Sunday, 30 November 2014

Amelia Earhart (1897 - 1937) - American pilot and writer - VAD in WW1

Amelia Mary Earhard was born in Atchison, Kansas, the elder of two daughters born to a German American - Samuel “Edwin” Stanton Earhart, a lawyer – and his wife “Amy” Otis Earhart, whose father was a Federal Judge. 

When she was ten years old, Amelia’s father tried to take his daughters for a ride in an aircraft but they declined.  Amelia kept a scrapbook with press cuttings of women who had successful careers in a world dominated by men.

Educated at home initially, Amelia enrolled in Ogontz School in Rydal, Pennsylvania but during the Christmas holidays in 1917 she visited her sister Grace Muriel in Toronto and saw some of the wounded Canadian soldiers returning from the war in Europe.  Amelia immediately volunteered to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment and after initial training from the Red Cross worked at the Spadina Mlitary Hospital in Toronto.

In November 1918 Amelia became ill with Spanish Flu and had to convalesce for a year before regaining her health.  During that time she lived in Massachusetts at her sister’s home where she read poetry, learnt to play the Banjo and studied mechanical engineering.

Amelia went to live with her parents in California in 1921 and during a visit to an airfield she had a ten minute flight in an aircraft which made her determined to learn to fly.   Her teacher was Netta Snook, the American woman pioneer aviator.

Following the solo flight of Charles Lindberg across the Atlantic in 1927, Amy Phipps Guest wanted to try a similar solo flight but needed an experienced woman pilot to join her team.  Amelia was invited to go along as a passenger with the responsibility for keeping the flight log.  That flight propelled Amelia into the limelight and from then on, she continued to build on her flying experiences and also began promoting the emerging commercial air travel industry, becoming Vice President of National Airways.  In 1928, she was the first woman to fly solo across North America and back.

Amelia married George P. Putnam in 1931 and in 1932 she flew solo across the Atlantic.   In 1935 she became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu to Caifornia.  

After a fire in their home, George and Amelia moved to California and George became the head of the board of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.

Amelia began planning a solo flight around the world in 1936 and in 1937, after a false start, accompanied by her navigator Fred Noonan, who was a Master Mariner as well as being an experienced flight navigator, she took off on 1st June from Oakland, heading initially for Miami.   They reached Lae in New Guinea on 29th June 1937.   They set off on 2nd July at midnight to fly across the Pacific Ocean, heading for Howland Island but they never arrived.  In spite of extensive searches no traces of the aircraft or of Amelia and Fred were found until a British pilot – Gerald Gallagher – found a skeleton in 1940 on the island.  Gallagher was convinced that it was Amelia.  The remains were sent to Fiji but were lost.

Until recently, there were many theories about the plane’s disappearance but the discovery of a metal panel on an uninhabited Pacific Island could provide a valuable clue to what happened.   The 3ft square metal panel was found in 1991 by a group of American aviation enthusiasts who recently made an exciting discovery.  Amelia’s aircraft was apparently modified before take off and an aluminium panel was fitted over a fuselage window.  Members of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery have matched the dimensions of the panel to the window on Earhart’s plane. Members of the Group plan to return to the island in 2015 to continue their search.

Sources:  Wikipedia and “The Times”, Friday, October 31st 2014 pp 36 – 37.
Photo of Amelia Earhart in her VAD uniform - Google Images

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Neta Snook(1896 - 1991) - American woman pilot

Neta Snook Southern was born on 14th February 1896 in Illinois, America.   Neta’s interest in machinery began with her father’s encouragement to learn about the workings of his cars and how to drive them.   When her family moved to Iowa in 1915, Neta went to the State College to study mechanical drawing and farm machinery repair.   She wanted to learn to fly but her application to join the Curtiss Aviation School was turned down because, at that time, women were not admitted, so Netta joined the Davenport Flying School in Iowa.

During the First World War, civilian flights were banned in America and Neta worked for a time at the British Air Ministry in Elmira, New York, inspecting and testing aircraft before they were sent to the war zones of Europe.

IN 1920, Neta went to work as a flying instructor at the Kinner Airfield in Los Angeles, where she became the first woman to run a commercial airfield.

In 1921, Amelia Earhart and her father visited the airfield and, after a flight which inspired Amelia they asked Neta to teach Amelia to fly, which is how their friendship began.   Neta gave up flying to marry and have a family but after her famous pupil’s disappearance in 1937, she took up lecturing and wrote and published her autobiography.   In 1977 Neta flew a replica plane of Charles Lindberg’s “Spirit of St. Louis and in 1981 she was acclaimed as the oldest woman pilot in America.   Neta died on 23rd March 1991 at her home on a ranch in California.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Marie Louise Hamilton Mack (1874 - 1935) - First Woman War Correspondent, Belgium 1914

With thanks to Dominic Sheridan for bringing Marie Louise Mack to my attention.

Louise was Australian - born in Hobart and educated in Sydney where she moved with her family. Louise went to London to work in 1901.  She was the first woman journalist to report first hand as a war correspondent from Belgium in 1914.

