Monday, 14 December 2015

Katherine Mary Harley (1855 - 1917) - British

Looking through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War, on page 25, I found this entry:

Katherine Mary Harley, who initially worked at the Scottish Women's Hospital in Royaumont, France as a clerical assistant.   She then volunteered to go to Serbia, where she was attached to the Serbian Ministry of the Interior.   Katherine was 63 when she was killed during the bombardment of Monastir on 7th March 1917.   She was awarded the Croix de Guerre for her services during the First World War.

Katherine's parents were Commander John Tracey William French of the British Royal Navy, and his wife Margaret, nee Eccles, of Ripple Vale, Kent.  Katherine was the widow of Colonel George Ernest Harley, C.B.  Katherine's brother was Sir John French who commanded the British Expeditionary Force for the first eighteen months of the First World War.

Katherine is buried in Thessaloniki in Greece in Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery. 

Source:  CWGC List of Female Casualties of the First World War.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Mabel Dearmer (1872 - 1915) - British writer, artist and illustrator

I wrote more extensively about Mabel Dearmer in a post on 28th April 2014*.  Since then, although I have not been able to find a photograph of Mabel, I have at least found a photograph of where she is buried.

Mabel went to Setbia as a nursing orderly during the First World War when her husband volunteered to serve there as chaplain to a Red Cross Ambulance Unit.  Mabel contracted Typhoid and died of Pneumonia on 11th July 1915, shortly before the death of her younger son, Christopher, from wounds sustained at Gallipoli where he served with the Royal Naval  Air Service.  Mabel is buried in Kragujevac Cemetery in Serbia, alongside Dr. Elizabeth Ross and Nurse Lorna Ferriss.  Mabel's letters 'Letters from a Field Hospital' were published after her death and are available to read on the Internet -  

I wonder if there will be a stamp issued to commemorate Mabel Dearmer as there has recently been by the Serbians to commemorate some of the other women who went to help Serbia during WW1 - Flora Sandes, who was a soldier with the Serbian Army, Evelina Haverfield, Dr. Elsie Inglis, Dr. Elizabeth Ross, Dr. Katherine McPhail and Dr. Elmslie Hutton.


For an in-depth discussion about the life and work of Mabel Dearmer, Dr. Margaret Stetz in America sent me this link to the excellent work of Diana Maltz of  Southern Oregon University:

Sunday, 11 October 2015

"Chronicles of Women of the Great War in their own Words" by Elizabeth Foxwell

American author and editor Elizabeth Foxwell has written a book about the contribution of American women in WW1 because she thinks, and I agree with her, that not nearly enough people know about their exploits.

As Elizabeth points out in a recent interview with American University Radio WAMU 88.5, we hear a great deal about the women who went to nurse, but women played a far greater role in WW1 than has hitherto been recognised.  In "Chronicles of Women of the Great War in their own Words", Elizabeth Foxwell tells the stories of many of those women, six of whom are commemorated on the Arlington War Memorial in Washington DC.

Quite rightly, Elizabeth says that many people only think of France and the Western Front when they commemorate the First World War.  As you will see from this list of Female Poets country by country, the conflict affected every country of the world and there were more theatres of war than is generally known:
Elizabeth will read extracts from her book at One More Page Books store in Arlington on 13th October 2015 at 7 p.m. - 220 N. Westmoreland Street #101, Arlington, VA 22213. For further information about the event e-mail:

You can read about the interview here:

Further information about American women of the era:  - museum dedicated to the memory of American suffragettes

I am always on the lookout for more inspirational women, female poets, fascinating facts and forgotten (male) poets of the First World War, so please get in touch if you know of any.

Friday, 25 September 2015


Mary Davies was born on 8th December 1874   Her parents were Sir Robert Henry Davies (1824 – 1902), Governor of the Indian Province of the Punjab from 1871 – 1877, and his wife Mary Frances nee Cautey.

Mary was training to be a bacteriologist at the Pasteur Institute in Neuilly, France when the First World War broke out.  The American Hospital was established at the Pasteur Institute and there Mary worked with Dr. Kenneth Taylor, who was a bacteriologist who qualified at Minnesota University.   Dr Taylor was working on a serum of Quinine Hydrochloride to treat Gas Gangrene, experimenting initially on guinea pigs.  

