Thursday, 31 March 2016

Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879 - 1958) - American writer and educational reformer

Dorothy was born on 17th February 1879 in Lawrence, Kansas.  Her parents were James Hulme Canfield a university professor, and his wife Flavia Camp, an artist and writer.

Dorothy studied at Ohio State University, America, Paris University in France and Columbia University, America.  In 1907, Dorothy married John Redwood Fisher and the couple had two children.

Impressed by Maria Montessori's educational system during a visit to Italy, Dorothy took the idea back to the United States where she campaigned for life-long education as well as women's right and racial equality.

In the First World War, Dorothy and her husband went to France where Dorothy set up a printing press to print Braille books for soldiers blinded during the war.   She also set up The Bidart Home for refugee French children, orphaned or displaced by the fighting.  All this while bringing up two young children and looking after her husband.

In all, Dorothy wrote 22 novels and 18 works of non-fiction.   She died on 9th November 1958.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Princess Aneta Andronnikova - Russian Nurse in WW1 - died 30th March 1916 in the sinking of the Russian Hospital Ship 'Portugal'

Princess Aneta Andronnikova from Georgia was among the nurses and medical staff whose lives were lost when the Russian Hospital Ship ‘Portugal’ was sunk by a German submarine on 30th March 1916.

‘Portugal’ was built for the French Company Messageries Maritimes for use on their Brazil and River Plate Line.   She was chartered by the Russian Army during the First World War for use in the Black Sea and re-fitted to carry 500 wounded.  The crew were Russian and French.  

On 30th March 1916, ‘Portugal’ was towing a string of barges to collect the wounded and transport them from shore to ship and then to hospital.  She stopped because one of the little ships was sinking and was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine.

Also on board were 20 Nurses of Mercy, 3 doctors, a pharmacist and an administrator.   Among the nurses was Anna Feodorovna, Baroness Meyendorff.   The ship was clearly marked with red crosses.  In all, 115 people lost their lives, though a small number were rescued by a Russian destroyer.

If anyone has any information about where the medical staff and crew from the ‘Portugal’ are buried or anything about the life of Princess Aneta Andronnikova please get in touch.  

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

In Basra War Cemetery, Basra, Iraq are the graves of the following women who died serving their country during the First World War:

BLACKLOCK, Nursing Sister, ALICE MAY. Territorial Force Nursing Service. Born 1885; died 13 August 1916. Age 30. Daughter of Anthony and Catherine Blacklock, of 43, Warbreck Moor, Aintree, Liverpool. Grave Reference: V. N. 12.

COMPTON, Sister, FLORENCE D'OYLY. 65th British Gen. Hosp., Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. Drowned, 15 January 1918. Age 29. Grave Reference: I. G. 12.
FAITHFULL, Nurse, FLORENCE MARY. 65th British Gen Hosp., Voluntary Aid Detachment. Drowned, 15 January 1918. Age 26. Daughter of Constance M. Faithfull (nee Deshon), of Kingsworthy, Crowthorne, Berks, and the late Lt. Col. W. C. Faithfull (I.A.). Grave Reference: I. G. 14.

KEARNEY, Nursing Sister, I M. Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. 26 September 1916. Grave Reference: V. R. 14.

KEMP, Staff Nurse, C M F. 40th British Gen. Hosp., Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. 4 July 1918. Grave Reference: III. T. 2.
ROBINSON, Sister, ELIZABETH. 3rd Brit. Gen. Hosp., Territorial Force Nursing Service. Died of malaria, 12 July 1919. Daughter of Mrs. Robinson, of 130, Ethel St., Newcastle-onTyne. Grave Reference: II. D. 2.

TINDALL, Sister, F. Reserve, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, attd. 65th Brit. Gen. Hosp. . 15 January 1918. Grave Reference: I. G. 11.
WELFORD, Sister, ALICE. Reserve, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, attd. 65th British Gen. Hosp. . Drowned, 15 January 1918. Age 30. Daughter of James and Mary Welford, of Crathorne, Yarm, Yorks. Grave Reference: I. G. 13.

They may be a long way from home, but they are not forgotten.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Etaples Military Cemetery, France

Maria Coates has visited and extensively researched Etaples British Military Cemetery in France and recently posted this to Facebook Group Cemeteries and Memorials of the Great War:

Maria has very kindly given me permission to share the fantastic information she has gathered about Etaples on my weblog.

