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:

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Casualties of War - Nurse Annie Winifred Munro of The South African Military Nursing Service

I just found this entry on page 56 of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of WW1:

Staff Nurse Annie Winifred Munro from Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, a member of The South African Military Nursing Service who died on 6th April 1917.

By strange coincidence, my aunt - Audrey Jackson - was born on 6th April 1921.  According to my Mother, her Father returned from his service with the Royal Field Artillery in WW1 around Christmas 1919.  Audrey served in the  Women's Royal Naval Service during the Second World War and was at Fort Southwick, Portsmouth on D-Day.   She met and married a soldier from South Africa and went to live in Pietermaritzburg after the war where she died in the spring of 1948.


Women who died in the service of their country during WW1

On page 35 of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War are the names of nine of the women who died:

In Doodoma Cemetery, Tanzania you will find the grave of Sister D.A. Fitzhenry of the South African Military Nursing Service who died on 1st December 1918.

In Abergele Cemetery, Denbighshire, UK is the grave of Helena May Rowlands, aged 26, a nurse with the Territorial Force Nursing Service who died on 10th May 1919.

In Abney Park Cemetery, London, UK you will find the grave of Daisy M. Hudson, aged 29, of the Women's Royal Air Force who died on 28th February 1919

In Acton Cemetery, Middlesex, UK is the grave of Florence Mary Ellis, aged 26 and from Chiswick, serving with the Women's Royal Air Force, who was attached to the Army Service Corps.  Florence died on 23rd November 1918.

In Aldershot Military Cemetery, Hampshire, UK are the graves of

M.F. Brown from Dublin, who is described as a "Worker" - I believe this was equivalent to the rank of Private - with Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, who died on 17th November 1918.

Mary Mitchell Macgill, aged 32 and from Stirling, a Matron with Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service who died on 11th March 1915

Nurse M. O'Brien of the QAIMNS who died on 21st February 1917

Probationer Nurse Constance Emily Mary Seymour, aged 29 and from Kenilworth.  She was with the QAIMNS and died on 12th February 1917


W. Smith-Sligo, a Mechanic Driver aged 18 from Oakley, Fife and with the Women's Legion and (V.A.D.) attached to the Army Service Corps who died on 6th November 1918.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Remembering the women who died during the First World War

Many of you will know that I am hoping to ensure remembrance for the many women who died in the service of their country or because of WW1 and who are buried in the many wonderful Commonwealth  War Graves Commission Cemeteries throughout the world from Australia to Zimbabwe.  To this end, I have been reading the CWGC List of Female WW1 Casualties.

This morning, I received an interesting e-mail from Michael Atrill who asked if I could post these two memorials.  He also asked what prompted me to include the posting I made on 18th February 2014 of the list of women buried in the Cemetery at Etaples, which included the name of Florence Grover who contracted Influenza and died while visiting her husband who was too ill to be moved.

I was in fact researching Betty Stephenson, the YMCA volunteer worker who was killed in France in an air raid on 30th May 1918 at the age of 21.  Betty is buried in the same Cemetery as Florence Victoria Grover.  It was Betty's duty to drive around relatives who travelled to France to visit men who were in hospital and too seriously ill to be transported back to Britain for treatment.  Betty's story is so very interesting that I had to find out more, which led me to the CWGC List.

Reading through the list, I was astonished to find so many women who died during WW1 in the service of their country in many roles - nurses, doctors and medical orderlies, but also telephonists, clerks, cooks, drivers, ambulance drivers, waitresses, entertainers and so on.   I could not remember one instance of anyone saying that they had visited the grave of a female relative in France or Belgium, so I decided to do something about it.  

I am currently contacting the Royal British Legion and other organisations, asking if the women can be remembered as well.  From time to time I also put a posting on this weblog.

Please join me in helping to get these women noticed so that truly we may say WE WILL REMEMBER THEM ALL.

The two remembrance plaques shown were supplied by Michael who asked me to include them in memory of Albert and Florence Grover who are buried in the same cemetery in France.   

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Every woman remembered...

As you know, I have been researching women who wrote poetry, inspirational women and fascinating facts of the First World War for a series of WW1 commemorative exhibitions.  I notice in the Spring edition of "The Royal British Legion" Magazine that there is a WW1 Commemorative campaign to remember "every man".

My Grandfather was a professional soldier and an Old Contemptible in the Royal Field Artillery.  Grandfather survived WW1 and went on to serve again in WW2 - he lost his job in government cuts in 1923 but joined the TA the same day.   My Great Uncle in the Northumberland Fusiliers, was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917 and has no known grave.   Everything I do is in their memory.

