Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Book Review: “The Mystery of Isabella and the String of Beads: A Woman Doctor in World War 1” by Katrina Kirkwood, published by Loke Press, Norwich, UK, 2016.

Having been researching the role of women during WW1 for the past six years for a series of commemorative exhibitions, I was thrilled when Katrina Kirkwood approached me via this weblog to ask me to review her book about her Grandmother.  Katrina, a former medical research scientist, is the author of this wonderful book about her Grandmother, Isabella Stenhouse (1887 - 1952).  

Isabella trained as a doctor in the early 20th Century, following in the footsteps of one of my childhood heroines, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, whose bravery and determination to become a doctor paved the way for women to study medicine.  Working only with a small box of medical equipment, some old family photographs and a string of beads that belonged to her Grandmother, in a feat of detective work worthy of the great Lord Peter Wimsey, Katrina weaves the story of her grandmother’s service as a doctor during the First World War.

I don’t want to give too much away because you really need to read this book, but I particularly enjoyed reading about Katrina’s journeys to the places in which Isabella worked during WW1. In each place Katrina describes imagining what those places would have looked like in WW1 and what her Grandmother would have done and how she would have felt.   She also has some very interesting interviews with local inhabitants who try to help solve Isabella’s WW1 mysteries.

I also like the way Katrina chose to involve modern women medical students, women doctors and women medics with the British Royal Army Medical Corps who have seen active service.  This helps to establish how Isabella might have felt when she was treating the wounded.

On p. 206, I was interested to read that In 1913, 4% of the 98 medical students at Edinburgh University were women;  by 1918, the number had risen and 28% of the 1,700 odd students were women.  And there was a surprisingly heart-warming story of a French soldier who was to have his foot amputated.  Further on in the book, when Isabella was posted to Malta, you will find more fascinating information, for instance about enemy Prisoners of War detained on the island.  Mention of the names of other women who were doctors during WW1 and some of those who were nurses is also extremely interesting.

I was also interested to see that Katrina  had visited Hadra Cemetery in Alexandria, Egypt - see post on 12th December 1917 regarding the loss of HMS "Osmanieh".

I do hope Katrina will give me permission to write up an exhibition panel about Isabella.  Exhibition panels are sent out via e-mail free of charge to any venue wishing to host an exhibition. Topics covered are Female Poets, Inspirational Women, Fascinating Facts (such as how the Laughing Cow got her name) and Forgotten (male) Poets.  For anyone interested, I can supply the list of panels researched so far.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Staff Nurse Annie Winifred Munro of the South African Military Nursing Service

In 2014 I posted the following information about Staff Nurse Annie Winifred Munro of the South African Military Nursing Service.  I can now add a photograph of Annie, thanks to Sue Robinson of the Group Wenches in Trenches, the Roses of No Man's Land.

I just found this entry on page 56 of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of WW1:

Staff Nurse Annie Winifred Munro from Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, a member of The South African Military Nursing Service who died on 6th April 1917, at the age of 26. Annie was the daughter of William and Ellen Munro, of St. Patrick's Rd., Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, Natal. She was buried in Glasgow Western Necropolis - Grave Reference: B. 1881A

By strange coincidence, my aunt was born on 6th April 1921.  According to my Mother, her Father returned from his service with the Royal Field Artillery in WW1 around Christmas 1919.  Audrey served in the  Women's Royal Naval Service during the Second World War and was at Fort Southwick, Portsmouth on D-Day.   She met and married a soldier from South Africa and went to live in Pietermaritzburg after the war where she died in the spring of 1948.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Emily Ada Pickford (1881 - 1919) - music teacher - entertainer during WW1

Remembering EMILY ADA PICKFORD, a music teacher from Penarth, Glamorgan, Wales, who died in a tragic motoring accident in France on 7th February 1919.

Emily was born in Wales in 1881.  Her parents were William Henry Pearn, a baker from Penarth, and his wife Emma Jane, nee Sadler.
Emily became a music teacher and Sundayschool teacher.  In 1907 she married Ernest Fergusson Pickford and they went to live in Windsor Rd., Penarth, Glamorgan.

