Thursday, 29 June 2017

Dr Phoebe Chapple (1879 - 1967) – Australian; first woman doctor to receive the Military Medal

Born in Adelaide, Australia on 31st March 1879. Her father was headmaster of Prince Alfred School, Adelaide. Phoebe studied science, medicine and surgery at Adelaide University.
By the time WW1 broke out, Phoebe had gained a reputation as a skilled doctor, however the Australian government’s policies precluded her from military service.  In 1917, Phoebe travelled to Britain paying her own fare and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.   Initially Phoebe became House Surgeon at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot.

As time went on, the British Army overcame its initial reluctance to allow women doctors to treat the wounded and in November 1917 Phoebe was posted to France, attached to a unit of Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps.  During an enemy air raid near Abbeville in May 1918, Phoebe’s calmness and care for those wounded, regardless of personal danger, led to her being awarded the Military Medal.  She was the first woman doctor ever to receive this decoration for bravery.  She then served as a Major in Rouen and Le Havre.

After the war, Phoebe went back to Australia to continue working as a doctor.  She died on 24th March 1967.

Find out more about the women who served during the First World War and were killed or died and are buried in cemeteries in Belgium and France, see the book “Women Casualties of the Great War in Military Cemeteries Volume 1: Belgium and France”, available from

With thanks to Stanley Kaye for telling me about Phoebe.


The Military Medal, created on 25th March 1916, was a British Military Medal awarded to personnel of the British Army and other Services for bravery in battle on land.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Constance M. Hodges (1876 - 1917) - British

Constance M. Hodges of the Joint War Committee, died of blood poisoning contracted on duty on 23rd June 1917.  With thanks to Ciaran Conlan  for discovering this information.

Constance Mary Hodges was born in Liverpool in 1876.  At that time, Liverpool was in the county of Lancashire.   Her parents were James Hodges and his wife Sarah Margaret Hodges, nee Kent.  Constance had a sister, Maria M., born in 1861.  In 1881, the family were living in West Derby, Lancashire.  By 1891, James had died and Sarah and her daughters were living in Tranmere, Birkenhead, Wirral, Cheshire.
Constance joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment Joint War Committee in WW1.  She died on 23rd June 1917 at the age of 41 and was buried in. Ocklynge Cemetery in Eastbourne.  The inscription on her gravestone reads:  ‘In proud and loving memory of Constance Mary Hodges who on June 23rd 1917 gave her life for the wounded soldiers she nursed so devotedly’.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Winifred Shepherd (1882 – 1917) – British VAD

With thanks to Callan Chevin for finding Winifred and colouring her photograph for us. 

Winifred was born in Plymouth, Devon, UK in 1882. Her parents were Joseph James Shepherd and his wife Mary Elizabeth Shepherd, nee Anning.   Winifred had the following siblings:  John, b. 1874, Kathleen, b. 1875, Olive, b. 1877, Victor, b. 1888, Florence, b. 1889 and Muriel, b. 1892.   John, Kathleen and Olive became teachers.   Winifred joined a Voluntary Aid Detachment during the First World War and died on 17th June 1917 of an illness contracted while on duty. 

Winifred's name is not included on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War so I do not know where she was buried.


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886 - 1974)

Did you know we had a Princess Patricia in the British Royal Family?  Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth was one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.  She was born on 17th March 1886 in London.  Her Mother was Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia and her Father was Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (no wonder the Royal Family changed their name during the First World War).

Princess Patricia was a bridesmaid at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York – the future King George V and Queen Mary.

Patricia travelled with her family to Canada in 1911 when her Father was appointed Governor General of Canada.   Her portrait was on the One Dollar note of the Dominion of Canada issued in March 1917.

When the War broke out, Canada answered the call immediately. Montreal millionaire  Andrew Hamilton Gault – who had served with the Royal Canadian Rifles in South Africa – decided to found a unit of elite troops who had already experienced action. He raised a regiment of light infantry and asked permission to use Princess Patricia’s name.  So Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry came into being and the princess was their Colonel-in-Chief until her death.  

She designed and embroidered a banner for the regiment to carry into battle  Princess Patricia also designed the cap badge and collar badges for the regiment – depicting a single daisy, in honour of Hamilton Gault’s wife, Marguerite.

The Regiment attended and the band played at Princess Patricia’s wedding in 1919 to commoner The Hon. Alexander Ramsay, after which she gave up her royal title and became Lady Patricia Ramsey.

The Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Regiment still exists in Canada today, with their HQ in Edmonton – 
Photo:  Presenting the Colours