In October 1915, Mary deliberately injected herself with the bacteria used to infect the guinea pigs and asked Dr. Taylor to treat her.   The treatment was successful and after some days in hospital, Mary was sent home to England to recuperate.  She wrote a treatise suggesting that if the cloth used to manufacture British Army uniforms were treated with Quinine Hydrochloride, the incidences of Gas Gangrene might be reduced.

It is perhaps worth noting here, that the Canadian Army Doctor, artilleryman and poet, John McCrae, commented upon his shock on discovering that the heavy use of manure used to fertilise the fields in Flanders and northern France, contributed to the infection of wounds sustained by soldiers on the battle fields of the Western Front in the First World War.

Mary, a member of the Bath Club in London, died in Cannes on 31st March 1928.

With many thanks to Geoff Harrison and other friends who sent me links to articles about Mary, and to ‘The Times’ for re-printing the story they ran about Mary's exploit from their edition of September 23rd 1915 in their 23rd September 2015 edition.  

Geoff also found an amazing cartoon which illustrates this story from the St. Petersburg Times of 9th August 1931 (I imagine that would be St. Petersburg in Florida...)  I am still hoping to find a photograph of Katherine Mary Geraldine Davies - can anyone help please?


GRAVES, Diane. "A Crown of Live The World of John McCrae" (Spellmount Ltd., Staplehurst, Kent, 1997)

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Belgian Nurse in WW1 - Florina Flamma (1892 - 2000) - Belgian

Those of you who follow this weblog closely will know that I am trying to trace nurses of all nationalities to illustrate the global impact of the First World War.  Here, courtesy of William Bukcke and his Facebook Groups about the conflict, is a Belgian nurse:

Florina was born on 10th May 1892, the daughter of a Belgian artillery officer. In August 1914, Florina fled with her parents to Antwerp but when the city fell, they followed the Belgian Army first to Westhoek. When they reached Ostend, Florina volunteered to help with the evacuation of the wounded to Dunkirk. Florina travelled to France and trained as a nurse with the Belgian Red Cross.  She was assigned to the ambulance unit at "Porte de Gravelinnes" in the Nord Pas de Calais region near Dunkirk. 

In 1917, Florina married Camille Pirotte, a 22 year old Sergeant Major of the French 4th regiment of Engineers In 1917, Florina married Camille Pirotte, a 22 year old Sergeant Major of the French 4th regiment of Engineers (égiment_du_génie).
At around that time, she transferred to nurse at the Belgian Artillery hospital in Le Havre - "establishment d ' Artillery Belge Du Havre'. 

As WW1 ended, Florina was working in the Belgian Military Hospital in Aachen.

Florina and Camille had a son who died of Meningitis at the age of seven.  Florina Flamme died on 11th February 2000 in Gembloux at the age of 107.

French Military Nurses in WW1 - Elisabeth Jalaguier (1890 - 1918) - French

Juggling with kettles, buckets and bowls of boiled water during the Lancashire contaminated water crisis of August 2015, I am reminded of the sacrifices made by those who nursed during The First World War.  They travelled to all the war zones, suffered the most awful deprivations and saved many, many lives with precious little in the way of medical supplies. Many of them were killed during air raids or by shell fire or died having contracted some of the terrible diseases that were rife at the time.  I salute them all, no matter which country they were from and whether they were women or men.  

Sue Robinson of the Group Wenches in Trenches - The Roses of No Man's Land is organising memorials to the memory of those nurses.  To find out more visit 

Elisabeth Jalaguier was born in 1890 and trained as a French Red Cross nurse.  She became a military nurse in 1914 and in 1918 was sent to Pierrefonds, where there was a military hospital in the Hotel des Bains.    Pierrefonds is a small town in France on the D973 road, between Compiegne and Villers-Cotterêts.

The hospital was bombed (it is not clear whether it was shelled or whether this was an aerial bombardment) during August 1918 and Elisabeth was among those killed.  After the bombardment, a white stone was placed where Elisabeth was standing when she was killed.

