Friday, 21 March 2014

Information on The American Women's Hospitals in WW1

With many thanks to Margaret Stetz, who is Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware in America, who discovered the following website and told me about it:

This has been put together by Dr. Janet Golden of Rutgers University in New Jersey, America and it is wonderful.

This is exactly what I have been searching for since reading the story of how Edith de Lacy rescued Philippe de Lacy as an orphaned baby from a bombed out house in Lorraine, France during her service with the American Women's Hospitals during WW1.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Exhibition about WW1 Horses (and women are featured) St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hants until 26th April 2014

I have recently found out about this wonderful exhibition, featuring military paintings about horses during the First World War at the St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington in Hampshire.

Entitled "Home Lad, Home" the exhibition tells the story of how the Remount Depot at nearby Romsey purchased, trained and transported horses to be sent into the battle fields of the conflict.

The Exhibition will be raising funds for the Romsey War Horse Memorial Fund by selling limited edition maquettes of the sculpture by Amy Goodman of a wounded soldier and his horse.

Paintings by Lucy Kemp-Welch and Lady Butler, who was Female War Poet Alice Meynell's sister, are featured in the exhibition.

A little known fact (so far) is that The Times reported that there were three Remount Depots in the UK during WW1 that were run entirely by women.  In the 1901 Census three women were listed as veterinary surgeons and there were some 300 women assistant farriers as well.   The First World War was the first conflict which had a properly trained veternary service with ambulances behind the lines especially to treat horses.

The exhibition sounds wonderful and I should love to go and see it.  Sadly, it will not be touring the UK during the commemorative years - a great pity.

For further information, and to find out more about the Romsey War Horse Memorial Fund go to

Source:  The Times, March 8 2014, p. 80 and St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery Facebook Page

Painting by Lucy Kemp-Welch via Google Images.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Philip H.G. Gosse (1879 - 1959) - British - Fascinating Facts of the Great War

Philip was born Philip Henry G. Gosse in Kensington in 1879.  His grandfather was the naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, FRS

He was educated Haileybury then sent to farming school.  He went on the FitzGerald Expedition to the Andes to collect animals.

Philip studied medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London then became a GP in Beaulieu in the New Forest.   He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 and served in WW1. He was the British Army’s Official Rat Catcher Officer. 

After the War, Philip married Irene Marden in 1930 and moved to Sussex, where he wrote books and dug ponds.

In 1941, he matriculated from Cambridge University and went on to work as a research student at Trinity College.   He died in 1959.

As part of my research into Fascinating Facts of the Great War for my commemorative exhibitions in memory of my Old Contemptible Grandfather, I have been reading Philip Gosse’s book “A Naturalist goes to War”. 

I found this extract from Philip’s book particularly fascinating and decided to share it with you, under the heading “Fascinating Facts of the Great War”.

On pages 63 and 64, Gosse describes the amazing work of the Postal Section of the Royal Engineers, which dealt with all the post of the various British Expeditionary Forces in the theatres of WW1.

He finishes by printing a letter sent to his mother by Siegfried Sassoon from whom he obtained permission to reproduce the letter.   In the letter, written by Sassoon on 6th January 1916 from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers on the Somme near Airaines, among other things mention is made of

“.. a young poet in this Battn., 19 years old and a temporary Captain – Robert Graves, son of Alfred Perceval. … R.G. writes moderately well and is a great admirer of Samuel Butler…”

From “A Naturalist goes to War” by Philip Gosse, first published by Penguin
Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex in 1934;  my copy published in 1944.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

"Salford at War" - Exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, 15th March 2014 - mid 2015

'Salford at War" is a new exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery in Salford, Manchester from 15th March 2014.

Opening hours are - Tuesday - Friday: 10.00 a.m. - 4.45 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday:  1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Featured in the exhibition are inspirational people from Salford.

Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Peel Park
The Crescent
M5 4WU

Tel.:  0161 - 778 0800

or check out their website on:

Monday, 3 March 2014

Betty STEVENSON, YMCA Volunteer

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

When War broke out, Betty and her family rushed down to London to help Belgian Refugees, some of whom they took into their home.  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 only nineteen. When her aunt had to return home, Betty's Mother took her place and the pair worked together for many months before returning to the UK in November 1916.    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.  

Betty was transferred from driving back to working in a canteen in Etaples in 1918. She was killed in an air raid on the night of 30th May 1918 as she was returning to their hostel with some of her fellow YMCS volunteers after helping serve refreshments to French refugees at the station after a full day's work.   Betty was buried with full military honours in the British Cemetery in Etaples and 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

Photo:  Betty Stevenson on Google Images

Ten Inspirational Women of World War One

How difficult it is to pick just ten of the inspirational women I have come across since beginning this project almost two years ago.   I could go on and on - but here is an initial list.  I'd love to hear from you about your Top Ten.

