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.