Sunday, 31 July 2016

Jane A. Delano (1862 – 1919) – American nurse

From Mark D. Van Ells author of the book “America and WW1 A Traveller’s Guide” published by Interlink Books, Northampton, Massachusetts, 2015 and reproduced here with his kind permission.

Behind the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC is a quiet, shady courtyard, and in that refuge from the hubbub of the U.S. capital is a beautiful memorial to Jane A. Delano and the 296 American nurses who died during the First World War.

Delano, a relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born in Montour Falls, New York in in 1862 and graduated from the nursing program at New York City's Bellevue Hospital in 1886. Her nursing career was long and distinguished, and today she might be considered a workaholic. She went to Jacksonville, Florida in 1888 to care for victims of a yellow fever epidemic, and from there she was off to Arizona during a typhoid outbreak.

In the 1890s she served as nursing superintendent at University Hospital in Philadelphia, and then ran a centre for wayward girls in New York City. From 1902 to 1906 she was in charge of training nurses at Bellevue. Her association with the Red Cross began during the Spanish-American War of 1898, and in 1909 she became superintendent of the fledgling U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She held that position until 1912, and thereafter devoted her energies to building the Red Cross nursing program.

During The First World War, Delano worked tirelessly to recruit nurses for the war effort, and more than 21,000 signed up to serve. Shortly after the Armistice in November 1918, Delano travelled to France to visit the women she recruited, but fell ill and died at the U.S. Army hospital at Savenay, France on 15th April 1919. Of the 296 American nurses who perished during the Great War, none died as a result of combat. Nearly all of them - like Delano - died of disease as they tended to the sick and wounded Doughboys in American Expeditionary Force hospitals in France.  Those nurses are buried in American cemeteries in France.

Delano was initially buried in a temporary cemetery at Savenay in Department of Loire-Atlantique in western France but her body was transferred to Arlington in America.    Mark D. Van Ells

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Minnie Wood, OBE, MM, RRC (1880 - ?) - British nurse

Minnie Wood was born in Birstall, Batley, West Yorkshire on 14th October 1880. Her father, Charles W. Wood, was a woollen dyer in a local mill but later became a music teacher and a confectioner. Her mother, Sarah Officer Wood, nee Hunter, had been a domestic servant and came from Lincolnshire.

Her brothers all died in infancy and she had one younger sister, Elsie.  Educated at a school run by the Miss Sandbaches in Hull, Minnie trained as a nurse at Salford Royal Hospital from 1905 - 1908. She stayed at the hospital and was promoted to Staff Nurse and then Sister, joining the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1912.

During the First World War, Minnie nursed in Flanders - in Casualty Clearing Stations, in a Field Ambulance and in Stationary Hospitals.   She was awarded the Military Medal, one of only 146 nurses to receive this medal during WW1. It was awarded with the following citation:

“For most courageous devotion to duty. On the 21st August 1917, this lady was Sister-in-Charge at No.44 Casualty Clearing Station, Brandhoek, when it was shelled at short intervals from 11 a.m. till night, one Sister being killed. This lady never lost her nerve for a moment and during the whole of a most trying day, carried out her duties with the greatest steadiness and coolness. By her work and example she greatly assisted in the speedy evacuation of the patients and the transfer of the Sisters” (“The London Gazette”, 17th October 1917).

This was during the Battle of Passchendaele on the Western Front. Sadly one of the nurses in her team - Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler - was fatally injured during the bombardment and it is said, died in Sister Wood’s arms.

Minnie was also awarded the OBE and Royal Red Cross (2nd and 1st class) and mentioned in dispatches three times.

At the end of the war she was sent to work in Germany.  Found to be suffering from ‘debility’ at a medical board in July 1919, Minnie was sent to a hydropathic establishment in Ilkley, Yorkshire for a month.   She resumed her duties in the military hospitals in Devonport and then Lichfield. She was posted to Malta in 1922 before being sent to Belfast in 1923.