You can now read on-line the fascinating diary Louise kept when she was no longer able to send reports back to "The Evening News" in London by wire, due to the approaching German Army: "A Woman's Experiences in the Great War" which were published in aid of the Red Cross Belgian Refugee Fund:

With thanks to the wonderful Gutenberg project which enables us to read these amazing stories.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Remembering all those who lost their lives when the S.S. "Marquette" was sunk on 23rd October 1915

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War has a list of the nurses from Australia and New Zealand whose lives were lost when a German submarine sank the S.S. "Marquette"a troopship in the Aegean Sea near Salonika on 23rd October 1915.  They are commemorated on the Mikra Memorial in the Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Greece.

To read the full story, please see the link:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Blanche Maupas (1883 - 1962) - France - The "Maupas Affair"

With many thanks to Phil Dawes the WW1 historian and researcher for this wonderful piece about Blanche Maupas.

Although not nearly as big as the Dreyfus Affair, the Maupas Affair was a ‘cause célebre’ in France in the years after WWI, thanks to the strenuous efforts of Mme. Blanche Maupas in fighting to clear her husband's name.  

Théophile Maupas was the schoolmaster in the village of Le Chefresne, Lower Normandy.  
His first wife had died of tuberculosis and he had a daughter, Suzanne, from that marriage and another daughter, Jeanne, with his second wife Blanche Maupas née Herpin.  

He had enlisted as a bandsman in the ‘Territorials’ in 1895 and had received some military training. When war broke out in August 1914 he was immediately called up. The 336th. Infantry regiment marched out of St. Lo in a big parade, with a brass band and carrying banners saying ‘A Berlin en quinze jours’ – ‘To Berlin in a fortnight’.  The regiment took part in several phases of open warfare in the Battle of the Marne.  The war soon became deadlocked.  After five winter months in the trenches Maupas was court-martialed, with others, for refusing to send his men 'over the top' at Souain in Champagne.

The charge of refusal to obey an order in the face of the enemy was laid by General Réveilhac against six corporals and eighteen of the youngest men arbitrarily chosen from the ranks.  The motivation was made clear: ‘pour encourager les autres’, for the sake of example.  The preceding weeks had been chaotic in the trenches with high death rates of officers and men and the chain of command in disarray. The ‘Top Brass’ was anxious to regain control, set an example and counteract serious incidents of mutiny in the French Army.  The original tribunal took under an hour to reach a unanimous decision that four corporals should be stripped of their military rank and executed.  

Corporal Théophile Maupas defended himself in court and explained why he had seen fit to disobey orders: “The orders were that I was to attack the enemy as soon as the bombardment finished, when the barbed wire would be broken.  In my section the wire was entirely unbroken. I therefore declined to lead my men to their certain deaths”. (At the hands of German machine gunners).  In effect, he signed his own death warrant by admitting that he had refused to send his men over the top. He also explained the reasons, viz.: the exhausted condition of his men; their low moral after many failed attacks; the high death and injury rate of the 21st Company; that dead men were hanging on the unbroken wires and uncollected bodies littered No Man’s Land; that French shells were landing short, with the result that the German machine gun positions and the barbed wire, which was 8 to 10m. wide, remained unscathed.  

[Later evidence emerged that an acting General believed that the distance between the trenches at Souain was a mere 25m. when in fact it was up to 150m.  It was possible that violent March winds had caused the shells to fall short but testimony was submitted that General Réveilhac had previously threatened to shell his own trenches to force out recalcitrant men]. 

The four corporals, all with Normandy connections, were shot at 1300 hours rather than at dawn in front of the assembled 336th. Infantry Regiment at Chalons-sur-Marne.  The executions were carried out hurriedly and the ‘stripping of rank’ was ignored. After their executions the soldiers were buried in unmarked graves. Pressure from relatives and others after the war saw them reinterred in the French war cemetery at Suippes. 

Blanche Maupas was familiar with the dire situation in the trenches as Théophile had written to her regularly giving some of the details. After his arrest he wrote to her: “I have done nothing to reproach myself for, I am neither a thief nor a murderer. I have not sullied the reputation or the honour of another person. I can walk with my head held high”. 

Blanche was not told about the death, or the reason for it, for nine days. The news came as a terrible shock. She could have hidden in shame as others in her position understandably did. Instead, believing that her husband had been unjustly executed, she spent many years fighting local officials, the military authorities and petitioning the League of Nations in order to clear her his name. She also fought to have the right to a war pension and to have the right to continue teaching in the village school where she had replaced her husband when he went to war.
Blanche was assisted by a group of well-wishers and a Teachers’ Union representative but she also suffered at the hands of the inevitable gossips and trouble-makers. Blanche wrong-footed officials by presenting her business card which announced that she was a schoolteacher and the widow of Corporal Maupas, an executed man.  
She made progress with the local officials thanks to her well-run campaign, but the military authorities ‘stonewalled’ her request for a review of the judgment and ignored her bulky dossier of evidence for many years. She felt obliged to go over their heads to the League of Nations.  Some people thought that she was obsessive but she had to be both obsessive and persistent to go through so many years of petitions and endless meetings, ignoring the numerous setbacks along the way.  All this at the same time as she was looking after her children and being a successful Head Teacher in a number of schools in the Manche area.