However, during the course of my research into Inspirational Women of WW1, I have been reading the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's List of Female Casualties and it makes grim reading.  I cannot help but wonder why only the men are remembered when we commemorate WW1, not the women who served, many of whom are buried in graves the world over from Australia to Zimbabwe and some of whom were killed in the line of duty.  

Women like Bertha Gavin 'Betty' Stevenson, aged 21, the British YMCA volunteer who was killed during an air raid and is buried in Etaples or 
Edith Agnes Baker, aged 28, from Natal, South Africa, who is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France, 
or the two women buried in Belgium - 
Sister Elsie Mabel Gladstone of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, aged 32, buried in Belgrade Cemetery, and 
Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler, aged 26, who was killed in action on 21st August 1917 and is buried in Lijssenthoek Military cemetery, West-Flanders; or 
Staff Nurse Agnes Murdoch Climie, aged 32, of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, killed during an air raid on 30th September 1917 and buried in Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, or 
Dame Lucy innes Branfoot, aged 52, a volunteer worker with Lady Mabelle Egerton's Coffee Stall at St. Sever Station, who is buried  in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France...

 Those are just a few of those very inspirational women who died as they served on the Western Front in WW1.

There are many, many more who died in the service of their country from all corners of the Empire (Commonwealth) and many of them are buried in cemeteries in the UK.  I would like to see all of those women remembered as well as the men. I hope to list more of those amazing women as the commemorative years progress.   If anyone has any photographs of the graves, please get in touch - together WE WILL REMEMBER THEM ALL.

Don't forget to keep planting poppies.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Canadian Nurses lost at sea HMHS "Llandovery Castle" 27th June 1918

HMHS "Llandovery Castle", a Hospital Ship which was formerly a Union Castle Line Mail Steamship, docked in Halifax on 17th June 1918 had carrying six hundred and forty-four military patients. She started on her return voyage on 20th June, 1918, carrying her crew and a hospital unit establishment of seven officers, fourteen nursing sisters, and seventy-six other ranks.  The weather was fine.

On 27th June 1918, 116 miles west of Ireland, HMHS "Llandovery Castle" was attacked by the German submarine U-86 and torpedoed, regardless of the fact that she was clearly marked as a Hospital Ship. 

The Commander of the submarine, whose name was Patzig, interviewed the survivors in the lifeboats to try to find evidence that arms were being carried but no such evidence found. Patzig then gave the order to dive and started to destroy the lifeboats so that there would be no survivors.

However, one lifeboat did manage to survive and their story was told. After the war, Patzig could not be found but two officers who had manned the guns were found, tried and sentenced to hard labour. The pair escaped but were never recaptured. 

The following female nurses were killed during this attack and are buried or commemorated in the Halifax Memorial, Nova Scotia, Canada:
Christina Campbell, Nursing Sister, Canadian Army Medical Corps
Carola Josephine Douglas, CAMC
A. Dussault, Nursing Sister, CAMC
M.A. Follette, Nursing Sister, CAMC
M.J. Fortescue, Nursing Sister, CAMC
Margaret Marjory Fraser, Matron, CAMC - daughter of the later Lieut. Governor D.C. Fraser and his wife Bessie G. Fraser
Minnie Katherine Gallaher, Nursing Sister, CAMC, of Pittsburg, Ontario
J.M. McDiarmid, CAMC
Mary Agnes McKenzie, Nursing Sister, CAMC - of Toronto
Rena Maud McLean, Nursing Sister, CAMC of Souris, Prince Edward Island
Mary Belle Sampson, Nursing Sister, CAMC - Mentioned in Despatches - of Duntroon, Ontario
Gladys Irene Sare, Nursing Sister, CAMC, of Notre-Dame de Grace, Montreal
Anna Irene Stamers, Nursing Sister, CAMC of St. John, New Brunswick
Jean Templeman, Nursing Sister, CAMC, of Ottawa.


Photos:  Google Images - HMHS "Llandovery Castle" and Margaret Marjory Fraser

See also and

With grateful thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Women Golfers in WW1 - Margaret (Madge) Neill-Fraser

As the exciting and prestigious 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open Golf Tournament draws to a close, I felt it fitting to mention the role of lady golfers during the First World War.   This year’s tournament is at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport from 10th – 13th July. 

I am indebted to Gillian Kirkwood for her speedy reply to my request for help in identifying women golfers and their contribution to the war effort during WW1.   Gillian’s excellent article is the inspiration for the following.

The Women Golfers’ Museum in Scotland, of which Gillian Kirkwood is the Chairman, holds copies of “The Golfing Gentlewoman,” which were published as supplements to the magazine “The Gentlewoman”. The magazine had been founded in 1890 and was published in London.   For 36 years the exact title was “The Gentlewoman:  An Illustrated Weekly Journal for Gentlewomen”.