Minnie resigned from the army citing ‘private’ reasons concerning ‘only family affairs’ in January 1924. Her mother died the same year and her father three years later so she probably went home to nurse them.

It has not been possible to find out what happened to her after that – research continues.

Minnie’s WW1 medals are on display at the University of Salford. One of their new simulation laboratories was recently named after her, together with Edith Cavell (who also has links to Salford) at a special event on Nurses’ Day.

 Information and photograph of Sister Minnie Wood kindly supplied by Claire Chatterton.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Nicole Girard-Mangin (1878 – 1919) – French WW1 doctor

Nicole Mangin was born in Paris on 11th October 1878. Her parents were from Véry-en-Argonne in the Meuse Region of France, where her father was a school teacher.  After a difference of opinion with the principal of the school in which he taught, he moved the family to Paris and opened a business selling Champagne.  Nicole had three brothers - Maurice, Emile and Marcel.   

Nicole studied medicine in Paris from 1896 and in 1899 married André Girard, whose family had a vineyard that produced Champagne in Saumur.   They had one son – Etienne.   Nicole worked with her husband producing champagne until they divorced in 1903 and Nicole went back to studying medicin, writing her Thesis on carcinogenic toxins.   In 1910, she represented France at the Congress of Vienna with Albert Robin.  In 1914 Nicole opened a TB clinic in Beajon, researching into cancer as well as TB.

 When the First World War broke out, Nicole volunteered her services as a doctor to the French Army, using the name Dr. Girard-Mangin and initially worked at the Beaujon Hospital in Paris.  She was called up - possible due to a civil servant mistaking the name Girard for that of a man - and the authorities were startled to find a woman doctor.  As this was the first instance of a woman doctor in the French Army, the problem of her uniform arose.  Nicole posted to the quiet town of Verdun, where she put was in charge of Typhoid patients.

Verdun did not remain a peaceful outpost for long!   On 21st February 1016 when Verdun came under heavy shelling, Nicole was wounded slightly in the face but headed the convoy taking the wounded to safety.   In December 1916, Nicole was promoted to the rank of Major and was posted to Paris where she was in charge of the Edith Cavell Hospital in rue Desnouettes.  

After the war, Nicole joined the Red Cross and travelled around giving talks on the role of women during the First World War.   She died in Paris of an overdose on 6th June 1919, having never received any medals, awards or recognition for her war service.


Saturday, 23 July 2016

British women who died while serving in Italy during The First World War

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a List of women who died serving during WW1 – here are those who are buried in cemeteries in Italy:


FERGUSON, Staff Nurse, RACHEL. Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. Died of pneumonia, 26 June 1918. Daughter of John Stewart Ferguson and Annie Ferguson, of Lanebrooke House, Ballygoney, Moneymore, Co. Derry. Grave Reference: II. B. 7.


BAILEY, Nurse, W. 38th Stationary Hosp., Voluntary Aid Detachment. 23 September 1918. Grave Reference: I. B. 36.

WRIGHT, Staff Nurse, HANNAH ELIZABETH. Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. Died of pneumonia, 22 October 1918. Eldest daughter of John and Emma Wright, of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Grave Reference: I. C. 23.

Here is a link to WW1 cemeteries in Italy:

Photo:  Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson, found by William Bulcke of the Facebook Page Women of the Great War.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Gabrielle de Monge (1883 – 1929) – First World War Belgian Resistance Worker

As today is the National Day of Belgium (21st July), I thought it appropriate to include a Belgian woman whose bravery was outstanding during the First World War.

Gabrielle was born in 1883 in Ohey, near Namur.  Gabrielle lived at the Chateau de Wallay-Reppe in Ohey.
During the First World War, Gabrielle de Monge, who had the title the Vicomtesse de Franceau, helped to evacuate French soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines.   The soldiers were conducted to safety, using a chain of stately homes owned by Belgium’s aristocracy and then guided over the border into neutral Holland.  In all, Gabrielle saved the lives over 80 soldiers.