Her persistence paid off.  Sixteen years after the war at a special League of Nations Court a judgment over-ruled the decision of the 1915 military tribunal. The ‘decimation’ of soldiers initially ordered by General Réveilhac was condemned by the League of Nations as being ‘flagrantly illegal’.  The Court accepted that Corporal Théophile Maupas did not willingly disobey an order. The decision was based on: 
  The fact that the order was unrealisable in practice;
  that the men were weakened by a long stay in the trenches; 
  that they were discouraged by the failures of previous attacks;
  that they were very demoralised by the high number of losses of their comrades.

The Court made a further important ruling: '… an order to sacrifice his life cannot be forced on someone when it surpasses the limits of human capability to comply with it’. 

Nineteen years after the initial court martial the highest military court in France finally overturned the 1915 decision.  Unfortunately Corporal Maupas was not alive to benefit from these rulings.  

During the years of waiting for the League of Nations to act Blanche had successfully fought to have her husband’s name added to the names on the war memorials at Le Chefresne and at Sartilly, her husband’s native town.  
In June 1923 the municipal council of Sartilly, with the approval of the Anciens Combattants, gave Blanche Maupas permission to have his body reinterred in the communal cemetery. In early August 1923 Blanche travelled to the military cemetery at Suippes in Champagne to collect her husband’s remains.  He was reburied at Sartilly on 9th. August 1923 with an ‘unending cortege’ in attendance. Her efforts and those of the Anciens Combattants of the commune led to the construction of a monument. 
The Monument to the Corporals of Souain was unveiled on 20 September 1925. It consists of a bronze bas-relief set into a block of dark granite. The inscription reads : 'Souain - aux Caporaux Maupas, Lechat, Girard, Le Foulon 17 Mars 1915'. The bas-relief depicts a background of four soldiers standing tall and dignified, but blindfolded and awaiting execution. A young woman personifying Justice is kneeling and weeping in the foreground and a set of scales is knocked over in front of her. 

Corporal Maupas lies beneath the monument and Blanche Maupas, who died in 1962, occupies the grave immediately to the left of the monument. 

Over the years schools and streets have been named after Blanche and Théophile. The names of the four corporals have been added to all the lists and monuments from which they were initially omitted.  Films, plays and television programmes have been made on the subject and books written. 

In the year 2000, for the millennium, the war memorial at Le Chefresne was refurbished and in 2003 Maupas was further honoured in Le Chefresne when the square in front of the Mairie was named ‘Place Théophile Maupas’.  In 2007 a monument was built opposite the town hall in Suippes where the original court martial took place. It portrays the execution of the four corporals.  
Phil Dawes
Oct. 2010 updated October 2014

Sunday, 12 October 2014

WW1 Forces Sweetheart - Gertie Gitana (1887 - 1957)

The name"Gertie Gitana" (though I hadn't a clue how to spell it!) has been going round in my head for the past few days, so I had to look her up.  Mum used to talk about Gertie.

Gertie was born Gertrude MariaAstbury in Longport, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK on 28th December 1887. Her father, Gulielmi Astbury, worked as a Foreman in a pottery.  Her mother, Lavinie Kilkenny Astbury, was a teacher at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic School in Cobridge,  When Gertie was three years old, the family moved to live in Hanley.

The story goes that Gertie was spotted singing in the street by a talent scout from Tompkinson’s Royal Gypsy Children’s Troupe, and was signed up to sing with them.

Gertie’s professional career began in 1898 when she was eight years old at The Tivoli theatre in Barrow-in Furness, Lancashire.  She had a significant billing at The Argyle Theatre in Birkenhead, Wirral in 1898, before making her first appearance at a London theatre in 1900.  Shen she was seventeen, Gertie topped the bill at The Ardwick Empire in Manchester.

Her stage name - Gertie Gitana- is believed to have been taken from the Spanish or French word for Gypsy - possibly because of Gertie's dark good looks.

Gertie had an illustrious career as a musical hall star, drawing crowds and at the height of her career, receiving in excess of £100 a week.  Gertie's signature tune was"Nellie Dean" and during WW1 she entertained the wounded in hospitals around the country, gaining the nick-name "the Forces Sweethert".  In 1928, Gertie married the music hall entertainer Don Ross (1903 - 1980), who was her leading man in the musical comedy "Dear Louise".

Two musical shows were specially written for her 'Nellie Dean' and 'Dear Louise'.   Gertie also appeared in a Royal Command Performance.

Don started the road show "Thanks For The Memory" for his wife.

Gertie gave  her final performance at the Empress Theatre in Brixton in 1938.  She died in 1957 and was buried in Welford Road cemetery in Wigston Magna, Leicestershire.  Don, who founded the British Music Hall Society and was its first Chairman, died in 1980.

Her name lives on on Cockney rhyming slang - Gertie Gitana - banana

Gertie is reputed to have financed her brother, George Astbury, who was a cycle dealer and builder of G.A. cycles at 42, Great Cambridge Road, London, N.17

Frederick Street in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent  was  renamed Gitana Street in her memory

On Princes Street, Edinburgh (up near the galleries), there is a bench which just says: "In loving remembrance of Gertie Gitana Music Hall Artiste "There's an old mill by the stream, Nellie Dean."

