Thursday, 12 December 2013

Betty Stevenson - YMCA volunteer killed in the line of duty 30th May 1918, Etaples, France

Betty Stevenson is surely one of the most inspirational women of all time.

Bertha "Betty" Stevenson was born in York on 3rd September 1896. The family moved to Harrogate.   Betty went to boarding school in 1910 and to Brussels to study music in 1913.

When War broke out, Betty, who was eighteen, and her family went to London and helped some of the large number of Belgian Refugees who were camped out in Alexandra Palace, some of whom they took into their home in Harrogate.

When her aunt went to France in 1916 to work in a YMCA canteen, Betty volunteered to go as well.

It took a while for permission to be granted because Betty was by then still only nineteen. In those days a woman needed her parents' permission to do anything because she was officilaly their responsibility until she was 21.

When her aunt had to return home, Betty's Mother took her place and the pair worked together, living in Paris and travelling by tram and train to the YMCA hut in St. Denis.   They returned to the UK in November 1916.  But Betty could not settle down at home - she missed her friends in France.  In 1917, Betty went back to France, where she worked as a driver but the long hours, hard work, erratic meals and weather took their toll on her health and Betty had several bouts of 'flu and even contracted mumps.
She was transferred from driving back to working in a canteen in Etaples in 1918.  After a brief period of home leave, Betty was killed in an air raid on 30th May 1918  and was buried with full military honours in the British Cemetery in Etaples.   Betty received the French Croix de Guerre aver Palme.

"Betty Stevenson, YMCA Croix de Guerre avec Palme Sept. 3rd 1896 - May 30th 1918"
Edited by G.G.R.S. and A.G.S. published by Longmans Green and Company, New York, 1920

No comments:

Post a Comment