Elisabeth was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by Georges Clemenceau on 30th May 1919.  In 1933, a collection was made by Dr. Ferrand, who had been in charge of the military hospital in Pierrefonds during the First World War, and a nurse known as 'Mother Perdon'.  A committee was formed to gather funds and the chairman was Albert Lebrun, at that time President of France.   The monument was finally put in place in 1955 where the white stone had been.  In 1996, the Union Nationale des Combttants sold the memorial to the Town of Pierrefonds.  It was restored and inaugurated on 12th Ocrtober 1996, when the Mayor explained that there are not many such memorials in France.   The bronze statue which you can see in the photograph at the base of the memorial stone, was made from a plaster sculpture by Maxime Real del Sarte, who fought and was wounded during WW1 and had an arm amputated.

Source:  Speech made by the Mayor of Pierrefonds during the dedication ceremony in 1996.

I followed up a post on William Bulcke's Facebook Page Women of World War One, where he posted a photograph of the memorial to the nurses who were killed while serving in France during the First World War.  Thank you William.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Commemorative Group 'Wenches in Trenches' seeks modern inspirational women

Here is a message from Sue Robinson, who runs the amazing WW1 commemorative Group 'Wenches in Trenches - the Roses of No Man's Land'.  Sue works extremely hard and does so much to keep alive the memory of the contribution of women to the First World War.  The Group is now looking for more members:

"Each year we organise a special WW1 women's commemorative event on the Somme and we are looking to recruit more females to join our little organisation.  We have meet ups and loads of fun. We just expect you to raise funds at least once a year with us. If you are interested email me at

Fund raised go towards memorials for ww1 nurses and VADS and other related causes. Thanks.  Sue Robinson"

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Book Review: "Images of the Great War" by Lawrence Dunn, published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, 2015

In his book "Images of the Great War 1914 - 1918", Lawrence Dunn, an artist from Sunderland, guides us through a brief history of the First World War featuring a selection of images by some of the British and Empire artists, cartoonists, poets, photographers and sculptors of the time -  paintings, drawings, illustrations and photographs, many of which are from the author's own collection.  With the skill that only an artist has, Lawrence encourages us to have a closer look at some of those works and in so doing brings the conflict to life as never before. In many instances, Lawrence also invites the reader to compare the styles of artists who have painted the same view or person. I understand that this is the first Art History book about this subject which includes all the official British female war artists, alongside their male colleagues, rather than in a separate book about them.   This point was raised by Norah Nelson-Grey to Lady Norman, when she offered her first painting of the French military hospital to the Imperial War Museum in 1918. Nelson-Grey insisted that her painting was not exhibited in a female artists only exhibition (Illustration No. 262 in book).

I particularly liked the fact that First World War poetry is added in between each artist featured, creating a bridge to the next artist. 

Female artists, sculptors and photographers of the First World War are also featured in this wonderful book, where you will also find portraits of some of the most influential and inspirational women of the war and mention of others, such as Flora Sandes, Mabel St. Clair Stobart, Mairi Chisholm, Elsie Knocker, Lady Dorothie Fielding, Lady Priscilla Norman,Princess Helena Victoria, Ellen Terry, Mrs Norrie, Dame Maude McCarthy and Miss R.L. Linton-Orman.

In the chapter featuring photographer Olive Edis on page 194, it is wonderful to see a photograph of Betty Stevenson's grave (page 196, illustration no. 185) being tended by a member (during WW1 that was the female equivalent of a Private) of the WAAC.  Betty was a volunteer with the YMCA and worked in France until she was killed during an air raid near Etaples on 30th May 1918 (see my blog on 3rd March 2014 about Betty). 

Beginning with Lady Elizabeth Butler, you will find women artists featured in the book, for instance, Olive Mudie-Cooke, Flora Lion, Anna Airy, Elizabeth Kemp-Welch, Norah Nielson-Gray, Clare Atwood, Joyce Dennys, Clare Atwood, Dorothy Josephine Coke and photographer Olive Edis.

I already knew the names of most of the female artists and quite a few of the male WW1 artists that Lawrence has included but there were many that were new to me.  I was interested to see that Lawrence has dedicated the book to his second cousin, Corporal Michael Davison of the Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Irish).  Michael was an underground putter at Ryhope Colliery when he enlisted in 1914 and was killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras - Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.  My great-uncle James Yule was a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Tyneside Scottish) Battalion and he too was killed on 9th April 1917, as were the poets R.E. Vernède and Edward Thomas,  

Summing up, artists of all disciplines are represented in the book - painters, cartoonists, photographers, sculptors and so on.  But this book is not just about the artists, poets and pictures of WW1, Lawrence goes into detail about some of the battles and includes personal stories about the artists and the areas and subjects depicted.   On page 137 you will find paintings by the artist William Patrick Roberts, who was at the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917 and is therefore of special interest to me.

I have written up panels for some of the female poets featured in Lawrence's book for the Female Poets section of my exhibition project. In "Images of the Great War" you will find poems by Beatrix Brice Miller who went to France in 1914 as a 'lady helper' with her mother who was a trained nurse, Jessie Pope who was a volunteer at St Dunstan's Home for the Blind (now Blind Veterans UK) and whose poetry these days I feel has been misunderstood, Lucy Foster Whitmell, Vera Brittain who was a nurse during WW1, Lady Margaret Sackville, Iris Tree, Winifred Mabel Letts, who was a masseuse/physiotherapist with the Almeric Paget Unit during WW1, May Wedderburn Cannan, who helped out at the Coffee Stall on Rouen station, Anna Gordon Keown, Alice Meynell, Katharine Tynan, Elinor Jenkins, Muriel Elsie Graham, May Hershel-Clarke, Mary H.J. Henderson, Eileen Newton, Emily Orr and Doprothy Una Ratcliffe.

Incidentally, I have also written panels up for some of the male poets from Lawrence's book under the heading "Forgotten Poets of the Great War". In Lawrence's book you will find poems by Laurence Binyon, Rupert Brooke, John McCrae, Charles Hamilton Sorley, Alan Seeger, Thomas Kettle, Isaac Rosenberg, Francis Ledwidge,  Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas.  Also featured are poems by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen but they don't need to be on the Forgotten Poets list…

If I had to choose one picture by a female artist, it would have to be an old favourite of mine "The Ladies' Army Remount Depôt, Russley Park, Wiltshire, 1918" by Lucy Kemp-Welch and one by a male artist would be "Merry-Go-Round" by Mark Gertler. If I had to choose a poem written by a male and one by a female poet, I would choose "Vlamertinghe Passing the Château, July 1917" by Edmund Blunden, who was a 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Sussex Regiment, and "An Incident" by Mary H.J. Henderson, who was a VAD with the Scottish Women's Hospitals.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it.

"Images of the Great War" by Lawrence Dunn, published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, 2015. 


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Employment of Girls in the First World War

Everyone did their bit

A fascinating snippet in a recent copy of "The Times" mentioned a piece published in that newspaper on the 13th of April 1915 and describes some of the advertisements under the "Situations Vacant" heading.

At that time, and for many years after the First World War, it was customary for children to leave school at the age of fourteen and go out to work.   As the war progressed and the lads employed as messengers, delivery boys, shop assistants and so on were called up for military service, so the need to employ girls became evident.

Here are some of the ads mentioned:

"Girl required to take charge of bookstall aged 15 - 16"

"Girls, age 14 or 15, for bookstalls, wages 8s. a week.  (One shilling back then would be worth approximately £10 today)

"Girl wanted as messenger in City and West End".

According to the report, "...the District Messenger Company has followed the example of Reuter's Agency by enrolling a number of girls as district messengers.  At each of the main offices of the company there are now half a dozen girls above school age ready to undertake, with a few obvious exceptions, any of the hundred-and-one tasks performed by a District Messenger boy."

"The bookstall girls has been with us for some weeks.  Both Messrs WH Smith and Son and Messrs Willing and Co (Limited) are gradually substituting girls aged from 14 to 16 for boys who leave their stalls on the Underground Railway stations.   The work is light, and though the hours are long - from 8 am to 7 pm in at least one case - the girls are quite contented.

The life-girl, who has had a place for a considerable time in one or two of the larger West End shops, has justified herself, and others of her kind are likely to appear.  In some of the booking-offices at railway stations younger women are now to be found and, as has already been stated, women porters and ticket collectors are being given a trial.  The van-girl is yet to come."

But come she did to drive vans and much more...

"The Times", 13th April 2015

Picture:  Google Images - Propaganda poster WW1

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Florence Stoney (1870 - 1932) and her sister Edith Stoney (1869 - 1938)

With many thanks to Dorothy Clare for bringing these two inspirational women to my attention.