One of Gertie's successful songs was

“Never Mind”

'So he wants you to forget him,' says a grey haired man in tears
As he reads his daughter's letter still a girl of tender years
'He has left you for another who has crept into his heart
Forget him and forgive him 'twould be better so to part'
Then to his breast he takes her head as tenderly to her he said,

Chorus: 'Though your heart may ache awhile, never mind
Though your face may lose it's smile, never mind
For there's sunshine after rain, and then gladness follows pain
You'll be happy once again, never mind.'

'In his love he may have faltered as his letter seems to say
There will be a bright tomorrow, darkest clouds will fly away
Time will be the wonder worker, though it's hard I know to part
He may tire of his new love and creep back into your heart
Love like pride must have it's fall, true love will conquer after all.

Chorus: 'Though your heart may ache awhile, never mind
Though your face may lose it's smile, never mind
For there's sunshine after rain, and then gladness follows pain
You'll be happy once again, never mind.'

Written and composed by Harry Dent and Tom Goldbourne
Performed by Gertie Gitana (1887-1957)

Source:  Wikipedia, Find my Past, Google Images and

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Review: "Unknown Warriors The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914 - 1918"

If you think that the women who were nurses on the Western Front during the First World War were all safely tucked up well behind the lines and out of the line of fire, think again!  Many of them were awarded the Military Medal only 'earned under fire' as Kate Luard's book of her WW1 experiences tells us.

Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, who wrote the preface to the first edition, met Kate on a visit to her Casualty Clearing Station during the later stages of the Battle of Arras.  The Arras account (Chapter4) is of particular interest to me because my Great Uncle was killed there on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.

In the introduction to the new edition of the book written specially by Christine Hallett and Tim Luard, we learn that Kate, who attended Croydon High School,  was already a decorated war nurse by 1914, having trained in the 1890s at The East London Hospital for Children and King's College Hospital in London, joined the Army Nursing Service in 1900 and served for two years in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902). Kate was in her 40s and Matron of the Berks and Bucks County Sanatorium when she joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service on 6th August 1914.  She was mobilised and sent to France.

The book begins on 17th October 1915, when Kate was with the British 1st Army commanded by Sir Douglas Haig. The first letter in the book was sent from Lillers, where Kate was posted in charge of a Casualty Clearing Station, after four months in a Base Hospital.  All of Kate's letters contain a great deal of information about what it was like for the soldiers and the nurses of the Western Front.  There is not one word of complaint and one cannot help but admire those nurses and the wonderful job they did saving lives under terrible conditions, without many resources.  It is interesting to contrast today's NHS with all our modern equipment, medication, hygiene and safety laws with what Kate and her fellow nurses had to put up with during WW1.

During moments of relative calm and occasional well-earned breaks from nursing, Kate describes picnics, tea parties and trips to visit the surrounding countryside and mentions the variety of flora and fauna (snowdrops, fly orchis, ferns, ox-eye daisies, birds, mosquitos) that provide welcome relief to the "waste of life and suffering" and "the mud that out-muds itself everywhere" that Kate dealt with daily.

Wherever they went "les Dames Anglaises" (the English women) in their nurses' uniform caused a stir - whether among the local population - the children following them about - or with the soldiers serving at the front who invited them to tea, showed them round, filled them in about the progress of the war and took them flowers.

Caroline and John Stevens have done a wonderful job putting together the letters Kate Luard wrote to her family while she was on the Western Front and preparing them to be read in the 21st Century.  This book is fantastic - it is as though Kate is with us today as we commemorate the centenary of the first global conflict ('insane and immoral' as Kate calls it) t that changed the world for ever.  I cannot help but agree with Kate's feeling on the war - she was after all called upon to try to help repair the damage done to many of the humans involved.

I do urge you to read this book - it has a map of the Western Front drawn by Kate and lots of notes to help the reader to greater understanding.   It is outstanding and answered many of my own questions regarding conditions on the Western Front.   Her family must be very proud of Kate.

"Unknown Warriors The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914 - 1918", edited by Caroline and John Stevens, including the Preface to the1930 edition written by Field Marshall Viscount Allenby and an introduction to the modern version by Christine Hallett and Tim Luard, published by The History Press, Stroud, Glos, 2014.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

More about Mildred Aldridge

Volume 1 of "Inspirational Women of World War One - No Women's Land" was published recently (details on  In the book you will find brief details of some of the amazing women I have found so far during the course of my research for commemorative exhibitions.

I received this wonderful e-mail on 30th September 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, giving them tea, bread and butter and biscuits.

Mildred Aldrich, the American author who lived and worked in France and retired in July 1914 to the banks of the River Marne for some peace and quiet after the hustle and bustle of Paris, is very definitely one of the Inspirational Women featured in the exhibitions as well as in Volume 1. You can read the whole of Mildred's "Hilltop on the Marne" via the wonderful Gutenberg Project on the Internet and her story is amazing.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Books about WW1 Inspirational Women

I am pleased to note that since I began researching just over two years ago, a great deal more information about the true involvement of women in the First World War has come to light.  Women are now being recognised as having played a major role in WW1 and the myth of women 'staying at home to knit socks or work in munitions factories, etc' has been firmly kicked into touch.  Of course many women were needed on the Home Front as well but many also travelled to the various theatres of war to help in many ways - not only as nurses but as doctors, orderlies, clerks, telephonists, cooks, drivers, administrators, radiologists, entertainers and so on and on...

