Monday, 17 October 2016

Sue Robinson of the Facebook Group and website Wenches in Trenches The Roses of No Man's Land, with her band of loyal, willing helpers, is campaigning for recognition of the women who sacrificed so much during the First World War.   Sue has already succeeded in getting a seat placed at Lochnagar Crater in France and would like to have a commemorative statue placed somewhere in the UK.

Sue tells me that there is to be a granite memorial to all the women of the First World War placed at Lochnagar Crater in France on 11th November 2016.  

Find out more about Sue's work on the Wenches in Trenches website and or Facebook page:

Lochnagar Crater also has a website

Photo: by kind permission of Sue Robinson - one of the Wenches with the Lochnagar Crater memorial seat, France 
Lucy London

Monday, 12 September 2016

Vera Barclay Update

My grateful thanks to those wonderful researchers Debbie Cameron and Jane Crossen who spotted Vera's grave recently.  Jane has taken some photos of Vera's grave.

I never realised until I read up about Vera that DIB DIB DIB was in fact 'Do Your Best' and DOB DOB DOB was 'Do Our Best'.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Vera Charlesworth Barclay (1893 - 1989) – British writer; co-founder of the Cubs (Scout Movement)

Vera used the pen-names Margaret Beech, Vera Charlesworth, Hugh Chichester

 “It is impossible for a woman, however observant, however experienced who has not been a boy, to understand, to be in tune with, the boy’s mind.  J.S. Wilson in the preface to “The Scout Way”, 1919, one of Vera’s many published works.

An e-mail from writer Fiona Mercey suggesting that I include Vera in my Inspirational Women of World War One exhibition prompted me to look into Vera’s fascinating life.

Vera was born in Hartford, Hertfordshire, UK on 10th November 1893. Her father was the Reverend Charles Wright Barclay, a Church of England Minister, and his wife, Florence Louisa Charlesworth, a writer.  Vera’s siblings were Magdalen (b. 1882), Muriel (b. 1883), Cyril (b. 1884), Ursula (b. 1886), Guy (b. 1887), Claudia (b.1895) and Angela (b.1900).  In 1901, Vera's father was Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Little Amwell, Hertford.  The girls were educated at home by a governess.

The family travelled regularly to Switzerland where Vera liked skiing and sledging.  She was one of the first women to try the Cresta Run.  At that time it was still unusual for women to wear anything but long dresses, so Vera's sporting outfits were skirts or riding breeches.  Vera injured her knee during one of those vacations.

Vera’s mother Florence became ill and was bed-ridden for a while.  During that time she began writing novels and in 1910 had a novel published that became No. 1 best-seller in America.

In 1912 Vera joined the Scout Movement, which began with a camping trip to Brownsea Island in Dorset in the summer of 1907 organised by Lieutenant-General Robert Baden Powell.  Baden Powell came up with the idea of the Scouts after successfully employing school boys as assistants during the siege of Mafeking in the Boer War in 1900.

Vera soon became one of the first Scoutmistresses.  She also noticed the eagerness of younger boys to emulate the older boys who were members of the Scout movement as their regular meetings looked like fun and decided to do something about it.

During the First World War, Vera volunteered to work with the Red Cross and went to the Red Cross Hospital in Netley, Hampshire.  

In 1916, encouraged by Baden Powell, Vera came up with the idea of having a similar group for younger boys and on 16th June 1916 the Wolf Cub section was formed at Caxton Hall in London.   Baden Powell used the ideas of his friend Rudyard Kipling in his “Jungle Book”.

Vera resigned from her nursing job, which had become more difficult due to her earlier knee injury, and concentrated on organising Cub packs in Britain.  Between 1923 and 1926, she went to Chamerande in France to set up Cub and Scout packs and train leaders. Vera went to live in France in 1931, returning to Britain in around 1939.

Retiring to Sheringham in Norfolk to be cared for by her niece, Vera died in Sheringham's St. Nicholas Nursing Home in 1989 and is buried in Sheringham Cemetery.

Netley Military Hospital was built on the south coast of Hampshire after the Crimean War and opened in 1863.  During WW1, a large Red Cross Hospital was constructed in huts to the rear of the main hospital building, with a capacity of around 2,500 beds.  Demolished in the 1970s, all that remains of the original building are the Hospital Chapel and Military Cemetery.   There is also a Facebook Page dedicated to the commemoration of Netley Military Hospital.

Sue Robinson of Wenches in Trenches set up the group in memory of her grandmother who nursed at Netley Hospital in WW1

Sources:  “The Years of Promise” by Cecil Roberts (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1968)

Fiona Mercey’s book about Vera’s scouting activities in France - “Le Grand Jeu de l’Enfance” - has recently been published by Carrick Publishing in France

Photo of Vera Barclay's grave in Sheringham taken by and reproduced with kind permission of Jane Crossen.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Elizabeth Jungmann (1894 – 1958) – German

Elizabeth was born in Lublinitz, Upper Silesia I 1894.  Her parents were Adolf and Agnes Jungmann and her siblings were Otto Jungmann and Eva Gabriele a sociologist whose married name was Reichmann.

Elizabeth served as a nurse on the Wester Front for the German Army during WW1.  After the war she became secretary/interpreter to Gerhart Hauptmann from 1922 – 1933.  She then worked for German poet Rudolf G. Binding who wanted to marry her but was prevented from doing so by his Nazi convictions.

Prior to the Second World War, Elizabeth went to live in the United Kingdom. In 1956 she married her friend Sir Max Beerbohm, whose secretary she became after the death of his first wife in 1951.

