Thursday, 23 November 2017

Dr. Elsie Inglis (1864 - 1917) – Scottish doctor and Suffragist

Elsie Maud Inglis was born on 16th August 1864 in Naini Tai, India where her father, John Forbes David Inglis, was a Civil Servant working with the East India Company. Elsie’s mother was Harriet Lowis Inglis, nee Thompson.

Educated privately, two years after the death of her Mother (1885), Elsie enrolled to study medicine at the newly opened Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women.  After she qualified, Elsie worked at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson New Hospital for Women in London and then at a Maternity Hospital in Ireland, before setting up her own medical practice in Edinburgh.

Elsie worked closely with the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and in 1914 she set up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.  The SWH supplied units consisting of women doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, orderlies and cooks for foreign assignments.  After being turned down by the British War Office, Elsie offered her units to France and was accepted.  SWH units served during WW1 in France, Malta, Romania, Russia, Salonika and Serbia.  

Elsie travelled with the unit which went to Serbia in 1915 and was captured by the Austrians and repatriated to Britain where she began to collect funds to equip a unit to be sent to Russia.   In April 1916 she was awarded the Order of the White Eagle by Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia. 

In 1916 Elsie went with a SWH unit to Odessa in Russia but was forced to return home in 1917 as she had developed cancer.  Elsie died in Newcastle-upon-Tyne immediately following her return to Britain, on 26th November 1917.  She was buried in Dean Cemetery, Dean, west of Edinburgh.

Commemorative events arranged to mark the Centenary of the death of Dr. Inglis are being organised in Scotland.  To find out more, follow this link:


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Mercedes Tiber (1898 – 1988) – British WW1 VAD - can anyone help identify Mercedes?

 Is this Mercedes?
Mercedes Isabel Tiber was born on 22nd June 1898 in Gibraltar. Her parents were Anthony B. Tiber, b. 1865 and Amelia Liza Tiber, b. 17th June 1865. Mercedes’ siblings were: Ernest L. Tiber, born in 1894 and Louis A. Tiber in 1897.  
By 1911 the family had moved to England and were living in Railway Street, Chatham, Kent.  Anthony Tiber's occupation was described as 'Manager'.  The family moved to the Portsmouth area where Anthony B. Tiber died in 1930.  Mercedes and her mother were living in Victoria Grove, Portsmouth in 1939.  Mercedes died in 1988 - her death was registered in Petersfield, Hampshire.  (Source: Find my Past)

During the First World War Louis served in the Northumberland Fusiliers (after the war he joined the RAF) and Mercedes joined a local Voluntary Aid Detachment as a clerk.  She worked in a laboratory in Higham and then at Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Kent.

Mercedes’ WW1 photo album came into the possession of Mick Halliday and he picks up the story:  “About 27 years ago I was given a photo album that my aunt rescued from a nursing home, it was to be disposed of, as the owner had died some years previous. My aunt gave me the album as she considered it too nice to be placed on the bonfire with the rest of the deceased’s belongings. I don’t believe the person was ever married or had any close family.

The album showed pictures from the First World War and just after, and was the record of VAD nurses from Kent. The person in question and owner of the album was called, Mercedes Isabel Tiber and she was born in 1898 in Gibraltar.

I have studied the album on many occasions and still do not know which one is Mercedes. I think she moved to Portsmouth/Southsea area in the 1920’s (possibly Victoria Grove, then Outram Rd). She was still living in Southsea in 1976 and died in 1988 at West Meon.

The album contains 236 photographs, mainly of Kent, but there are some of Southsea, Chichester and Gosport and some of Portsmouth Dockyard. I have researched it over the years and something in the back of my mind seems to think Mercedes was a violin or music teacher when she lived in Southsea, unfortunately I can’t remember why I think this, (possibly from a Kelly’s Directory). There are some amazing photos in the album, especially of wounded First World War Soldiers

I applied to the Red Cross for information and found out she worked in the Laboratory at Higham and Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Kent.

Before moving to Portsmouth, Mercedes worked at the Fort Pitt Military Hospital, which in itself has great historic significance because Florence Nightingale started a medical school there which later moved to Netley. The building used to house Fort Pitt Military Hospital became a school in 1921.”