1.    MAY SINCLAIR – BRITISH (1863 – 1946)  Writer and poet.  Aged 51 in 1914, May volunteered to go to France with Dr Hector Monro and his Ambulance Unit as his secretary.   Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm were also in the unit.  May was only able to stay for six weeks before she was sent home suffering from shell shock but she wrote about her experiences, telling the world what the early weeks of the war were like.   Elsie and Mairi remained in Belgium for the duration of the war, nursing the wounded.

2.    Beatrix BRICE MILLER  - BRITISH (1877 – 1959) – poet. went with the British Expeditionery Force in August 1914 as a Lady Helper.   Lady Helpers were not trained nurses but willing volunteers who were able to help out in many ways.

3.    Lise RISCHARD from LUXEMBOURG (died 1940).  An ordinary, middle-aged housewife, Lise travelled from Luxembourg via Switzerland to visit her son before he was sent to the Front to fight.   While she was in Paris, Lise was recruited as a secret agent by the British and did some very valuable work informing the British about to movements of German troops during WW1.

4.    Edith CAVELL – BRITISH (1865 – 1915).  Trained as a nurse and was working in a hospital in Brussels in Belgium when WW1 broke out.   Edith organized escape routes for British soldiers after the Battle of Mons.   She was arrested, imprisoned, tried and shot as a traitor on 12th October 1915.

5.    Flora SANDES – BRITISH (1876 - 1956)  The daughter of a clergyman who lived in East Anglia, Flora volunteered to go to Serbia with the St. John’s Ambulance.   While there she joined the Serbian Army, fought, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and was wounded.

6.    Nellie SPINDLER (1891 – 1917) – BRITISH. Nurse from Wakefield in Yorkshire. Joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service.  Killed at the 44th Casualty Clearing Station in Brandhoek, near Ypres on 21st August 1917 when the area was shelled.   Nellie is buried at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery near Poperinge in Belgium.

7.    Dr Flora MURRAY – (1869 – 1923) BRITSH.  Trained as a doctor, which was not easy in those days as women were not popular as medical students.  Founded the Women’s Hospital for Children in 1912. In 1914 ran a military hospital for the French in Claridges Hotel in Paris.  From May 1915 until the end of 1919 Flora ran the Endell Street Military Hospital in London for the British – a hospital staffed entirely by women, including the porters.

8.    MARY RITER HAMILTON (1873 – 1954) CANADIAN.  Artist. Travelled to the Western Front in May 1919 to paint the Aftermath.  Lived alone for three years in a tin hut among the Chinese Workers who cleared away the mess left by the conflict.  Mary painted the scenes of desolation. She lost the sight of one eye and became ill due to the privations of the area – the residents had fled or been evacuated, there was very little to eat, the water table had become contaminated early on in the war and there were bands of thieves and bounty hunters. Mary’s amazing paintings are now in the Canadian National Archives but some of them can be seen here:

9.    MOINA BELLE MICHAEL - AMERICAN (1869 – 1944) “The Poppy Lady”  Moina was a teacher from Georgia. During the First World War she worked in New York training YMCA volunteers who were going to serve abroad.   Inspired by reading Canadian soldier John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”, Moina wrote a poem herself called “We shall keep the Faith” and vowed always to wear a poppy in remembrance of the War.   Her idea was picked up and spread by fellow YMCA workers at a conference in Paris and in 1919 the British Legion adopted the poppy as its emblem.

10. Marie MARVINGT – FRENCH (1875 – 1963) As she grew up, Marie became an accomplished athlete – swimming, fencing, shooting, speed skating, horse riding, skiing, athletics, boxing, tennis, golf – whatever she tried she excelled at.  In 1901, Marie tried ballooning and went solo in 1909.  She then tried flying in a plane, liked it and decided to study flying.   She was the second woman to be licensed to fly a monoplane.  During WW1, Marie flew missions as a bomber pilot.  She was also a qualified nurse and tried to establish a flying ambulance service.  Marie disguised herself as a man and served at the Front as a soldier with the 42nd Battalion of Foot Soldiers but she was discovered and sent home.   In 1915, Marie’s campaign for an air ambulance seems to have borne fruit for during the retreat of the French Army from Serbia, a group of wounded men were evacuated by plane – this is believed to be the first instance of an aircraft being used as an air ambulance. Marie finished the war as a Red Cross nurse, still campaigning for the idea of “aeromedical evacuation’.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Women who died while in uniform during the First World War

The "Daily Mail" (UK national newspaper) kindly printed part of my letter to them about some of the women who died while serving during the First World War.   This is the full text of the letter I wrote:

I read with great interest the letter concerning Margaret Selina Caswell in today’s ”Daily Mail” (Letters Page, Thursday, February 20th, 2014).  During the course of my research for a series of exhibitions during the Commemorative years, in memory of my maternal Grandfather who was an Old Contemptible, I have discovered how little I knew about the conflict.

