Monday, 28 April 2014

Mabel Dearmer (1872 - 1915) - Writer, Poet, Playwright, translator and illustrator

Born Jessie Mabel Prichard White, daughter of Surgeon-Major William White and  his wife, Selina, nee Taylor (Prichard), Mabel was christened on 7th May 1872 in Llanbeblig, Caernarvonshire in Wales - where her Mother was born.

Mabel wanted to be an actress but was considered not pretty enough and decided to study art instead.  She was studying art at the Hubert von Herkomer Art School in Bushey, Hertfordshire, when at the age of nineteen, she married the Reverend Percy Dearmer, who was an Anglican priest, on 26th May 1892. The couple had two children – Geoffrey and Christopher - who were both poets (see Forgotten Poets of the First World War).  Both Geoffrey and Christopher joined the forces in WW1 - Christopher the Royal Naval Air Service and Geoffrey the Royal Army Service Corps.  Christopher was posted to Gallipoli, where he died of wounds in 1915, and Geoffrey saw service in both Gallipoli and on the Somme.   

Mabel was a great friend of Kathleen Scott the sculptress (widow of the explorer) and both Mabel and her husband supported the Church League for Women’s Suffrage. Geoffrey and Christopher Dearmer used to go dancing with Kathleen before the War.

During the First World War, Percy volunteered to serve abroad after Geoffrey and Christopher joined the forces.  He was appointed chaplain of a Red Cross ambulance unit which was sent to Servia in 1915 and Mabel accompanied him, having volunteered to serve as a nursing orderly.  She contracted Typhoid Fever and died there of Pneumonia on 11th July 1915, shortly before the death of her son Christopher. who served in the Royal Naval Air Service and died of wounds sustained at Galipolli. Mabel is buried in Kragujevac Cemetery in Serbia, alongside Dr. Elizabeth Ross and Nurse Lorna Ferriss.  Mabel's letters were published after her death under the title 'Letters from a Field Hospital'.  These are available to read on Archive on the Internet -   

Mabel Dearmer wrote novels and plays and illustrated children's books.   

Sources:  Wikipedia, Dr. Rowena Edlin-White

and written by Diana Maltz of Southern Oregon University

“A Great Task of Happiness The Life of Kathleen Scott” by Louisa Young, published by Macmillan, London in 1995

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Suggested Reading List of WW1 Novels and Plays

Dr. Margaret D. Stetz, who is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware, has been very supportive of my project.  Dr. Stetz has suggested a list of books that will help girls in particular to understand more about the First World War and she has given me permission to post this list.

I don’t know about you, but I feel if a book is well written it deserves to be read, regardless of the target audience.  I read with great pleasure several books about the Second World War when my sons were at school, so I look forward to reading some of these:


Theresa Breslin, Remembrance (2002)
Suzanne Weyn, Water Song (2006)
Jackie French, A Rose for the Anzac Boys (2008)
Valerie Wilding, Road to War: A First World War Girl's Diary, 1916-1917 (2008)
Marcus Sedgwick, The Foreshadowing (2005)
Beth Seidel Levine, When Christmas Comes Again: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer (2002)
Margaret Rostkowski, After the Dancing Days (1986)
Kirby Larson, Hattie Big Sky (2006)
Jeanette Ingold, Pictures, 1918 (1998)
Kate Seredy, The Singing Tree (1940)
Penelope Farmer, Charlotte Sometimes (1969)
Laura Langston, Lesia's Dream (2003)
Elizabeth McDavid Jones, The Night Flyers (1999)
Cynthia Voigt, Tree by Leaf (1988)
Dennis Hamley, Ellen's People (2006)


Claire Jones, An English Heaven (1986) and Is There Honey Still? (1985)

With many thanks to Dr Stetz.

Eleanor Franklin Egan (1877 - 1925) - American War Correspondent

I found out about Eleanor through reading a post on a WW1 commemorative Facebook group page.