Mick Halliday posted many of the photographs from Mercedes' album on Debbie Cameron’s Facebook Page Remembering Women on the Home Front WW!.  If anyone knows anything about Mercedes and her family please get in touch.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

VADs in The First World War - British Voluntary Aid Detachments

When you hear the acronym VAD these days, you tend to think ‘nurse’ but there is rather more to those initials – a whole network of organisations in fact. From 1915 onwards, the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment recruited thousands of women to be clerks, cooks, drivers, orderlies, cleaners and so on as well as nurses.

The idea of the Voluntary Aid Detachments came about because during the South African War (Boer War), the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade supplied 2,000 men and orderlies to care for the sick and wounded.  In 1905 The British Red Cross Society was founded with the aim of supplying help for home defence during wartime.  The organisation received its Royal Charter in 1908.  With the consent of the War Office, the Red Cross set up Voluntary Aid Detachments as a supplement to the Territorial Medical Service in 1909/1910.  A great many Voluntary Aid Societies already existed in Britain at that time, but they all acted independently.  At first the Order of St. John in Jerusalem Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross were the main organisations supplying volunteers, but Territorial Force Association V.A. Detachments already existed, so it was decided that these Detachments should be co-ordinated and that the County system, which had been followed by the Territorial Force Association, should be adopted.  

V.A. Detachments were composed of groups of men and women volunteers and performed many different roles, not solely nursing.   These Voluntary Aid Detachments formed part of the technical reserve and their duties included transport, the organisation of rest stations and auxiliary hospitals, as well as nursing.  

The Red Cross Archive is wonderful for researching VADs in WW1 and most of their records are now available on line.  There is also a facility for posting photographs of unidentified VADs.

Friday, 3 November 2017

"Tipperary to Flanders Fields" commemorating WW1 Remembrance Weekend 2017, Kent, UK

The UK Kent-based Actors’ Co-operative Katapult Productions presents "Tipperary to Flanders Fields" which commemorates the First World War in words and music, using some of the songs and poems from the era.  Some of the content tells the story of the women in WW1 in their own words.  

Devised and directed by Michael Thomas, the performers will be Julia Burnett, Marie Kelly, Alan Simmons and Ann Lindsey Wickens.

Performances of “Tipperary to Flanders Fields” will be held during Remembrance Weekend 2017 at the following venues:

The Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne, ME10 4DN on 11th November 2017 at 7.30pm;

at The Astor, Deal, CT14 6AB on 12/11/2017 at 4pm;

and at The Queens Theatre, Hornchurch, RM11 1QT on 13/11/2017 at 2.30pm.

Tickets available from the box offices of the theatres.

Initial information shared from Remembering Women on the Home Front Facebook page, with further information provided by Katapult Productions.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Elizabeth Lucas (1873 - ?) - British writer

Elizabeth was born Florence Elizabeth Gertrude Griffin in 1873 in Hampstead, London.  Her father, James Theodore Griffin was an agricultural engineer who had held a commission in the American Army.  Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth E. Griffin, was born in Scotland.  Elizabeth had a brother, William Hall, born in 1857 and a sister Ethel M., born in 1873 and the family lived in Hampstead in London, UK.  Elizabeth became a writer.

In 1897 Elizabeth married the Quaker poet, writer, journalist and publisher Edward Verrall Lucas in Hampstead.  Their daughter Audrey was born in 1898.

In 1915, with financial backing from British writer J.M. Barrie (best remembered for “Peter Pan”) and help from the Society of Friends, Elizabeth set up and ran a home for orphaned and wounded children in the Chateau Bettancourt, near Rheims, close to the Belgian border in France. Audrey Lucas helped out at the refuge during the school holidays.  

After the war, Elizabeth and Edward went their separate ways.

Photograph:  Photographer unknown.  Chateau de Bettancourt c. 1916. Assembled staff at the orphanage refuge. In the middle of the middle row are Audrey Lucas, the Refuge Matron and Elizabeth Lucas.  The photograph was previously published in the book “Dear Turley” in 1942.

Kevin Telfer "Peter Pan's XI" (Sceptre, 2010)
Andrew Birkin "J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys" (Constable, London, 1979) and Find my Past

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Lady Randolph Churchill (1854 – 1921) – American born socialite (mother of the British soldier and politician, Sir Winston Churchill)

Reading Siegfried Sassoon’s “Siegfried’s Journey, 1916 – 1920”, I noticed a reference to Lady Randolph Churchill:  “I had already become known to Lady Randolph at the Lancaster Gate Hospital, where she acted as a sort of Olympian head-matron.” (p. 101).  