The sisters, who were born in Dublin, studied medicine in London.  In 1899 Edith lectured on physics at the London School of Medicine for Women and in 1901 Florence became a medical electrician at the Royal Free Hospital in London. 

Many women rushed to offer their help at the outbreak the First World War, among them Florence and her sister who offered their services to the Red Cross but were turned down because they were women.  Nothing daunted, Florence set up her own ex-ray unit with the Women's Imperial Service League, and went to work in Belgium while Edith organised things in London and served on the League's Committee.  Florence's unit was mainly staffed by women, apart from two part-time male chauffeurs and a technical assistant.

The unit was extremely successful and was ordered to go to Serbia where medical assistance was urgently required.

Both sisters received recognition and medals for their bravery and work during WW1.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Book Review: "Female Tommies The Frontline Women of the First World War" by Elisabeth Shipton

I have been researching the involvement of women in the First World War for some time now for a series of commemorative exhibitions, so much of the material in "Female Tommies" was already familiar to me.  As Shipton explains in the Foreword to her book, these days we are used to women war correspondents and women in the armed forces.  Television reporters like Kate Adie have brought front line news to our television screens for years but the women who wanted to help in the danger zones of WW1 had first to overcome centuries of prejudice, so their determination and sacrifices are all the more to be admired. 

Shipton draws on an immense volume of written and audio information relating to the role of women in The First World War and has produced an outstanding, very readable book.   With a detailed Bibliography and Index, extensive notes to each chapter and some wonderful photographs, the book has ten chapters covering women nurses, doctors, orderlies, spies, pilots and soldiers, ambulance drivers, telephonists, clerks, coders, de-coders, telegraphists, waitresses and cooks, plus civilian volunteers and entertainers.   She goes into detail about the founding of the various organisations set up by women and directly involved in the conflict and gives us the history of the formation of the women's branches of the British and American Armed Forces.   

"Female Tommies" also explains in detail the historical background to events, making the book comprehensive and an invaluable source for anyone genuinely interested in the role of women in WW1.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, found it extremely well written and full of interesting and entertaining information.  It was definitely one of those "couldn't put it down" books, that you finish with a feeling of regret at leaving old friends.

"Female Tommies  The Frontline Women of the First World War" by Elisabeth Shipton, dedicated bo her grandmother who served in the WAAF during The Second World War and published by The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2014

Friday, 20 February 2015

Women who died serving in WW1 - Wimereux, France

We often hear about the graves of British Tommies buried in cemeteries on the Western Front in WW1 but we don't often hear about the British and Commonwealth  women who died serving in some capacity who are also buried there:  This is just one of the cemeteries in France where you will find the graves of women who died or were killed during the First World War.


CLAYTON-SWAN, Mildred - Army Service Corps (Canteen) – Civilian

COLE, Emily Helena – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service – Sister

DUNCAN, Isabella Lucy May – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service – Sister

EVANS, Margaret Ellen – Voluntary Aid Detachment

HOCKEY, Jessie Olive – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service – Reserve Sister – from South Africa (Cape Province)

KING, Nita Madeline – Voluntary Aid Detachment

LANCASTER, Alice Hilda – Nurse – Special Military Probationary attached to the Territorial Force Nursing Service*

PICKARD, Mrs Rubie (aged 67) – Voluntary Aid Detachment – voluntary worker in the Newspaper Department for supplying daily newspapers to British Hospitals

ST. JOHN, Barbara Esmee – Voluntary Aid Detachment

TREVELYAN, Armorel Kitty – Civilian in the Army Service Corps Canteen

WHITELY, Anna E. – Canadian Army Nursing Service – Nursing Sister from Peterborough, Ontario

WILSON, Christina Murdoch – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service – Sister

WILSON, Myrtle Elizabeth – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service – Sister – Australian from Melbourne

* The Territorial Force Nursing Service was set up in 1909 as a sister organisation to the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service in order to supplement the service during emergencies.  All members worked as nurses in civilian life.  In 1920 the service was re-named The Territorial Army Nursing Service (TANS) when the Territorial Force was re-named The Territorial Army.  The Territorial Force Nursing Service became the Territorial Army Branch of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.   Source: and

Thursday, 19 February 2015

"No Woman's Land" - Volume 1 of Inspirational Women of the First World War now available as download

I am happy to report that "No Woman's Land" is now available as an electronic download.