Here are just a few of the wonderful books that are available about the exploits of those amazing women a hundred years ago when they did not enjoy the mod cons we have and when it was still an uphill struggle to be accepted in a man's world:

 "Women Heroes of WW1" by is a new book by Kathryn J. Attwood who is based in America.   See Kathryn's Good Reads page: and her website:

"Grote liefdes in de Grote Oorlog" by Frieda Joris (with thanks to William Bulcke of the Women of the Great War Facebook Page) is written in Dutch but I am sure will be available in English shortly.  This is the story of a Belgian soldier left for dead in a WW1 hospital.  A nurse noticed his hand move so badgered the doctors to help him which eventually they did.  He recovered and fell in love with his nurse.  They were married after the war and lived happily together in Belgium.

There is also another new book called "Gender and the First World War" which is edited by Christa Hämmerie, Oswald Überegger and Birgitta Bader Zaar, and published by Palgrave McMillan 2014  Further details on:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Isobel (Iso) Rae (1860 - 1940) - Australian Artist

Isobel Rae was born in Melbourne on 18th August 1860. She was the youngest daughter of a manufacturer from Scotland and his wife Janet, nee Love.  

After studying at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne, Iso, her mother Janet and sister Alison went to France where they lived in Paris for three years and then moved to Etaples, a small fishing village on the north west coast of France.  There was a large group of artists who lived and worked in Etaples in the early 1900s.  Iso's work was exhibited at the Paris Salon and her success and progress were reported in Australian newspapers.

When war broke out in 1914 most of the artists fled to England but Iso and her sister Alison joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and worked at the Base Camp in Etaples for the duration of the war.  Iso continued to paint in her spare time - one wonders how much of that she would have had - and her work is an important record of the conditions at the Base Camp.   Janet Rae died in France during WW1.  The sisters remained in France until the 1930s when they moved to England and settle in St. Leonards on Sea in Sussex.  Iso died in Brighton on 16th March 1940.

Her painting "Cinema Queue" Etaples Base Camp, France, which I found on Google Images, is on display in Australia.

A book featuring the wartime letters of Isobel and her sister Alison has recently been published - see link for details:

Source:  Wikipedia

Sunday, 7 September 2014

52 Powerful Photos Of Women Who Changed History Forever

With many thanks to Elaine McCrorie who sent me a message urging me to look at this link:
and many thanks to everyone who sends me messages - together we will find and remember them all.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

WW1 Commemorative Event Barnoldswick, West Yorkshire 6 - 7th September 2014

News just in of an exciting WW1 Commemorative Event to be held on Saturday, 6th September 2014 as part of Barnoldswick Heritage Weekend when an early tragedy of World War One will be commemorated with a major exhibition during the weekend of 6th and 7th September 2014

For further details, please see the "Visit Barnoldswick" website  

Saturday, 30 August 2014

'A direct message to arouse us to endeavour..."

Faye Threllfall from Australia has found this newspaper article about Dr. Elsie Inglis who founded the Scottish Women's Hospitals.

It is an excellent article and well worth reading:

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Stephanie Hollenstein (1886 - 1944) - Austro Hungarian Empire - Artist

Stephanie was born on 18th July 1886 in Lustenau in the Vorarlberg district of Austria, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Her parents were farmers and professional embroiderers and she became a talented artist.  When the First World War broke out, Stephanie initially trained as a nurse, then fought disguised as a man for several months during 1916.  In spite of being awarded a medal for bravery - The Karl-Truppenkreuz - when her subterfuge was discovered, Stephanie was sent home.  However, she was soon named as an official WW1 artist and travelled to the front on at least three occasions. Stephanie became a senior official in public art business advancement during Nazi rule.

Stephanie's work became very popular and was much in demand after WW1 because of her bravery during the conflict.   She died in Vienna on 24th May 1944.

There is an art gallery dedicated to Stephanie's memory in the town of Lustenau in Austria - here is the link to view some of her paintings:

With grateful thanks to Martin Zieren who sent me information about Stephanie.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Florence Esther Benoy (1892 - 1918) - a 'Worker' (Private) in the QMAAC

In this commemorative project I aim to remember as many women as possible from the First World War.  Today's post is about a young lady - Florence Esther Bennoy - who volunteered to join the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps.

We tend to think of women in the early 1900s, depending on their station in life, as either working long hours in factories and mills, working as governesses or staying at home embroidering, playing the piano, painting and writing poetry.   The rise of the Suffragette Movement brought women of all walks of life together in a common cause.   The First World War gave women a chance to show their worth in a variety of different ways as the Suffragette movement put their plans on hold and threw themselves into supporting the war.   After all, what was the point of having the vote if you had no country to vote in?   

As the war progressed, the need to utilise the services of women for duties other than fighting became evident, in spite of initial reluctance on the part of the authorities to enlist the help of women. 

The volunteer Corps known as The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) came into being in 1917, following a call made by Lt. General H. Lawson who suggested that women could be used for non combative work in France.  By 1918, it was estimated that of the 57,000 women in the Corps, around 6,000 of them were serving in France.  The Corps was officially renamed the QMAAC in April 1918 but this title was not generally adopted and the WAACs name continued. Women were employed to carry out a number of duties such as cooking and catering, storekeeping, clerical work, telephone work and administration, printing, driving and motor vehicle maintenance. These were non nursing roles, designed to free up men so that they could fight.