The Women Golfers’ Museum was founded in 1938 and originally situated in The Lady Golfers’ Club in London.   The collection of memorabilia is shared between the British Golf Museum at St. Andrews and the Special Collections Unit of the Library at the University of St. Andrews.

When war broke out in 1914, Issette Pearson (1861 – 1941) who helped set up The Ladies’ Golf Union (LGU) in 1893 to “stimulate the growth of ladies’ golf”, issued an official statement to all members, endorsed by the President, Her Highness Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, requesting them to donate money to the Queen’s “Work for Women” Fund.  “The Golfing Gentlewoman” commissioned a medal to send free of charge to any club willing to run a competition to raise money for the Fund. Official LGU competitions had been postponed and were cancelled as the years went by with no sign of the end of hostilities.

As the number of casualties grew so did the demand for hospitals and village halls and golf clubs throughout Britain were turned into Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospitals.   The lady members of the Clubs became nurses, dressers, cleaners, cooks and so on. Photographs were taken and accounts written up to send to The Golfing Gentlewoman to tell the stories of the women golfers and how they contributed to the war effort.

Many lady golfers became Red Cross or St. John’s Ambulance nurses and volunteered to serve in the various theatres of the war.

One of those volunteers was Madge Neill-Fraser, who was a Scottish International from 1905 until 1914, runner up in the Scottish Championship in 1912 and semi finalist in the British Championship in 1910.   Madge, daughter of Mrs M. Neill Fraser of Edinburgh, served in Serbia with the Scottish Women’s Hospital as a nurse, dresser and driver.   She caught Typhus and died in Serbia.  She is buried in the Chela Kula Military Cemetery, NIS, Serbia.  The LGU sent out a notice regarding a fitting memorial to the memory of Madge and that was a fund to supply additional beds for the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Serbia. Sufficient funds were donated to provide around 200 beds.  Women golfers the world over contributed to the fund.


“Playing the Game Sport and the Physical Emancipation of English Women 1870 - 1914” by Kathleen E. McCrone (The University  Press of Kentucky, 1988

“On the Ladies Links with Gillian Kirkwood”, published in in December 2005

For more details about the Ricoh Women’s British Open, please see the

Photo from:

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Dr Dorothea Clara Maude Nasmyth (1879 - 1959) - British Doctor

Thank you to Linda Bourne who contacted me to tell me about Dr. Dorothea Clara Maude.

Dr. Maude was born in Newbury in 1959 was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College and studied medicine at Oxford University and Trinity College, Dublin.  She worked as a doctor in Oxford.

The War Office initially refused to allow British women to serve near the front lines.  However, women such as  Mrs Mabel Stobart had experience of setting up hospitals in war zones, having helped during the Balkan Wars and they set up independent units to help countries such as Serbia during WW1.  Dr Maude travelled first to Antwerp in 1914 to help at a Belgian Field Hospital and then with the help of her uncle Alwyn Maude set up a medical unit in Dunkirk.   She went to Serbia in 1915.  Her story is amazing - to find out more, please see this wonderful article about Dr. Maude

My initial attempt to contact the author have not been successful so I will do some more research.

Many thanks Linda.
Photo:  Google Images, taken from the article as mentioned above.  Dr. Maude in Serbia - she is second from the right.

Let us commemorate these wonderful women who did so much to establish women in society.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Two more - Liverpool-based - Inspirational Women of WW1

Dr. Frances IVENS of the Scottish Women's Hospital in France at Royaumont Abbey
Dr. Mary BIRRELL DAVIES who founded the Liverpool Women's War Service Bureau.

With grateful thanks to Adrienne Mayers, Librarian at the Liverpool Medical Institution and to Meg Parkes who is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine who I met by chance and who told me about the work of the LMI.  Find out more on the LMI website -   The Institution is organising a fantastic WW1 commemorative event in October - see poster left.

Contact the LMI via their website for details and to sign up to attend this fantastic event.   See you there!

WW1 Organisations

My research today has led to Elizabeth Crawford's wonderful website:

where Elizabeth has written a superb article about the work of women who were doctors durng WW1.


The Serbian Relief Fund 
The Society of Friends
The Wounded Allies Relief Committee
The British Farmers
The Berry Mission
The Almeric Pages Massage Corps
The Women's Imperial Service League (Mrs Mabel Stobart -Women's Convoy Corps Balkan War 1912)
The Women's Hospital Corps
The Scottish Women's Hospitals 

All those organised medical teams to serve in the various theatres of the First World War. Many organisations were happy to include women doctors, however the Women’s Imperial Service League, the Women’s Hospital Corps, and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals would only employ women doctors.

With thanks to Adrienne Mayers who is the Librarian at the Liverpool Medical Institution for pointing me in the right direction to find more inspirational women for the project.