I had to find out more about the 'Olympian' woman, and by a curious coincidence, the following day in a charity shop I found a book that answered all my questions.

Jennie Jerome was born in New York on 9th January 1854.  She was the second of four daughters born to Leonard Jerome, a New York financier who made and lost several fortunes, and his wife, Clarissa, nee Hall, who was known as Clara.  Jennie’s sisters were Clarita, later known as Clara, (1851 – 1935), Camille (1855 – 1863) and Leonie (1859 – 1943).   The sisters were brought up in New York society to be accomplished horsewomen and musicians.  Strikingly beautiful, their father ensured they were well educated and taught to speak several European languages.  They were encouraged by their father to be strong, independent women and from their mother they learnt the importance of ensuring a ‘harmonious family life’.

According to Kehoe, society life in New York during the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) continued much as before.   In 1867 the family travelled to France where they lived in Paris and were presented at the Court of the Empress EugĂ©nie.  Jennie attended a boarding school outside Paris.

During the Franco-Prussian War (19th July 1870 – 10th May 1871), the Jerome women left Paris on the last train before the Prussians began the Siege of the city.  They took refuge in England, first in Brighton then in London, returning on a visit to Paris - a ruined city - in the winter of 1871.

Jennie met Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, at a reception on board the ship “Ariadne” during a summer vacation in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, UK in 1873.   The couple were married on 15th April 1874 at the British Embassy in Paris.  They had two sons – Winston (1874 – 1965) and John (1880 – 1947).

After the death of Lord Randolph in 1895, Jennie continued her life as a socialite and during the Second Boer War (October 1899 – May 1902), she helped to raise funds to equip a hospital ship to send to South Africa to treat wounded soldiers. Jennie chaired the American Ladies Hospital Ship Fund and American millionaire Bernard Nagel Baker, founder of the Atlantic Transport Company, lent his steam ship “Swansea” for use as a hospital ship, which was fitted out and re-named the “Maine”.  Jennie travelled to South Africa aboard the “Maine”, to help keep the peace between the American nurses and the British officers.  The photograph shows Jennie seated among the nurses, clad in white like the nurses and wearing a distinctive Red Cross armband.  For her work during the Boer War, Jennie was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal in 1902.

Although I have not been able to find any further reference to Jennie’s WW1 work, it seems obvious to me that she continued to help out. Apart from her work at the Lancaster Gate Hospital, in 1916 she published a book called “Women’s War Work”.   Jennie died after surgery following an accident, on 29th June 1921 and was buried in the Churchill Family plot in St. Martin’s Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire, UK.

Jennie’s outstanding legacy lived on in her son who became one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers and later accepted a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.



“Siegfried’s Journey 1916 – 1920” by Siegfried Sassoon, published by Faber and Faber, London, 1945 and

“Fortune’s Daughters: The Extravagant Lives of the Jerome Sisters: Jennie Churchill, Clara Frewen and Leonie Leslie” by Elisabeth Kehoe, published by Atlantic Books, London in paperback 2005.

Internet sites: 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Margaret Anabella Campbell Gibson, MM (1877 - 1918) - Administrator (= Officer), WAAC

Remembering today Margaret Anabella Campbell GIBSON, M.M., Unit Administrator (equivalent to the rank of Officer in the Men’s Army) – of the 1st Hostel, Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, who died on 17th September 1918.   

Margaret Anabella Campbell Elliott was born in Mauritius on 12th July 1877. Her parents were Thomas Elliott, C.M.G. and his wife, Georgina Celia Campbell Elliott.  

Margaret married John MacDougall Gibson, a Captain in the British Army.  She was the first member of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) or, as the Corps later became known, the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, to be awarded a Military Medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of a QMAAC Camp during an enemy air raid’.  Mrs Gibson was buried in Mont Huon Military Cemetery in Le Treport, Seine-Maritime, France, where two other women who died serving during WW1 are buried.

I found the photograph of Margaret that is featured here on the weblog of Nick Metcalfe and contacted him at once.  Nick has kindly given my permission to use the photo, which, he tells me, is now out of copyright. Nick told me that the source of the photo is: ‘For King and Country: Officers on the Role of Honour.’ (19 October 1918). Illustrated London News. Issue 4148, Vol CLIII, p 15.  My thanks to Nick Metcalfe for his help

For a review of a recently-published book about the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, please see an earlier post on the weblog.

Further information from Nick’s website: