Wednesday, 29 June 2016

"Women Casualties of the Great War in Military Cemeteries" - Volume 1 Belgium and France

This book is now available as a pdf download.  To find out more, follow this lin

The next volume - coming soon - will feature the British and Empire casualties buried in Cemeteries in The Balkans, Italy, Germany, Malta, India, Mesopotamia, Jerusalem and Russia.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Mabel St. Clair Stobart (1862 - 1954) - founder of the Women's Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps

Mabel Annie Boulton was born on 3rd February 1862 in Woolwich, the daughter of Sir Samuel Bagster Boulton and Sophia Louisa, nee Cooper.

Mabel married St. Clair Kelburn Stobart, a granite merchant, on 16th July 1884. The couple lived in Cornwall and had two children.  The family then moved to London. After spending time in Africa, Mabel’s husband died on 9th April 1908 while returning from Africa.

Mabel Annie joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry Corps – so called because its members were on horseback and provided a link providing initial treatment for wounded front-line troops before they went on to Field Hospitals.   When she returned to England from South Africa in 1907, Mrs Stobart founded the Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps. After the death of her first husband, Mabel married John Herbert Greenhalgh at Westminster in 1911, but she kept her former married name.

During the Second Balkan War, Mabel’s Convoy Corps served in Bulgaria.  The experiences of that unit demonstrated that women could not only be efficient war-time nurses but also surgeons, doctors, orderlies, administrators, drivers and interpreters. Mabel’s book “Women and War”, published by G. Bell & Sons, London, 1913, told the world of the unit’s experiences in Bulgaria. In his “Prefatory Note” to the book, Viscount Esher says “… it is impossible to resist Mrs Stobart’s plea for the reconsideration of the place assigned to women in the scheme of National Defence.”

Mrs Stobart was rather scathing in her criticism of the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment scheme, which she felt “played with women” and did not given them either the tasks or the recognition they deserved.  Both Mrs Stobart and Viscount Esher resigned their membership of the Red Cross for that reason. 

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 Major in charge, he replied “You are English and this is a War of annihilation”. (page 8 “The Flaming Sword.)

Mabel managed to escape and returned to England where she re-organised the unit and offered their services to the French who asked her to set up a hospital in Cherbourg.  After four months of treating wounded soliders, Mrs Stobart heard that a typhus epidemic in Serbia meant they needed urgent medical care so she offered her services to the Serbian Relief Fund and organized a hospital in Serbia.   After the war, Mabel published an account of her war-time adventures under the title “The Flaming Sword in Serbia and Elsewhere”.

By her own account, Mabel must have been a prolific writer because she refers to one of her plays being performed at a First World War fund-raising charity event in Cherbourg.  

Mabel died in Bournemouth, on 7th December 1954 aged 93.


“The Flaming Sword in Serbia and elsewhere” published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1916

“War and Women”, published by G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., London, 1913.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Dr Gladys Miall Smith (1888 - 1991) – British doctor

Gladys Miall Smith was born in Highgate, London in 1888.  Her parents were George Augustus Smith, who had a hat making business in the City of London, and his wife Hilda Caroline, nee Miall.  Gladys was the eldest of four children. She had a sister, Dorothy and two brothers, Eric and Arnold.  Sadly both brothers were killed in the First World War. Gladys' mother was on committees in St Pancras and a governor and teacher at North London Collegiate School for Girls.

After her education at North London Collegiate School, in 1907 Gladys and her sister went to Lausanne to live with a Swiss family and improve their French. Gladys went on to study at University College London, where she obtained a First Class Degree in Science.

In 1912 Gladys enrolled to study medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women. As part of her medical experience, she spent 3 months at a Dressing Station in France in 1914.  She qualified in 1916 and worked as House Surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and studied Obstetrics at the Royal Free Hospital. 

On 26th June 1918, Gladys went to work at the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Royaumont Abbey, France, looking after French soldiers who were wounded on the Western Front.  She remained there until January 1919 working with Miss (Dr.) Frances Ivens, the Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. Gladys was in charge of the fracture ward and assisted in operations and gave anaesthetics. Gladys wrote in her family autobiography that all the staff were female except the male cook who had been chef to the King of Spain.

After the war, Gladys became House Physician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked as Medical Officer of Health for St. Pancras Borough Council in charge of maternity and child welfare.   She met Dr. Hubert John Burgess Fry, a Pathologist who worked on cancer research at the Royal Marsden Hospital.  Dr. Fry, known as John, had been a Captain with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) during the First World War.  They were married in July 1921.  At that time, married women were not permitted to work and Dr. Miall Smith was dismissed from her post. Several women's emancipation groups took up her case but to no avail.