Florence Esther Benoy was born in Hackney in 1892.  We do not know much about her except that she travelled to Warrington to enlist in the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) and held the rank of 'Worker', which was equivalent to the rank of Private, and that she would have been serving on the battlefields in France. Conditions were just as harsh for the women as they were for the men behind the front lines. Spare a thought for those women and just imagine what things were like back in those days before luxury cruise liners, Jumbo jets and 'travel beauty essentials', etc. Women were still wearing long skirts and high button boots and their hair was long.   The water table on the Western Front became contaminated early on in the war and water had to be transported over the Channel in barrels and boiled before use.  According to the diaries of those who were there, bathing was a rare luxury.  Washing machines didn't exist - washing was still done in some areas in Western France in local rivers.

Florence became ill - possibly through contact with one of the poison gasses used on the Western Front - and was sent home for treatment in a hospital in Wallasey, near to her family home. It is not known when Florence’s father moved from Liverpool to 6 Carlton Terrace, Hoylake.

Florence died at home of a TB like disease affecting her lungs. She was 25 years old. Florence is buried at Rake Lane Cemetery in Wallasey, Wirral.  There is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for Florence and she is listed in the CWGC Lise of Female Casualties of the First World War.



"The Women of Royaumont A Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front" by Eileen Crofton, published by Tuckwell Press, East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland, 1997

With thanks to:

WILLIAM BULCKE of the Facebook Group WOMEN OF THE GREAT WAR ttps://
for finding this information for me - William is based in Belgium.

Stanley urges everyone to plant poppy seeds in remembrance.  It was Stanley who spotted William's Group

and also to the Wirral Remembers WW1 Facebook Group.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Vera C.C. Collum - Scottish Women's Hospitals - Royaumont Abbey, France - Hôpital Auxiliare 301 (HA 301)

Vera Christina Chute Collum was a British anthropologist, journalist, photographer, radiographer and writer.  She was born in India in 1883 and came to England as a child.

Vera was in charge of the press office at the headquarters of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in London when war broke out and she volunteered to help with the Scottish Women's Hospitals.   She was sent to Royaumont Abbey in northern France, which was set up as a military hospital - known as Hôpital Auxiliare 301 (HA 301) - to treat wounded French soldiers.   Initially employed as an orderly, Vera was soon trained to become a radiographer to help out in the newly-formed radiography department of the hospital, which was the envy of the French military medical officers.   She became extremely skilled and was kept very busy, her work as a radiographer saving many lives.

On 24th March 1916, after a period of leave and much needed rest in England, Vera was badly injured during a torpedo attack on the cross-channel ferry on which she was returning to France.  The S.S. 'Sussex' was torpedoed by a U-boat and badly damaged on her way from Folkestone to Dieppe with 53 crew and 325 passengers. The whole of the bow was blown up, forward of the Bridge. The lifeboats were launched but several of them capsized and the passengers in them drowned.  Although the 'Sussex' stayed afloat, about 100 people were killed.  Vera and the other injured passengers were taken back to England for treatment.  

Vera recovered sufficiently to be able to return to her duties in Royaumont in time for the big push of July 1916 with the Battle of the Somme.

In May 1924, Vera was elected to the Royal Anthropological Institution in London.  Under the heading University attended, Vera put  "The world!" (sic).  She travelled extensively in Japan and the Far East and was a member of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland.

In 1924 Vera was living in Chelsea in London.  By 1929 she had moved to Shaftesbury in Dorset and by 1935 she was living in Guildford in Surrey where she died in 1957.

Vera was awarded two medals by the French Government for her work during the First World War -  the Medailles des Epidemies (Bronze) in 1915 and the Croix de Guerre in 1918.

I am indebted to Sarah Walpole who is Archivist and Photo Curator
of the Royal Anthropological Institute in London for her invaluable help in researching Vera's life story.



"The Women of Royaumont A Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front" by Eileen Crofton, published by Tuckwell Press, East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland, 1997

"The Roses of No Man's Land" by Lyn Macdonald (first published by Michael Joseph Ltd in 1980), published by Penguin Books, London 1993.


Scarlet Finders -


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ships sunk by enemy action which had nurses on board during WW1

I am gradually working my way through the 94 pages of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War.   Here is the list of ships sunk by enemy action which had nurses on board that I have found so far.  I hope to bring you more information about these vessels as soon as possible:

SS Galway Castle
RMS Leinster
HMHS Glenart Castle
HMS Kenilworth Castle
HT Warilden
HMHS Asturias
HMHS Anglia
SS Falaba
SS Hare
SS Persia
SS South Western
SS Galconda
SS Lusitania - passenger liner
SS Dundalk
SS Garnoyle
SS Hesperian
SS Cork
SS Ava
SS Aquila
SS Missanabia
SS City of Paris
SS Fingal
SS Maloja
SS. Summerfield
SS Saidich
HMHS Anglia
SS Drina – the first ship fitted out as a hospital ship
HMS Osmanich

Photo:  HMHS Anglia which sank when she hit a mine on 17th November 1915 on her way from Calais to England carrying 390 wounded soldiers.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Australian Heroines of World War 1

News just in about a book to be published shortly about Australian women in WW1.