However, on her thirteenth journey with a group of French soldiers in January 1916, Gabrielle was apprehended, arrested and put in prison in Liege.  Transferred to Brussels, she was tried and sentenced to three years’ hard labour before being sent to the Siegburg Prison which was near Cologne in Germany.  

After the war, Gabrielle was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur medal and wrote about her experiences in a book entitled “Les heures tragiques de ma vie” (The tragic hours of my life), which she had published. 

Sadly, Gabrielle never recovered from the harsh treatment she received during her time as a prisoner of war and she died in a Convent in Belgium at the age of 46.

There is a Place Gabrielle de Monge in her home town of Ohey in Belgium dedicated to her memory.


With many thanks to Andrew Morgan who kindly sent me a copy of “Did you say Belgian Heroes?! Episode 2 WW1 and WW2” published by the Belgian Tourist Office, where you will find Gabrielle’s story on page 53.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Mabel Florence Lethbridge, OBE (1900 - 1968) - British businesswoman

Mabel was born on 7th July 1900 in Luccombe, Somerset.   Her parents were John Acklund Musgrove Lethbridge (1869 – 1934) and his wife, American-born Florence Martin (Mary) nee Cooper (? – 1931).  John Lethbridge came from a family of wealthy Somerset landed gentry.

Mabel’s father worked abroad and the family travelled extensively with him, visiting South Africa, Kenya, Italy and Ireland.  He went bankrupt in 1907 and left his family who returned to England.

Mabel was educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for girls in Hertfordshire.   In 1917, she became a VAD and worked in a hospital in Bradford, Yorkshire.   Mabel then falsified her age in order to work at the National Munitions Filling Factory in Hayes, Middlesex, the minimum age at the time being 18.

On 23rd October 1917, an explosion at the factory killed several co-workers and Mabel lost her left leg, sustained serious injuries to the other leg and was temporarily blinded.   After recovering, she was not allowed to claim a disability pension because she had lied about her age!   Mabel had many further operations on her right leg.

After the war, Mabel worked first as a maid then began entertaining theatre and cinema queues with a barrel organ.  She also rented out seats to people waiting in queues.

In 1922 Mabel married Noel Eric Sproule Kalenberg and they had a daughter – Suzanne.   The marriage did not last and they divorced.  Mabel began an affair with artist Colin Gill who painted her portrait and she gave him space in her home for his studio.   Noticing a need for rented accommodation, Mabel opened an estate agency in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea.

During the Second World War both Mabel and Suzanne volunteered for the Ambulance Service and worked in London during the Blitz.
Source:  Wikipedia;  photo taken by Colin Gill, artist.

Mabel moved to St. Ives in Cornwall in 1945.   She died in London following yet another operation and is buried in Longstone Cemetery, Cabis Bay, Cornwall.   Mabel had three volumes of her biography published – “Fortune Grass” in 1934, “Against the Tide” in 1936 and “Homeward Bound” in 1967 by G. Bles Publishers, London.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Lady Mabel Annie Brassey Egerton, CBE (1865 - 1927) – Ran The Coffee Shop on Rouen Station in France in WW1

The Coffee Shop at Rouen Station
(Photo courtesy of )
NOTE:  I have found another spelling for Mabel – Mabelle – which causes some confusion.

Lady Mabel Annie Brassie was born in 1865.  Her father was Thomas Brassey, first Earl Brassey and her mother was Anna, nee Alnutt.  Her siblings were Thomas Allnutt (1863 – 1919), Constance Alberta (1868 - 1873) and Muriel Agnes Brassey (1872 – 1930).

Mabelle married Charles Augustus Egerton on 17th April 1888 and they had four children – Henry Jack, Hugh Sydney, Hester Joan and Edward Brassey Egerton.  The family lived at Moutfield Court, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

Edward joined the Army in 1909 and was killed on 1st September 1916. He was buried in Habarcq Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.   Lady Mabel’s husband, Charles Augustus Egerton, died in 1912.