Elizabeth died in Italy on 28th December 1958.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler (1891 - 1917) - British WW1 nurse

Staff Nurse Nellie SPINDLER of the 44th Casualty Clearing Station, was a member of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS).

Staff Nurse Spindler was born in Wakefield in Yorkshire in 1891.  She was killed by a shell during an artillery bombardment on 21st August 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele, while working at the 44th Casualty Clearing station in Brandhoek, Flanders.  She was 28 years old.  According to reports, Nellie died in the arms of Minnie Wood, the Sister-in-Charge of the CCS - see the earlier post about Minnie Wood posted on 27th July 2016.

Nellie was the daughter of George and Elizabeth Spindler of Wakefield.   She was buried with full military honours in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery - Plot XVI, Row A, Grave  One of only two British female casualties of the Great War buried in Belgium. 

Source:  Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War and Free BMD

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Gabrielle M. Vassal (1880 - 1959) - writer and journalist

Gabrielle Maud Candler was born in Uppingham in the county of Rutland in England, her father Howard, was a schoolmaster from Islington, London who ran a boarding school in Uppingham.  He was born in 1848.  Her mother Edith Ellen, nee Tablor from Sutton Hall near Rochford in Essex, was born in 1846.  Gabrielle's siblings were Edward, Edith, Mary, Lucy, Alice, Walter, Arthur and Bertha.   By 1901, the family had moved to Hampstead in London by which time her elder brother Edward worked as a solicitor and Arthur as an articled clerk to an accountant.  Her youngest sister Bertha Nelly studied art.

Gabrielle married Joseph Marguerite Jean Vassal in Hampstead in 1903.  During the Napoleonic wars a Joseph Vassal was a prisoner of war.  Joseph was a French doctor.  Gabrielle travelled with her husband to his various postings as a doctor to French colonies, writing about her experiences.  She was adept at shooting and liked to go hunting.

During the First World War Gabrielle's husband served with the small division of the French Army that joined the British contingent in Gallipoli.   His letters to Gabrielle during that time under the title "Uncensored Letters from the Dardanelles" were initially published by Gabrielle in French.  She translated the letters into English and had them published in 1916. You can read the English version of Joseph's letters to his wife here:  In 1918 Gabrielle had a novel published - "A Romance of the Western Front".

During the Second World War Gabrielle joined the French Resistance.   

Was she Countess von Hoenstadt as some publishers seem to think?  Katrina Gulliver thinks probably not :  ttp:// 

Gabrielle died in England in 1959.  

She sounds amazing - I should love to find out more about Gabrielle.

Some of her books are available as free downloads : "On and Off Duty in Annam" by Gabrielle Vassal is available on Archive:

"In and around Yunan Fou" about their time in Vietnam

With thanks to The Gallipoli Association whose Autumn 2016 Magazine "The Gallipolian" has an article about Gabrielle on page 65.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Dorothy Peel, OBE (1868 - 1934) - British businesswoman, writer and journalist

Constance Dorothy Evelyn Bayliff was born on 27th April 1868 in Ganarew, Herefordshire, the seventh of nine children, four of whom died in infancy.  Her parents were Richard Bayliff, an Army Officer, and his wife Henrietta, nee Peel.   Dorothy's siblings were Charlotte, born 1862, Hugh, born 1964, Richard born 1867 and Rosa, born 1873.  The family moved to Bristol where the boys were educated at Clifton Academy.

Dorothy was initially educated by her parents - education for children did not become compulsory in Britain until a law was passed in 1880 and an Act of Parliament decreed that all children between the ages of five and ten years old had to be educated either in a school or at home.   At that time, 'boys were educated intellectually, girls socially - they were expected to marry someone able to support them financially.  Not to be married was to announce oneself a failure.   Legally women belonged to their husbands.  It was the duty of a woman to provide a comfortable home life, with the help of servants, for her family'. (p. 15).   Dorothy was brought up to know that "it was the duty of wealthier people to do what they could to help the poor".

When Dorothy was seventeen, the family moved to Twickenham.  Dorothy's cousin Mrs Talbot Cole wrote articles for "The Queen" newspaper which Dorothy's sister Charlotte illustrated.   Dorothy wrote an article which she entered into a competition run by "Woman" magazine and she won.   When Arnold Bennett took over the post of editor of "Woman" he encouraged Dorothy and helped her to become a professional writer, writing mainly about domestic matters and cookery.  In addition to writing for the "Daily Mail" and other publications, Dorothy also ran her own business - a hat shop.   She lectured and gave demonstrations on the art of cookery.

In 1894, Dorothy married her second cousin Charles Steers Peel, an engineer, in St. Paul's Church, Knightsbridge.  As well as working, Dorothy brought up a family and managed the household.  Dorothy and Charles  had two daughters and lost a third child.   Once married, Dorothy wrote under the name of Mrs C.S. Peel.

"It needed the war to accustom us to women in trousers" (p.56) because until then, "women dribbled about in muddied petticoats which cramped their movements and added to the fatigue of their tasks." (p.63).   During the First World War, Dorothy ran a club for the wives of men in the forces, continued with her charity work among the poor and co-directed the Ministry of Food during the period when food was rationed.  In 1918, she was given the editorship of the women's page of the 'Daily Mail"  For her services during WW1, in 1919 Dorothy was awarded the Order of the British Empire.  

Dorothy's account of her life "Life's Enchanted Cup: An Autobiography 1872 - 1933" was published in 1933.

Dorothy died on 7th August 1934 in Kensington.   

All quotes from "The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel, OBE Bicycles, Bloomers and Great War Recipes",
 by Dorothy's great-granddaughter Vicky Straker, published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2016.

For a review of the book please see