the link:

Find my Past and Free BMD

Thank you Martin.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Mildred Aldrich (1853 – 1928) – American Writer and Journalist

I first became aware of Mildred Aldrich through looking through Matt Jacobsen’s wonderful website OldMagazine

Mildred was born in Providence, Rhode Island, USA on 16th November 1853.  Educated  in Boston, Mildred became a school teacher and then a journalist.  She wrote for the “Boston Home Journal”, “The Boston Journal” and the “Boston Herald”.

In 1898 Mildred went to live and work in France as a foreign correspondent and translator.  She lived initially in Paris, where she met fellow ex-patriate Americans Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.  When she was 60, Mildred decided to retire from the busy city life and, in search of peace and quiet, looked for a house in the countryside around Paris.  In June 1914, she moved to Huiry, where she found a delightful house overlooking the River Marne.  She moved in and began to renovate the property but her dreams of a quiet life were shattered in August 1914.

Mildred’s accounts of what life was like for a civilian American woman in that part of the world in the early days of WW1 are fascinating and can be read on line:

“A Hilltop on the Marne”

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home”

After some hair-raising adventures, Mildred and a friend visited the graves of many of the soldiers killed in the early days of WW1.  They travelled on 5th December 1914 by car, following the line of the fighting that took place on 6th and 7th September 1914.  Pilgrimages to the cemeteries had begun on All Souls Day – 2nd November – 1914 but Mildred and her friend preferred to wait until the crowds had thinned out.

Mildred was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1922, for it was widely felt that her books, which were very successful in America, had contributed to America joining the war.

Mildred died on 19th February 1928 and is buried in the churchyard of the Church of St. Denis in Quinchy-Voisons.

After our exhibition and book about some of the Inspirational Women of WW1, I received this message from John Stevens:

"I have been reading through your most fascinating book "No Woman's Land".  It may be of interest to you that on page 57 Lt Edwin [Eddie] Allen James Edwards was the youngest brother of my Grandfather [my Great Uncle!] Sadly, Eddie was badly wounded on 15th October and died back in England aged 19.  His older brother, Capt Gerald John Edwards of Kings Royal Rifle Corps was also killed in 1917 aged 34."

It is astonishing how many of the threads in my project are linked.

My grateful thanks to John for getting in touch and letting us know what happened to his Great Uncle Eddie after he met Mildred who looked after his troops when they were near her house on the banks of the River Marne, giving them tea, bread and butter and biscuits.

Here is a brief extract from Mildred’ account of her meeting with a British Army Officer:  A conversation followed and Mildred showed the officer round her garden.  As he left, she asked:

“ "Is there anything I can do for you, captain?"

He mounted his horse, looked down at me. Then he gave me another of his rare smiles.

"No," he said, "at this moment there is nothing that you can do for me, thank you; but if you could give my boys a cup of tea, I imagine that you would just about save their lives." And nodding to me, he said to the picket, "This lady is kind enough to offer you a cup of tea," and he rode off, taking the road down the hill to Voisins.

I ran into the house, put on the kettle, ran up the road to call Amelie, and back to the arbor to set the table as well as I could. The whole atmosphere was changed. I was going to be useful.

I had no idea how many men I was going to feed. I had only seen three. To this day I don't know how many I did feed. They came and came and came. It reminded me of hens running toward a place where another hen has found something good. It did not take me many minutes to discover that these men needed something more substantial than tea. Luckily I had brought back from Paris an emergency stock of things like biscuit, dry cakes, jam, etc., for even before our shops were closed there was mighty little in them. For an hour and a half I brewed pot after pot of tea, opened jar after jar of jam and jelly, and tin after tin of biscuit and cakes, and although it was hardly hearty fodder for men, they put it down with a relish. I have seen hungry men, but never anything as hungry as these boys.

I knew little about military discipline—less about the rules of active service; so I had no idea that I was letting these hungry men—and evidently hunger laughs at laws—break all the regulations of the army. Their guns were lying about in any old place; their kits were on the ground; their belts were unbuckled. Suddenly the captain rode up the road and looked over the hedge at the scene. The men were sitting on the benches, on the ground, anywhere, and were all smoking my best Egyptian cigarettes, and I was running round as happy as a queen, seeing them so contented and comfortable.

It was a rude awakening when the captain rode up the street.

There was a sudden jumping up, a hurried buckling up of belts, a grab for kits and guns, and an unceremonious cut for the gate. I heard a volley from the officer. I marked a serious effort on the part of the men to keep the smiles off their faces as they hurriedly got their kits on their backs and their guns on their shoulders, and, rigidly saluting, dispersed up the hill, leaving two very straight men marching before the gate as if they never in their lives had thought of anything but picket duty.