Lady Egerton was awarded a CBE in 1918 for her services during the First World War.   She died on 18th February 1927.

According to Sue Light of Scarlet Finders, in the autumn of 1914 Mabel and her father drove in their car to Rouen in France with supplies for the Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance.  While they were there, they were asked to supply hot water so that troops passing through Rouen station could have hot drinks.   From a small beginning with an empty goods shed and some tables, Lady Mabel Egerton’s Coffee Shop became one of the largest of such ventures on the Western Front.   In 1917 it was taken over by the Church Army.  

Female Poet of the First World War May Wedderburn Cannan worked at the Coffee Shop in Rouen during WW1 and wrote a poem about her time there:


Dame Lucy Innes Branfoot (1863 - 1916) – British WW1 volunteer ‘Lady Helper’

Lucy Innes Carter was born in Madras in India on 19th November 1863.   Her parents were Henry Robert Pasley Carter, who was a Chief Engineer of the Madras Railway, and his wife Bessie, nee Hartrick.  Lucy had a sister called Ethel Margaret and a sister called Isabel.  Isabel apparently served as an Army nurse in Africa and Greece during WW1.

In 1886, Lucy married India’s Surgeon General, Colonel Sir Arthur Mudge Branfoot (1849 – 1914) in India and the couple had two children – Ruth and Dennis.  Lucy was Sir Arthur’s second wife, his first wife – Alice, nee Stewart, having died in childbirth.

They returned to Britain to live.  After the death of Sir Arthur in Folkestone in 1914, Lucy volunteered to go to France and help out at Lady Mabelle Egerton's Coffee Stall at Rouen St Sever railway station in France, near where there were many field hospitals.  It seems likely that the Branfoots and the Egertons knew each other.  Lucy died there of bronchitis on the 16th March 1916 aged only 52 years and is buried amongst many soldiers in St Sever Cemetery, France.

Information kindly supplied by Colin Branfoot Reeves.

Violet Jessop (1887 – 1971) – British stewardess and WW1 VAD

Violet was born on 1st October 1887, the first of nine children born to William and Katherine Jessop from Ireland.   When she was 21, Violet joined the Royal Mail shipping Line as a stewardess.  In 1910 she joined the White Star Line and on 10th April 1912 she was one of the stewardesses aboard the RMS ‘Titanic’.  Violet, who saved the life of a baby on board the "Titanic", was one of the survivors picked up by the ‘Carpathia’.  She went on to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the British Red Cross as a stewardess aboard hospital ships during the First World War.

Violet was aboard HMHS ‘Britannic’ a White Star liner converted into a hospital ship when she exploded on 21st November 1916.   Violet was injured but survived.

In 1920 Violet returned to work for the White Star Line and later joined the Red Star Line before going back to the Royal Mail Line.

In 1950 Violet retired to Great Ashfield in Suffolk where she died on 5th May 1971.


Olive Edis (1876 – 1955) – British WW1 official photographer

Mary Olive Edis was born on 3rd September 1876 in Marylebone, London in 1876.  Her father was a professor of Gynaecology at University College Hospital.

Olive and her sister set up photographic studios in Sheringham in Norfolk, Farnham in Surrey and in Ladbroke Grove, London.   By 1912 she was working on colour photography.

During the First World War, Olive was an official war photographer. She was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum at the end of the war to travel to the Western Front to take photographs of the work being done there by British women.

In 1928 in Paddington, Olive married Edwin Henry Galsworthy, a cousin of the poet/writer John Glasworthy.   She died on 28th December 1955.

Olive’s photographic studio in Sheringham was in South Street.   Copies of her work are held in the Museum at Sheringham.