"The Inspirational Women of the Great War who died and are buried in Etaples Military Cemetery Pas de Calais, France.

The Crimson Coast

The Crimson Coast was the name given to the northern French and Belgian coastline during the Great War.  Hospitals situated along the Channel coastline were part of the casualty evacuation chain and were located fifty or so miles further back from the frontline than the Casualty Clearing Stations in France and Flanders. They also needed to be close to railway lines to receive the casualties and close to a port where the soldiers could eventually be evacuated back to Britain for longer term treatment.

Etaples during the Great War

Etaples, a coastal fishing port situated about 15 miles south of Boulogne in France, was used as the main British Base Depot in WW1.  To the north of the port is where the British established a large infantry training camp and a complex of 11 numbered Commonwealth General Hospitals, one Stationary, four Red Cross Hospitals and a Convalescent Depot. These almost entirely comprised of huts and tents and could deal with 22,000 wounded and sick soldiers.

Etaples was well away from the Front Line and therefore relatively safe from attack, the only exception being bombing raids made by aircraft.   Unfortunately, the hospitals were bombed several times in 1918 as a result of their location alongside the Boulogne to Paris railway which accessed both the Northern and Southern Battlefields. They were also adjacent to the major complex of training camps which were the main targets.

One Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse, Vera Brittain, experienced over a month of night time air raids, resulting in her being exhausted and more frightened than ever.  Vera left Etaples before the worst bombing raids of May, June and August 1918, in which many patients, nurses and other VADS were killed in these hospitals.

Etaples Military Cemetery

As with other areas in the theatres of war, cemeteries sprang up around hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations, etc.  

In September 1919, three hospitals and the Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps Convalescent Depot still remained in Etaples some ten months after the Armistice of November 1918.   In Etaples Military Cemetery, some of the headstones of nurses and other Voluntary Aid Detachment volunteers bear post-war dates. Most of those deaths were as a result of the Influenza epidemic that followed the war.

At the end of the First World War, Etaples Military Cemetery contained 10,816 identified casualties, 35 unidentified casualties, totalling 10,771. 10,751 of those were male and 20 female casualties.

During the Second World War, hospitals were again situated at Etaples and once again the Cemetery was used for burials from January 1940 until the evacuation at the end of May 1940. After the end of the Second World War, graves from other cemeteries in France were moved to Etaples - 119 identified and 38 unidentified bodies.

Also buried in Etaples Military Cemetery are the bodies of 662 Non Commonwealth people, mainly German, together with 5 Non World War service burials.   It is worth noting that the cut off date to count as First World War dead for the purposes of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was 31st August 1921. "   Maria Coates, 2016.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Commemorating the nurses who died serving in WW1

Sue Robinson started her WW1 group to commemorate the service of nurses in the First World War in memory of her grandmother, Isabella Robinson.  Although they are not a re-enactment group, when they visit graves in Belgium and France, Group members wear beautiful hand-made replicas of the uniforms worn by nurses during the First World War.   Their outfits serve to remind us of the very different way of life back then and to remember the hardships those wonderful women faced to nurse the sick and wounded, many of whom they saved in incredible circumstances.

Sue says:  “I have always been interested in nurses and VADs however until this last 20 years information was difficult to come by. I had of course stories passed down from my Grannie Robinson who served in both world wars first as a VAD in WW1 then as a qualified nurse in WW2.

I did my degree in modern European history, paying attention to the Great War. I have worked as a fundraiser for years for various military charities and got to thinking that I had never seen any memorials to these mighty girls who left their homes to nurse our wounded in war time.

In 2006 three of us did a sponsored walk on the Somme battlefields raising £1,000 for our local poppy appeal. I was asked “Do you have a name?”  Well, collectively we were women walking the battlefields, so it seems right to become Wenches in Trenches.

Since then, we have grown into a hardy group of women who organise events fundraising for memorials to nurses and other worthwhile causes. In 2015 we paid to have a large memorial bench made and sited at Lochnagar Crater, La Bosselle France. We also paid for the refurbishment of the Nurse Mcvie room at Talbot House Poperinge in Belgium.

