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