Entitled "Australian Heroines of World War 1" and written by Susanna de Vries, the book tells the story of 8 Australian women, among them Louise Creed nee Mack, a journalist and Grace Wilson, a nurse, using extracts from their diaries and letters, plus photographs, paintings and maps.    

These are just some of the amazing women who served in the various theatres of war during WW1.

I received a personal message from Susanna de Vries who replied to my e-mail asking for permission to mention her book:

"Heroic Australian Women in War is now out on e-book and with bootopia.

Since Anzac girls is on ABC and they think will be a big success booktopia have now put it for sale as a book at a reduced price $23,  whole e-book is sixteen dollars. Regards and best wishes Susanna."

For further details please see Susanna's website or have a look on Amazon:

Friday, 8 August 2014

Unsung heroines of the First World War

Next time you wash the dishes or put those dirty dishes in a dish washer, please spare a thought for the women who served as orderlies and kitchen staff during the First World War.  Many of them served in hospitals in the various theatres of the conflict.

 Do you wear rubber gloves?  I don't think they had such luxuries back then and they certainly did not have wishing up liquid or detergent to help with the greasy insalubrious task of washing the dishes.  Can anyone tell me please what would have been used to wash dishes, pots and pans back then?

Hundreds of the women who served in many capacities during WW1 died in the service of their country and are buried in cemeteries throughout the world.  I know that is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the numbers of men who died, but I do think it is a shame when people go to the cemeteries that you never hear of them leaving poppies on a woman's grave.   And the Royal British Legion's current campaign is "Every man remembered"…  Why on earth leave the women out?

Above is a photograph of one of those amazing women - Mildred Clayton-Swan of the Army Service Corps Canteens who died on 24th February 1917 and is buried in Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Photo by Tany Birnie, who is cataloguing the women who died in service during WW1. Photo taken August 2014.  Thank you Tanya - you are doing a fantastic job.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Ellen Newbold La Motte (1873 - 1961) - American - nurse in WW1

On 4th August 2014 we went to take photographs of the launch of the Exhibition of Poets of the First World War at Blackpool Central Library, Blackpool, Lancashire, UK.  The poets featured are mostly female but we just had to include Wilfred Owen. Wilfred visited Blackpool on two occasions while he was based at the Gunnery School in Fleetwood, in order to purchase a Trench Coat on the advice of his mother, Susan Owen, before he went to the Western Front in 1916.

While in the Library, I discovered a book I had not seen before and it turned out to be a re-print of a book written in 1916 by Ellen N. La Motte, an American nurse, about her experiences in Belgium during WW1.  As Ellen is already on my List of Inspirational Women, I just had to find out more about her.

Lea M. Williams, a Professor at the University of Norwich Military Academy in Vermont, USA, has recently been awarded funding to research the life of Ellen by the American Association for the History of Nursing.  Lea had a biography of Ellen published in 2014 in American National Biography Online - for details see below.

Ellen Newbold La Motte was an American nurse, writer, journalist and campaigner for women's rights.  Ellen was born in Louisville in Kentucky. Her parents were Ferdinand Fairfax La Motte, who was a wealthy businessman and his wife Ellen whose maiden name was Newbold.   During her teens, Ellen went to live with a wealthy cousin - Alfred I. Du Pont a wealthy industrialist in Wilimington, Delaware as her father was having business problems. Ellen was educated by governesses and also attended the Arlington Institute in Arlington, Virginia, which was a private girls school. 

In 1898, Ellen went to train as a nurse at the John Hopkins Training School for Nurses in Baltimore, Maryland. Her family disapproved of her choice of career, so Ellen did not complete her training until 1902.  She spent some time in Italy as a private nurse. In 1905, Ellen worked with the Instructive Nurses Association in Baltimore as a Tuberculosis Nurse.  In 1913,    With her cousin's financial assistance, Ellen went to live in Paris where she published her first book - "The Tuberculosis Nurse Her Function and her Qualifications". While in Paris, Ellen met some of the ex-patriate Americans living there, among them Gertrude Stein, the American poet who drove ambulances during the First World War, who you will find on  

When War broke out Ellen initially joined The American Ambulance Service but when Mary Borden started up her private hospital, Ellen joined her organisation and went to nurse in a French field hospital in Belgium.  Ellen kept a diary, as most people did back then, and wrote a book about her experience, which is dedicated to Mary Borden.  

According to Iaian Finlayson, who reviewed the re-print of Ellen’s book in “The Times” newspaper on 10th May 2014, while she was nursing in Belgium, Ellen sent articles about the war back home to “Atlantic Monthly”, which is one of the magazines featured in Matt Jacobsen’s ‘s excellent website

Finlayson goes on to explain that La Motte’s book about her experiences as a nurse on the Western Front during WW1 was “published in 1916 and suppressed in 1918 as damaging to public morale”.  If you are able to read Ellen's work you will see why - she certainly did not 'pull her punches' but she told it 'as she saw it'.   

After WW1, Ellen travelled to Asia where she witnessed the problems caused by Opium addiction.  Again her experiences were recorded in books and she received two awards for her work - from the Japanese Red Cross Society in 1918 and from China the Lin Tse Hsu Memorial Medal in 1930.