At this moment we are busy raising funds for a large memorial hopefully to be placed in Liverpool. We welcome all women from all walks of life to join us and celebrate our sisters who faced hell. 
Anyone who would like to get in touch to join the Group or to donate can do so via the website and/or the Facebook Group

Sue Robinson, March 2016

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Coffee Stall at Rouen Station an extract from Huyton College School Magazine 1915

N.B.:  There is some overlap here – Fascinating Facts/Inspirational Women/Female Poets of the First World War

I’ve been researching the contribution to the First World War made by schoolchildren because everyone did their bit.   I contacted several schools with great success and am gradually writing up exhibition panels.   One of the schools was Liverpool College which merged with their sister school Huyton College in 1993.   One of my former school teachers – Miss Vera Blennerhasset – went on to become a Headmistress of Huyton College, so, eager to pick up on the coincidence, I contacted the Headmaster of Liverpool College and he put me in touch with Jane Rooney of the Huyton College Old Girls Guild.  

Jane kindly searched through the Archives of Huyton College and photocopied me the School’s 1915 Magazine which is fascinating.  Jane also kindly checked with the Liverpool College Foundation that it would be in order for me to share the information, which I will try to do over the coming weeks.   There are accounts written by former pupils or members of staff who were on the Western Front in the early days of the war, as well as contributions by school pupils at the time.    

The girls of Huyton College were very busy knitting and in the Autumn Term 1914 “Sent to Sister Matthews, Casulaty Clearing Hopsital at Ypres – Mufflers, mitttens, socks, helmet.  Sent to Mrs Collingwood for R.N. – Mittens and mufflers.  Sent to Loyal North Lancashire Regiment – Mittens.”

Here is a taster from the magazine:

Page 25 A letter from Miss Hunter a volunteer at The Soldiers’ Coffee Stall, St. Sever Station, Rouen dated 3rd March 1915

“Here one gets really in touch with the men who have been out ever since the war started, and who have been up in the trenches several times. They come down here to the base camp for a rest, after having been out at the front.  They much appreciate anything we do for them.  They all say it is one of the best canteens, or, in fact, the best canteen they have come across over on this side.

Cigarettes they never seem to have too many of, and the amount of “Woodbines” that “Tommy” consumes in incredible.  We have to limit the packets to two or else we should always be out of stock.  Peppermints and cough lozenges they also love, and the latter are especially acceptable, as so many have bad coughs and colds with being out in the damp so much.

We have been very busy at the stall lately as a good many troops have been going through. Just before a train starts for the firing line, we have to feed as many as a thousand or fifteen hundred in about an hour.  It is what we call a “rush”, and one sees only a mass of khaki and a blur of faces, all clamouring for food or drinks on the other side of the counter, while one hands over sandwiches, cake, and coffee as quick or quicker than possible.

When Boy Scouts came through the other day, I was able to make them up a parcel of various things for them to take in the train with them.  It is a thirty-six hours’ journey to the front from here (very slow trains, of course).

I am on night duty this week, so am writing this at 3 a.m. – which is rather a slack time, as only a few men come in between 1 and 5 a.m.  However, we make a point of having the stall open night and day, so that the men know there is some place where they can always get a hot drink – of course, the men on guard in the station here come in at all hours.  Also, there is always a fire – or at least a hot stove – round which they can sit, and we provide as many illustrated papers as possible, and forms and tables, where they can read or write.  An officer told me the other day that a warm place where they can write is so much appreciated by the men.  We can never have too many illustrated papers – so if any of you have any you have read and finished with, they are most acceptable.”

Huyton College or, to give the school its correct title, The Liverpool College for Girls, Huyton, was founded in 1894 as an independent day and boarding school for girls and was a sister school to Liverpool College.   Huyton College merged with Liverpool College on 27th July 1993, shortly before its centenary.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Nurse Edith Munro, died 12th December 1916, aged 23

If you have a chance, read through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War.  There is a long list of women who served in some capacity during WW1 - these women have been overlooked for far too long but recognition is at last coming their way.

One of those to be commemorated on International Women's Day 8th March 2016 is Edith Hilda Munro, a nurse from London who died on 12th December 1916, aged 23.

Details of Nurse Munro's life and death are to be found by following these links :