The Imperial War Museum has put some of Olive’s photographs on-line for us all to see

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, Wikipedia

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Italian Women Doctors in the First World War (from Elena Branca of the Italian Red Cross)

Italy joined forces with the Allies and declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 23rd May 1915 and on Germany on 29th August 1916 and fought alongside British soldiers on the Italian Front during the First World War.

Elena Branca of the Italian Red Cross has very kindly sent me a copy of her book about Italian women doctors who served in the Italian Army in the First World War:
“Dottoresse al Fronte? La C.R.I e le donne medico nella Grande Guerra:  Anna Dado Saffiotti et le altri” (Doctors at the Front?  The Italian Red Cross and women doctors of the Great War:  Anna Dado Saffiotti and the others) published in 2015 by the Associazione Nazionale della Sanita Militare Italiana Sezione di Torino ISBN 978-88-940159-2-8

C.R.I. = Croce Rossa Italiana

My Italian is rather shaky but the book is beautifully illustrated with photographs and copies of correspondence, diplomas, record cards, certificates, etc.  On page 48 is a reprint of a section of an article that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 176 which states:

“…it is announced that, owing to the shortage of male physicians in Italy, the Italian minister of war has recently called upon Italian women physicians to volunteer for military service.  Graduates of over five years’ standing will receive the rank of sub-lieutenant, those of between five and fifteen years will receive the rank of lieutenant and those of over fifteen years that of captain.”

As far as I am aware, the recognition of the same ranks for women and men took a lot longer in the British Army’s Royal Army Medical Corps.

The list of women in the book begins with

Anna Dado Saffiotti (1890 – 1982) and then there are

Chemist Maria Clotilde Bianchi from Turin

Dr. Matilde Bonnet

Clelia Lollini

Eloisa Gardella

Maria Predari

Mary Messere

Elena Fambri

Filomena Coruini – appointed to the 9th Army Corps for service at the front

Maria Montessori

Luisa Ancona

Nella Pecchioli

Amalia Della Rouere-Moretti

Teresita Sandeski Scelba

Emilia Palmeggiani

Limba Neumark

Livia Lollini

Laura Negri Luzzani

Nella Centanni Bernabe

Natalia Tancredi Popa

Marcellina Corio

Augusta Delu

Ida Grazia Norzi

Amalia Lusso

Paola Zappa

Elda Zulian

Maria Massardo

Laura Mazzone

Matilde Colombo

Dina Evarista Clerico

Etel Cogan in Milani

Lina Narizzano

Clotilda Maria Bianchi

Bice Finzi

Valeria Goio

Amalia Canaveri

Gemma Narizzano

Elisa Dotta

Gugliemina Forza

Vera Malani

Amalia Lenti

Clelia Marongin

Carmelita Rossi Casagrandi

Luisa Levi

According to one of the reference books referred to by Elena - “Sorrelle in grigio verde” (sisters in grey-green) by Roberto Manno – the Italian Red Cross officially adopted the grey-green uniform for personnel in the war zones in 1917.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Commemorative First World War Exhibitions

In response to recent enquiries regarding our commemorative First World War exhibitions, our exhibition panels have been specially designed and are produced in such a way that venues wanting to hold exhibitions can print them out as they wish, depending on space. We find that A2 or A3 works well but it does depend on the space available. Blackpool Library printed some of the panels in a very large format for their exhibition in 2014.

The panels are sent out free of charge as pdfs to anyone wishing to organise an exhibition. We can send the list of those researched so far to anyone interested in organising an exhibition - the headings covered are Female Poets, Inspirational Women, Fascinating Facts and Forgotten (male) Poets - each of which has a corresponding weblog.   There are also books containing the same information as the exhibition panels.  So far we have Volume 1 of Female Poets of the First World War, Volume 1 of Inspirational Women which is called 'No Woman's Land' and, recently arrived the book of the Somme Poets exhibition with some of the poets who were on The Somme during WW1.

If you know of anyone who would like to organise an exhibition, just get in touch.

Photograph:  How Blackpool Library printed out some of the panels for their 2014 exhibition.