The captain never even looked at me, but rode up the hill after his men. A few minutes later he returned, dismounted at the gate, tied his horse, and came in. I was a bit confused. But he smiled one of those smiles of his, and I got right over it.

"Dear little lady," he said, "I wonder if there is any tea left for me?"

Was there! I should think so; and I thought to myself, as I led the way into the dining-room, that he was probably just as hungry as his men.

While I was making a fresh brew he said to me:—

"You must forgive my giving my men Hades right before you, but they deserved it, and know it, and under the circumstances I imagine they did not mind taking it. I did not mean you to give them a party, you know. Why, if the major had ridden up that hill—and he might have—and seen that party inside your garden, I should have lost my commission and those boys got the guardhouse. These men are on active service." 
German Uhlans WW1

Then, while he drank his tea, he told me why he felt a certain indulgence for them—these boys who were hurried away from England without having a chance to take leave of their families, or even to warn them that they were going.

"This is the first time that they have had a chance to talk to a woman who speaks their tongue since they left England; I can't begrudge it to them and they know it. But discipline is discipline, and if I had let such a breach of it pass they would have no respect for me. They understand. They had no business to put their guns out of their hands. What would they have done if the detachment of Uhlans we are watching for had dashed up that hill—as they might have?" ”

Photo of Uhlans from WW1 Buffs Facebook Page

Friday, 4 October 2019

Edith Smith Memorial Award For Widnes Wild Women's Ice Hockey Team - Season 2019/20

Widnes Wild Women's Ice Hockey Team
Pauline Hayward shows off the Edith Smith Award
As you know, I’m trying to spread the word about the unsung heroes and heroines of the First World War. Among the ideas to do this, is the naming of the Most Valued Player Awards for our local women’s ice hockey team – Widnes Wild Women - in memory of a WW1 heroine. Last year’s MVP Awards were in memory of Sarah Macnaughtan (1864 – 1916) a writer who was famous at the time of the war and who went to help out in Belgium, France and Russia. Sara died of exhaustion in July 1916.

This season’s MVP Award for the Team commemorates Edith Smith, who became Britain’s first Warranted Woman Police Officer during WW1. Edith is of particular interest to the Widnes-based Team as she was born in Oxton, Merseyside (formerly in Cheshire) and was buried in St Mary's Church and Halton Cemetery, Runcorn, Cheshire, which is close to to the Widnes ice rink where Widnes Wild Women play their home games.

Here are the details of the exciting match that launched the 2019-2020 MVP Award in memory of Edith Smith:

Widnes Wild Women 8 – Solway Sharks Ladies 8

Widnes Wild Women’s Ice Hockey Home matches 2019 – 2020
Sunday, 6th October 2019
Sunday, 15th December 2019
Sunday 5th January 2020
Sunday 16th February 2020
Sunday 1st March 2020

Other matches may be arranged.  Face Off: 5.30 p.m.

You can find out more by reading the Match report: CLICK HERE

Watching the Video highlights: CLICK HERE


There is now a special Edith Smith Awards website:  CLICK HERE 

Widnes Wild Women's Team player Catherine Bowen-Fell receiving
the MVP Award from Wirral Historian Bob Knowles

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

A.K. Foxwell - Agnes Kate Foxwell (1872 - 1957) – British writer, nurse and munitions worker WW1

Agnes Kate Foxwell was born in 1872, in Paddington, London, UK.  Her parents were Alfred William Foxwell, a wine merchant, and his wife Mary Ann Foxwell, nee Ford.  Agnes had the following siblings: Edith E., b. 1865, Lina, b. 1867, A.W., b. 1869, C.H., b. 1870, Mabel L., b. 1875, F.M. b. 1876 and Ida, b. 1877.  The family lived in Paddington.

Agnes studied literature at the University of London and was awarded an MA.  By 1911, she was a teacher at Cheltenham Ladies College.

During the First World War, Agnes joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and, as her Red Cross WW1 Record cards show, from Oct.1914 - April.1915 she worked at the Auxiliary Hospital, Harrow; 1915 (period unstated) in Charing Cross Hospital; May - Aug. 1915 at the Officers' Hospital in Rouen, France; from Oct. - Nov. 1915 at the Military Hospital in Wandsworth andMarch - Sept. 1916 at St. John's Gate, Devonshire House.

Agnes then worked for six months as Principal Overlooker in Danger Buildings at the Munitions Factory in Woolwich.  She wrote about her time in Woolwich in a book entitled “Munition Lasses: Six Months Principal Overlooker in Danger Buildings” which was published by Hodder & Stoughton, London in 1917.  This is available as a free download from Archive

Find my Past
British Red Cross WW1 Archive