Sunday, 12 March 2017

Margaret Smith Dewar (1883? - 1917) - British Staff Nurse from Scotland

Margaret was born in Scotland in 1883, although according to the Census records I have been able to find, she may have been born in 1879.  Her parents were William and Jane Dewar and she had four brothers – John (b. 1884), William L. (b. 1882), Peter (b. 1886) and James (b. 1889).

Margaret must have trained as a nurse because she served with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals at Royaumont Abbey in France from 16th August 1015 until 5th February 1916.  And as she is commemorated on a plaque in the Elder Memorial Chapel of the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, she may well have trained there.  She also worked at Brighton Hospital.

Margaret is also commemorated on the War Memorial in Gemiston, Transvaal, South Africa, near Johannesburg, so it seems the family may have emigrated there at some stage.   She is also remembered in a book entitled “Heroes of South Africa” and her mother's address as her next of kin was in Gemiston, South Africa.

Margaret joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and served with the 37th Hospital, which was established in June 1916 in Vertekop (now called Skydra), near Manastir in Salonika, attached to the Serbian Army.   The Field Hospital at Vertekop was clearly marked with large red crosses and was quite a long way from the Front Line.   A German bombing raid was carried out on 12th March 1917 on Monastir and also targeted the hospital.  Margaret was one of the nruses killed while attempting to protect patients. She was Mentioned in Despatches for her bravery.  
Nursing Sister Dodds, of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, who trained at Willesden Infirmary, was wounded during the attack, and Nursing Sisters Ethel Garrett and Annie Rebecca Colhoun were awarded the Military Medal for their bravery during the attack.

Mary and Margaret were buried with full military honours in Vertekop. After the war, their bodies were moved to Mikra British Cemetery in Kalamaria, Greece, where eleven other nurses who died during WW1 are also buried.

Margaret was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.  The medal was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts. The Croix de Guerre was also awarded to foreign military forces allied to France.

The Croix de Guerre may either be awarded as an individual or unit award to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy. The medal is awarded to those who have been "mentioned in dispatches", meaning a heroic deed or deeds were performed meriting a citation from an individual's headquarters unit. The unit award of the Croix de Guerre with palm was issued to military units whose members performed heroic deeds in combat and were subsequently recognized by headquarters.

Photograph and additional information about the Croix de Guerre kindly provided by Steve Dewar, Margaret’s Great-Nephew.

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