One little know fact is how many women are buried in military cemeteries looked after by the CWGC all over the world – not just on the Western Front – Margaret Selina Caswell, a worker with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, is one of many.   The night of 30th May 1918 was particularly bad -  an air raid claimed the lives of many and hit the Base Hospitals very hard.    Nine other women buried, like Margaret, in the Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France were killed that night: Mary Blaikley, Beatrice Campbell, Catherine Connor, Jeanie Grant, Annie Moores, Ethel Parker, Alice Thomasson and Jeanie Watson – all, like Margaret, workers with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

Bertha (Betty) Stevenson, a YMCA volunteer worker, was also killed on 30th May 1918 during that air raid.   Betty and her co-workers had been taking care of the needs of French refugees in Etaples station after their day’s work was over.  Returning to their hostel, they took shelter in a field during the air raid.  One of the planes jettisoned its bombs in the field where the party was sheltering and Betty was killed instantly.   Betty was buried with full military honours in Etaples Cemetery.

The website gives details of the air raids on the night of 30th May 1918:

“01.06.18 Etaples air-raid.  Received telephone message from Etaples saying that there had been a very bad air-raid the night before – nearly all the hospitals in the Etaples area had suffered, particularly the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Liverpool Merchants’ Hospital, 24, 26 and 56 General Hospitals.  At the SJAB Hospital, one sister had been killed and five wounded and a few others were suffering from shock.  At No. 24 General Hospital, Miss Freshfield, VAD, had been seriously wounded in the head, and one other Sister had been slightly wounded.   The Matron-in-Chief, War Office and BRCS and DGMS have been informed.”

Lovingly tended, immaculate cemeteries with beautiful memorials – fitting tributes to our war dead – are something that we tend to take for granted these days.   However, the concept of the War Graves Commission is owed to one man – Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, KCVO, KBE, CB, CMG.

During the First World War, Ware was too old to fight so instead he commanded a mobile Red Cross unit on the Western Front. He was appalled at the number of casualties and his unit began to record all the graves they came across.   In 1915, this initiative was officially recognized by the British Government and was incorporated into the British Army as the “Graves Registration Commission”.

Ware wanted his work to reflect the sacrifice of all the nations that helped Britain during WW1 and, with the encouragement of the Prince of Wales, who was himself a soldier on the Western Front during WW1, the Imperial War Graves Commission was set up with a Royal Charter.

The Commission demanded very high standards for its work. Three of the most famous architects of that time - Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield - were chosen to design and build cemeteries and memorials.  Rudyard Kipling was given the task, as its literary advisor, to advise the Commission with regard to inscriptions.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has an enormous task as there are official graves all over the world.  If you want to find out details of where a family member killed during a war is commemorated, all you have to do is visit the Commission website - I do hope that people visiting the cemeteries of the Western Front and elsewhere will look for the women who are also buried there.

I am researching women who wrote poetry, inspirational women and fascinating facts of the First World War for a series of exhibitions aimed at members of the general public during the commemorative years.   My aim is to demonstrate the global impact of the conflict and in order to do this in some instances the poems do not directly mention war.

Details of my (self-funded) project are on and  I find new additions for my lists on a daily basis and would love to hear from anyone who has a poet, inspirational women or fascinating fact of WW1 to suggest that I have not already covered.

I am also certain - and today's Peterborough lead story bears this out - that there are undiscovered poems written during the First World War hidden in attics, cellars, drawers, cupboards and I would love to see them brought to light.

There is an exhibition (ENTRY FREE) currently on show at:

The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE, UK - Tuesdays - Fridays 11 am till 2 pm. Please phone first as the WOS is manned entirely by volunteers - 07903 337995.

Exhibitions are free to certain venues and can be 'tailored' to suit - for instance, the exhibition held at Fleetwood Library in November 2013 featured, among other things, a female poet born in Fleetwood, information about Wilfred Owen's time in the area and details of the role of trawlers in WW1.   If you would like us to produce an exhibition for you please get in touch -

There is also a companion book to accompany the exhibitions. This will shortly be available as a download - details on 

Pendle War Poetry Competition is a free to enter, international competition.  The 2014 competition also features a Limerick section and a photographic competition to find a cover photo for the 2014 anthology of best poems.  Full details