For just £2 you can get a pdf copy of the book that can be read on tablets, laptops, PCs, etc.

Here is the link if you are interested:

Mary Riter Hamilton and the Chinese Labour Corps in WW1

As today (19th February 2015) is Chinese New Year, I would like to remember the members of The Chinese Labour Corps who worked on the Western Front during and after the First World War. Many of the workers died and are buried in France. 

In May 1919, Mary Riter Hamilton, a Canadian artist, was commissioned by the Canadian War Amputees Association to go and paint what she saw of the desolation left by the conflict. Mary lived for three years in a tin hut among the Chinese workers who cleared away the mess. Can you imagine what it must have been like to live there back then? The water table had become contaminated early on in the war and food was scarce. As local people began to return to the area, they shared their food with Mary but it obviously was not like the food you can get if you visit the area now! 

Nothing daunted, Mary painted on, in spite of being attacked by some of the members of the gangs of bounty hunters, etc that roamed the area in the immediate aftermath of the war. Her health suffered and she lost the sight of one eye.   Some of Mary's amazing paintings went on display in London and Paris.
Add caption

When she returned to Canada, Mary donated her 300+ paintings to the National Archives and never painted again. Photo: one of Mary Riter Hamilton's paintings on the Western Front. 

You can see more of Mary's WW1 work on and find out more about the Canadian War Amps
Photos:  One of Mary's paintings and her exhibition panel on display at Fleetwood Library, Lancashire, UK in November 2014.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sarah Macnaughtan's Soup Kitchens on the Western Front in WW1

Following on from my post about Sarah on 25th January 2015, I have been reading Sarah's account of her wartime experiences in Flanders and en route to Russia.  British writer Sarah Macnaughtan was described by one of the British nurses who had volunteered to help in Flanders as being " a delicate little woman, highly strung and nervous". 

Nevertheless, Sarah who had volunteered as an orderly with the Red Cross at the outbreak of war, horrified at the plight of the Belgian and French wounded soldiers that she witnessed, set up and ran soup kitchens for them in Flanders during WW1.   I really do admire those Inspirational Women of WW1 and cannot praise them highly enough.   Many of them, like Sarah, were able to help both financially and physically.  

Today I am reading of how Sarah got a representative from Harrods to visit her to discuss the supply of horse-boxex converted into travelling kitchens:

8th November 1914 in a letter to Clementine Wearing in Edinburgh requesting her help : "I want some travelling-kitchens and have opened  the subject with Mr Burbidge of Harrods' Stores."  

Harrods apparently supplied just such a converted horse box to Millicent Sutherland (one of the Female Poets of the First World War) for her hospital in St. Malo.   These kitchens cost £15 each (which would be about £3,000 today). Sarah wanted to be able to prepare vegetables for making soup and needed "a copper for boiling the soup, a chimney, a place for fuel and a strong box to hold the vegetables whose top would serve as a table". 

The cross-Channel ferry S.S.  "Invicta" made regular Channel crossings from Admiralty Pier, Dover and carried Red Cross supplies free of charge.  It seems that "Invicta" survived the war, in spite of near misses during those hazardous journeys.  Sarah described one such escape on 2nd November 1914 : "The "Invicta" got in late because the "Hermes" had been torpedoed and they had gone to her assistance.  No doubt the torpedo was intended for the "Invicta".

After her death in 1916, Sarah's niece published her diaries under the title "My War Experiences in Two Continents" by S. Macnaughtan, edited by Betty Keays-Young and published in 1919 by John Murray, London.   This is available as a download and I urge you to read it.

Sarah McNaughton's "My War Experiences in Two Continents" is available as a download free on

Matilda Emily Clark's "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital" is available as a download free on

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sara Macnaughtan - writer from Scotland - and Matilda Emily Clark - a nurse from England

Two very inspirational women of the First World War are Sarah Macnaughtan, a Scottish writer, and Matilda Emily Clark, an English nurse.  Their stories are amazing - please try to find time to read them as they are available as free downloads on the Internet.