A little research found the website  and it was there that I discovered Eleanor's fascinating life story, beautifully written by Deborah Gentit Vierno.   I contacted Deborah and she gave me permission to write up a panel for my commemorative exhibition project.   Many thanks indeed Deborah - I will of course credit you.

Eleanor, who was born in Lawrence County, Illinois, USA, apparently became the first American woman war correspondent when she covered the Pogroms in Russia in 1903 for "Leslie's Weekly", an American publication.

Definitely an Inspirational Woman.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

"Lest we forget Britain's women war dead" - Scottish Daily Mail, 27th February 2014

Many thanks to the "Daily Mail" for printing my letter in the "Scottish Daily Mail".   I received a follow-up letter this morning, which the newspaper offices in London kindly forwarded to me.

A gentleman from Scotland has sent me a letter written by a nurse who served on the Western Front during the First World War.  The letter, given to him by a neighbour who was related to the nurse, refers to the funeral of the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps female personnel who were killed during the air-raid on 29th - 30th May 1918 - the night the YMCA volunteer Betty Stevenson, who is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, was also killed.

I don't think it is generally known that many women served on the Western Front during WW1. They worked as doctors and nurses but also as administrators, clerks, telephonists, waitresses, cooks and drivers - doing work that freed men to serve on the front line.   At that time, women were not given full military status - they were divided into sections - officials (equivalent to officers), forewomen (sergeants), assistant forewomen (corporals) and workers (privates).

More than 57,000 women joined the WAAC or the QMAAC from January 1917 to November 1918.

The women who died in uniform during WW1 who are buried in Commonwealth War Grave Military Cemeteries in Belgium and France came from all over the world to help out.  Their names are listed on the CWGC website and they are buried in the following Cemeteries:

Belgrade Cemetery, Namur, Belgium (1 woman)
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium (1 woman)

Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France (15 women)
Asnieres-sur-Oise Communal Cemetery, Val d'Oise, France ((1 woman)
Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, Somme, France (3 women)
Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France (1 woman)
Bourges (St. Lazare) Cemetery, Cher, France (1 woman)
Caudry British Cemetery, Nord, France (1 woman)
Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France (19 women who died in service and 1 civilian - wife of a seriously ill soldier who died while visiting her husband, who is buried in the same cemetery)
Godewaersvelde British Cemetery, Nord, France (1 woman)
Janval Cemetery, Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, France (1 woman)
Le Treport Military Cemetery, Seine-Maritime, France (1 woman)
Les Baraques Military Cemetery, Sangatte, Pas de Calais, France (3 women)
Levallois-Perret Communal Cemetery, Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, France (1 woman)
Lille Southern Cemetery, Nord, France (1 woman)
Lillers Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France (1 woman)
Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France (6 women, two of whom were killed in an enemy air raid on 30th September 1917 - Agnes Climie and Daisy Coles)
Malo-les-Bains Communal Cemetery, Nord, France (1 woman)
Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, Bouches-du-Rhone, France (3 women)
Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, Seine-Maritime, France (3 women)
Sezanne Communal Cemetery, Marne, France (1 woman)
St. Pol British Cemetery, St. Pol-sur-Ternoise, Pas de Calais, France (1 woman)
St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France (7 women)
St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France (6 women who died in service and one civilian. These were known as "Lady Helpers" and in this case was Dame Lucy Innes Branfoot who worked at the Lady Mabelle Egerton's Coffee Stall on St. Sever Station.)
Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France (18 omen)
Terlinchthun British Cemetery, Wimille, Pas de Calais, France (9 women)
Tourgeville Military Cemetery, Calvados, France (1 woman)
Vauxbuin French National Cemetery, Aisne, France (1 woman)
Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France (13 women - one of whom - Volunteer Rubie Pickard, a VAD, was aged 67 and worked in the Department that supplied British military hospitals with daily newspapers).