Ellen moved to Washington, D.C., where she died in 1961.

You will find Ellen's fascinating book "The Backwash of War - The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse" by Ellen N. La Motte as a free Download on Project Gutenberg here:  Please read it.


Lea's entry in American National Biography Online can be viewed here: Lea Williams. "La Motte, Ellen Newbold";;  American National Biography Online April 2014.

Photo:   Google Images

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Role of Women during WW1 - Hospital Barges

During the First World War, the British Army used narrow boats (or barges) sailing on canals and rivers in France and Belgium for the transport of the wounded. A journey by barge would have been smoother and slower than any other means of transport and gave time for the nurses to wash the casualties, then clean and dress their wounds.   Patients were also given food during their journey.

These narrow boats were not originally designed and built as hospital barges – existing barges were specially adapted from vessels used for the transport of goods such as coal.  Access hatches were cut into the roofs and hand-operated lifts were installed so that stretchers could be lowered down into the body of the narrow boat.

Cargo holds were converted into 30 bed hospital wards, plus accommodation for the staff on board. Nurses from the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR) looked after the wounded.

Hospital Barges in WW1 were manned by Royal Engineer Sergeants and were towed down the canals and rivers by steam tugs to Casualty Clearing Stations, Base Hospitals or to ports for evacuation to Britain.   Hospital narrow boats were in groups of six and they travelled along in twos, each pair under the command of a Royal Army Medical Corps Officer (RAMC), usually a Captain.   Each narrow boat was staffed by a QAIMNSR nursing officer, a staff nurse, an RAMC Sergeant, a Corporal, three nursing assistants, two general orderlies, a cook and a cook’s assistant.  They lived aboard the narrow boat.

Once the wounded were safely delivered, the boat had to be cleaned thoroughly.  There were many problems – the decks became slippery when wet, the smell of gas on soldiers’ uniforms often caused the staff to suffer a mild gas attack with problems such as vomiting, sore eyes and breathing difficulties and there was the added problem of lice on the uniforms of the wounded.

As the war progressed, special narrow boats were constructed to serve as hospital barges.

Photo:  David Scheinmann the photographer has produced a series of beautiful greeting cards under the banner "Nostalgia - Handcrafted Greetings Cards featuring vintage photographs".  Among these is a series to commemorate the role of women during the First World War.   The picture shows British Nurses on a Hospital Barge and is NUMBERED BAIN 412, being one of a series of WW1 photographs taken by George Grantham Bain, a New York Photographer.   The George Grantham Bain Collection is in the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

For more information about David Schinmann's work, please see his website

Interesting course on literature by women in WW1 in London

This sounds interesting so I just had to share it with you 

Monday, 28 July 2014

American Women in WW1

I have been trying to find out more about the involvement of American women in the First World War and to this end, I sent a message to Mark D. VAN ELLS.  Mark has just sent me this wonderful reply:

"Only a very few American women served in the armed forces during WWI. Most served with the Red Cross, YMCA, and other service organizations. Many were volunteering for France even before the US entered the war, and helped rebuild it once the war was over. 

Some specific individuals might include Jane Delano, the superintendent of the army nurse corps, who died of disease at Savenay, France in 1919. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. Their website is 

Perhaps more poignant than inspiration is the story of Dorothy and Gladys Cromwell. Nurses and sisters, they were apparently so haunted by their war memories that they jointly committed suicide in 1919. They are buried at Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris, where most WWI American women's graves are located. The American Battle Monuments Commission has a database of those buried overseas. Women are not specifically listed, though searching by 'WWI' and 'civilian' will bring most of them up. The website is"

Mark's forthcoming book, AMERICA IN WORLD WAR I: A TRAVELER'S GUIDE, includes the story of American women overseas and leads the reader to many of the places where they served and sometimes died. His Facebook page gives updates about the work, and includes photos from his research travels.  

I don't know about you but I'm looking forward to reading that book.   Find out more on Mark's Facebook Page: and on his own website

With many thanks to Mark.

Photo:  Jane Delano, Google Images

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Commemorating the Centenary of the official start of the First World War in Britain, Monday, 4th August 2014

Just a few of the events being organised:


The Shorncliffe Trust (on Facebook: have a very reverential scheme for the evening of 4th August 2014 lighting lanterns on the graves in memoriam to those who lie there.

The Trust are also fighting to save as much as possible of the Shorncliffe Barracks and 200-year old Redoubt and WW1 training trenches against the developers et al.

Andrew Morgan, Remembering the First World War in 2014 One Hundred Years Facebook Group


are holding a special commemorative event on 4th August 2014 - for details please contact Jonathan Catton, Heritage and Museum Officer, Thurrock Council.  The museum are running a commemorative Great War Exhibition. 

Monday, 4th August 10.00 am - 3.00 pm
Tilbury Fort, Tilbury, Essex RM18 7NR

Free WW1 Commemoration Day run by Thurrock Borough Council

Julie says: "We will be performing poems and extracts of the performance of "Merry it was to laugh there".

Julie will display some of our exhibition panels at this event.


MESSAGE FROM SUZANNE STEELE:  I am a project lead on a Great War installation, The Long Goodbye, which you can see on Facebook -
The project is unveiling on 4 August, 2014.

For further details see also their website link: