Thursday, 23 February 2017

Success for Sue

Sue Robinson set up Wenches in Trenches The Roses of No Man’s Land to commemorate all the women of the First World War, in memory of her Grandmother who was a WW1 nurse.  Sue, who travels extensively giving talks and demonstrations about the role of women in WW1, as well as raising funds for memorials to them, has succeeded in getting the name of one of those women onto the War Memorial in her home town. 

Among the first journalists to write up Kitty's story from Sue's account was Plymouth Herald newspaper's Live News Editor Max Channon.  Kitty joined the Royal Army Service Corps Canteens Division and served in France.  She was taken ill and died on 27th February 1917, aged just 19.  Originally from Ireland, Kitty lived in England when war broke out and, like so many women the world over, she wanted to do her bit.  Kitty was buried in Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, which is five kilometres north of Boulogne in France.  In that Cemetery you will find twelve other women who died serving during WW1, including that of Rubie Pickard, one of the oldest volunteers, who died in April 1916 at the age of 67.  Rubie, who lived in France, was a volunteer working for the newspaper department that supplied British newspapers to hospitals in France during the conflict.

Well done to Sue Robinson and Team Wenches in Trenches.  To find out more about Sue’s on-going work and/or to contribute please check out the website http://www.wenchesintrenches.co.uk/  The photo shows the commemorative bench and memorial to the women of WW1 organised by Sue at the Lochnagar Crater in France.

Another Sue who campaigned for the recognition of the role of women in WW1 was the late Sue Light, whose legacy is her wonderful website http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/ .  We know from Scarlet Finders that there were special hostels and accommodation for relatives able to travel to visit ill or wounded relatives who were serving on the Western Front.   The diary of another British girl – Betty Stevenson from Yorkshire (whose name is on the War Memorial in Harrogate) – also tells us about the visits of civilian relatives to the sick and wounded.  Betty was a volunteer with the YMCA who worked in France helping out in YMCA huts and driving visitors.  Betty was killed on the night of 30th May 1918 when a German plane returning from a bombing raid to Etaples in France jettisoned his bombs in a field.  Betty Stevenson is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, which is 27 kilometres south of Boulogne.  In that Cemetery you will find the graves of twelve other women who died or were killed while serving in WW1.  There are lots of women buried in British and Commonwealth and American Cemeteries in France which a lot of people don’t seem to realise.  You can find some of them, along with brief biographical details where available in a book, the details of which are here: http://www.poshupnorth.com/2016/04/women-casualties-of-great-war-in.html

Travelling from Britain to France during the war was hazardous as submarines, mines and adverse weather conditions caused ships to sink and lives to be lost.

An interesting account of the UK ports in use during WW1 can be found here:  http://forgottenwrecks.maritimearchaeologytrust.org/forgottenwrecks/casestudywrecks/ports-in-ww1

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