In 1922, Richard Reiss invited Dr. Fry and his wife to Welwyn Garden City which was being built at that time.   They became the City’s first doctors.   John Fry died in 1930 from an infection contracted from his research work. This was before antibiotics and he could not be saved. Gladys was left with three small children.   By then she was in charge of maternity and child welfare at Welwyn Garden City but had to resume her practice as a G.P.   After her retirement, Gladys travelled extensively as a locum doctor and spent nearly two years in Ghana working in a maternity hospital.  She also worked at a hospital in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where her job involved driving a jeep to outlying places.

Dr. Gladys Miall Smith died in 1991 at the age of 102. 

Photographs supplied by Dr. Maill Smith's daughter: Dr. Miall Smith in her WW1 uniform and at Royaument Abbey Hospital in France.


Information kindly supplied by Gladys’s daughter Ann Fox with additional information from “Angels of Mercy:  A Women’s Hospital on the Western Front 1914-1918” by Eileen Crofton (Birlinn, 2013) – by kind permission of Birlinn Limited.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mary Janet Climpson (c.1884 - 1940) – Salvation Army officer

With thanks to Sue Robinson of Wenches in Trenches for finding Mary.  I am still trying to find a complete biography but in the meantime, 
Mary Janet Gibson was born in around 1884 to John and Ann Gibson.

In September 1911, Mary married Herbert A. Climpson in Durham.  Herbert reached the rank of Captain and Mary reached the rank of Brigadier.  Together they ran the Salvation Army Citadel in Brierfield, near Nelson in East Lancashire.

During WW1, Mary worked in various Salvation Army centres, which offered very similar facilities to the YMCA Huts.   During the Second World War, Mary and her husband were based in the British National Salvation Army Headquarters which was in Arras.  When the Germans advanced in May 1940, they were told to leave and travelled by road.  The joined a military convoy which was bombed by German planes and Mary was killed by shrapnel.   Her body was initially buried in a field  was transferred after the end of the Second World War to where it lies today in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery in France.

The Salvation Army was set up in the East End of London in 1867 by a Methodist Minister called William Booth and his wife Catherine.  It was initially known as the East London Christian Mission.  Representatives were sent to help the soldiers during the Boer War and in 1902 the Naval and Military League came into being - the forerunner to the Red Shield Centres which came into being in the Second World War.


Monday, 6 June 2016

Dr. Mary Lapham (1860 – 1936) – American WW1 doctor

Information posted by Elena Branca who works for the Red Cross on the Facebook Page Women of the Great War.

Mary Emily Lapham (1860-1936) was born in Northville, Michigan, America.  Her parents were Jared S. and Martha Gregory Lapham.    Mary worked in her father's bank until sometime in the early 1890s. After her father's death, she travelled to Highlands, North Carolina, where she stayed for four years before purchasing fifteen acres of land on nearby Satulah Mountain. There she built her home which she named "Faraway."

While in Highlands, Lapham observed the lack of medical attention received by the local population, especially women. Lapham's observations finalized her decision to study medicine. She left North Carolina to attend Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, from which she graduated in 1901. She then travelled to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to advanced her medical studies.

After returning from Europe, Dr. Lapham settled at "Faraway" with her friends Caroline Barker and Edith Bloomer Dougall, along with Edith's adopted daughter, Valerie Ashton-Dougall. The ladies were especially interested in music, particularly opera, and would often travel to Europe for operatic festivals.

In 1908, Dr. Lapham built Highlands Camp Sanatorium, a facility for the treatment of tuberculosis, where she specialized in pneumotherapy. The hospital operated for ten years before it burned down in January of 1918.

In March 1918, Dr. Lapham set sail for France on a Red Cross Medical Mission. She was stationed at La Rochelle, France, were she set up a dispensary and a hospital for refugees. When the dispensary closed after the end of the First World War, Dr. Lapham was reassigned to another Red Cross mission.

From January to March 1919, Dr. Lapham travelled throughout Brittany, France, holding mother/baby health clinics. In April of that year, she was appointed physician to the Red Cross's Czecho-Slovakian Commission, and was assigned to Prague, then Petrovatz. From August to September 1919, she assisted the Red Cross in taking five hundred refugee children into the Tatra Mountains to a health camp. 
Dr. Lapham returned to the United States in early February of 1920.  Little is known of what Dr. Lapham did after her return. Through the information contained in her letters, she may have taken a job with the G.W. Carnrick Company in New York City.

Dr. Mary Lapham died at her winter home in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1936, at the age of 75.

With many thanks to Elena and to With thanks to Wendy |
For pointing out that Dr. Mary L apham was born in Northville, Michigan, USA.