As I have mentioned before, many other women were killed or died in uniform during the First World War.  They are buried in Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries throughout the world.   Next time you visit a WW1 Cemetery, please have a look to see if you can find any of the women buried there.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Mabel Annie St Clair Stobart (1862 - 1954)

Mrs Stobart was rather scathing in her criticism of the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment scheme, which she felt “played with women” and both she and Viscount Esher resigned their membership of the Red Cross for that reason.   Could that be why Mrs Stobart set up The Women's Convoy Corps that served in Bulgaria from 1912 - 1913?

When the First World War broke out, Mrs Stobart offered the services of a women’s medical unit to the Belgian Red Cross and travelled to Brussels to set up a hospital in the University buildings.  The following day, the Germans entered the city, took over the Belgian Croix Rouge and commandeered the hospital for their own use.   Mrs Stobart escaped to Tongres where she was arrested and condemned to death as a spy.  When she remonstrated with the German Major who was in charge, he replied that "You are English and this is a War of annihilation" (p. 8 "The Flaming Sword in Serbia and elsewhere" by M.A. St. Clair Stobart, published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1916).

I wonder whether the phrase "war of annihilation" was common knowledge at that time? 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Corrigendum from Francesco

I have just received this e-mail from Francesco which explains a little more.  

“I was very happy to read the brief description of my book on your weblog. I have to say you, however, that there are two small mistakes (not very important): I'm not at the University of Tours but at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, National Center of Scientific Research), in an Laboratory, CITERES, in Tours, depending from two main institutes: the CNRS and the University Francois Rabelais of Tours.

The second one is in the definition of Western Maghrib:  it is not Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya (these countries are all in the named Maghrib) but only Morocco, Western Sahara and, in the case of my book, a little part of Mauritania (the Adrar region).

Unfortunately there are no translations of my book, but I can send you an English article that summarizes some of his chapters (particularly those on the Sahara), which appeared a few years ago in a book under the direction of Professor Ali Abdullatif Ahmida.

I have not a personal website but I'm working for this. You can find me in the website of my Laboratory:  "

Many thanks for that Francesco - your book is a definite must for any serious student of WW1.

Francesco’s book can be ordered from the Harmattan website:


(CNRS-Université François Rabelais, Tours)
Équipe EMAM
MSH Val de Loire

33-35 allée Ferdinand de Lesseps  
37200 TOURS

Ferdinand de Lesseps - he's the Suez Canal man isn't he?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

"La Grande Guerre des Trafiquants. Le Front Colonial de l'Occident Maghrebin" - an exciting new book about the First World War in North West Africa

Those of you who follow my project closely will know that it began life as an exhibition about Female Poets and has now grown to include Inspirational Women and Fascinating Facts of the First World War.

Under the Fascinating Facts of the Great War heading comes news just in about an exciting new book. WW1, which was also known as 'The Great War' or La Grande Guerre in French, took place in other areas than the Western Front and  "La Grande Guerre des Trafiquants.  Le Front colonial de l'Occident Magrebin" (The Great War of Smugglers.  The Colonial Front of Western Maghreb) highlights one of those areas.

The book has been written by Francesco CORREALE who is at the University of Tours in France.  You can follow Francesco on Facebook and Twitter.

Francesco kindly sent me a brief description of his book and it sounds really exciting for it recounts the history of WW1 in West Maghreb - which is the area of North West Africa shown in the map (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) to the west of Egypt - from the point of view of the smuggling of weapons.     The book allows the reader to discover the vast army of men and sometimes women who managed to smuggle arms - cartridges, rifle parts, powder and other explosives - hidden in bags carried by camels and mules in spite of the state of emergency imposed on the area during the First World War by the French.  The smuggling operation was financed by the Ottoman Empire and by Germany.

The book is in French but I have asked Francesco if it is going to be available in other languages and will let you know as soon as I hear.  Luckily, French is 'one of my languages' so I will be looking into getting hold of a copy so that I can write a more detailed appreciation.

It is fantastic that the lesser known theatres of the First World War are now being explored and written about.

Map - Google Images