Sarah B. Macnaughtan was born in Scotland on 26th October 1864. She was the daughter of Peter Macnaughtan and his wife Julia nee Blackman who had a large family.   According to her niece, Betty Salmon (nee Keays-Young) who was married to Lionel Salmon and who edited her war diaries after her death, Sarah was generous, witty, energetic, vivacious, charming and very religious.  Sarah had many interests from music, literature, art, shooting, big game hunting, riding, travel - she went to Canada, South America, South Africa, the Middle East and India - and 'adventure of every kind'. "As a girl she was unpunctual."  She was ambitious and clever but devoted to her family.  Her father, elder brother and a sister are mentioned in the summing up by Sarah's niece. 

Sarah was a writer, her first work being published in 1898.  When her parents died, Sarah left Scotland and moved to Kent.  She joined the Suffragettes, worked with the poor in London's East End, was a Red Cross volunteer during the Second Boer War and helped those who were suffering during the Balkan War.

At the age of 50, Sarah Macnaughtan volunteered with the Red Cross and went to Belgium on 20th September 1914 with Mabel St. Clair Stobart's Group, arriving in Antwerp on 22nd September.

On 10th October as the Germans drew ever closer after the fall of Antwerp, Mrs Stobart took her group back to England and Sarah joined Dr. Hector Monro's Flying Ambulance Unit.

"This evening Dr. Hector Munro came in from Ghent with his oddly-dressed ladies, and at first one was inclined to call them masqueraders in their knickerbockers and puttees and caps, but I believe they have done excellent work. It is a queer side of war to see young, pretty English girls in khaki and thick boots, coming in from the trenches, where they have been picking up wounded men within a hundred yards of the enemy's lines, and carrying them away on stretchers. Wonderful little Walküres in knickerbockers, I lift my hat to you!

Dr. Munro asked me to come on to his convoy, and I gladly did so: he sent home a lady whose nerves were gone, and I was put in her place."   We know that May Sinclair was sent back to England suffering from Shell Shock after six weeks in Belgium as Dr. Munro's Personal Assistant.

A few days later, Monro's Ambulance Unit reached Furnes and Sarah Macnaughtan was mentioned in British nurse Matilda Emily Clark's  "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from A Belgian Field Hospital".  In October 1914 in a makeshift hospital in a Roman Catholic College in Furnes:  "In our ward there was a little elderly lady who quietly offered her services, and as she looked capable I sent her to clear away the evening meal and wipe down the tables.  She never bothered me again but quietly busied herself setting things in order.  Soon two big oil-lamps relieved the darkness and some large scissors that we had longer for lay to hand to rip the men's clothes off them.  The unassuming little helper had been out to buy them.  A few days after, when we had time to breathe, we were introduced.  It was Miss McNaughton, the writer of "A Lame Dog's Diary" and other books.

She was a delicate little woman, highly strung and nervous."  After helping the nurses out in the ward for several days, Miss McNaughton "procured a tiny room at the station and ran a soup-kitchen for the wounded.   Now, this sounds a homely and commonplace sort of occupation, but when you realise the circumstances you will know what courage it required." (pp. 31 - 33) 

The story of the English nurse's experiences as a nurse during the early days of the war is absolutely amazing.  She was at the fall of Antwerp and travelled in buses with some of the wounded British Martines. At one stage, she was obliged to return to London as it was felt unsafe for British civilians to remain in Belgium.  However, she was soon back in Belgium then France to continue nursing the wounded - both military and civilian.

Sarah died in London on 24th June 1916 exhausted after working as a volunteer orderly with the Red Cross in Belgium and Russia from the early days of the war. She was buried in Chart Sutton, a small village south of Maidstone in Kent.  Sarah's war diary was dedicated to all who fought in the conflict and in particular her own nephews - Captain Lionel Salmon, 1st Bn. the Welch Regiment, Captain Helier Percival, M.C., 9th Bn. the Welch Regiment, Captain Alan Young, 2nd Bn. the Welch Regiment,
Captain Colin Macnaughtan, 2nd Dragoon Guards and Lieutenant Richard Young, 9th Bn. the Welch Regiment.

Sarah McNaughton's "My War Experiences in Two Continents" is available as a download free on

Matilda Emily Clark's "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital" is available as a download free on

Sarah Macnaughtan's and the war nurse's books via the Internet.
and on Wikipedia

The photo is of Miss Sarah Macnaughton during WW1 from "A War Nurse's Diary" page 32

If anyone has any information about the nurse who wrote !A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital" I would love to hear from them.