Emily joined Lena Ashwell's Concert Party during the First World War.  Lena, an actress, theatre owner and producer, set up these touring groups to go and entertain the troops in the Western Front from 1915 – 1919, under the auspices of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) and with the patronage of Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, one of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren. 
Concert party groups usually consisted of between six and seven people - singers, a musician and an entertainer such as a ventriloquist.  On the night of 7th February 1919 one of the groups had been entertaining troops in Guoy, a village in the north of France in the Departement of Aisne.  The group were in two cars travelling back to their headquarters in Abeville along the tow-path beside the River Somme, when there was an unfortunate accident.  One of the cars slid on the icy tow-path and Emily and Frederick Taylor, a baritone singer with the group, drowned.  It is worth remembering that cars, tyres and brakes were not as sophisticated in 1919 as they are in the 21st Century.

Emily was buried in Abeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Abeville, Somme, France.  The Grave Reference is V. G. 23.  She is also remembered on the Memorial to the Men of Penarth who died in the First World War in Alexandra Park, Penarth.
When you have time, do look at this more extensive account of the accident:  http://www.powell76.talktalk.net/mrsemilypickford.htm

Original source:  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World war

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Hertfordshire in WW1

An exhibition about the First World War opens at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin in  Hertfordshire on 16th February 2018.   To find out more please see the Museum's website http://www.britishschoolsmuseum.co.uk/page/HertsatWar

The British Schools Museum
41 - 42, Queen Street
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

To coincide with that exhibition, I went through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War looking for Hertfordshire links, with the following results:


ROSKELL, Nurse, GERTRUDE LUCINDA, 5540. 17th Gen. Hosp., Voluntary Aid Detachment. Died of appendicitis, 31 October 1915. Age 38. Daughter of John Burrow Roskell and Gertrude Roskell, of Cronkley, Knebworth, Herts. Grave Reference: Q. 538.


POPE, Nursing Sister, CICELY MARY LEIGH. Voluntary Aid Detachment. 25 June 1921. Age 31. Daughter of Frances A. Pope, of 12A, Kensington Mansions, Earls Court, London, and the late Rev. W. A. Pope. Born at Redbourn, Herts. Grave Reference: C. 2.


HARROLD, Worker, (Waitress), HELEN CHARLOTTE, 50021. Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps. 29 October 1918. Grave Reference: YB. 46.


HUDSON, Member, FRANCES LOUISA, 18072. No. 4 Stores Depot, Women's Royal Air Force. Died of sickness, 19 February 1919. Age 22. Daughter of Arthur and C. M. Hudson, of 2, Brookside, Hunton Bridge, King's Langley, Herts. 


CHADWICK, Nurse, HILDA. Voluntary Aid Detachment. 2 November 1918. Grave Reference: Mil. I. 5.

DAY, Member, CHARLOTTE ANNIE, 24165. R.A.F. Records (Blandford), Women's Royal Air Force. Died of pneumonia, 30 November 1918. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Day, of St. Albans. Grave Reference: E. I. 25.
I wonder if any of those graves receive visitors?

Saturday, 3 February 2018

REVIEW OF “PEACE LILY” by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey (Strauss House Productions, 2018)

I first found out about this wonderful book on Facebook*.  I must admit the book really took my breath away – the pictures, painted by Martin Impey (who did the illustrations for the book “War Horse”), are beautiful and the story, written in verse by Hilary Robinson, is very poignant.  I hold my hand up – I was moved to tears.  Although this book has been written to help children understand the admirable contribution of women to the First World War effort, I am certain that it will appeal to people of all ages.  The story centres around some children growing up in a village in Britain during the pre WW1 years in a very, very different world to that we know today.  For the characters in the book, who go on to participate in the conflict, there is a happy ending and I really loved the ‘photograph album’ at the very end of the book.

I feel this book is very important.  Why?   I suppose, at heart I am still the three year old staring at Grandpa’s print of “Goodbye Old Man” by Fortunino Matania, wondering what on earth happened to the poor horse.  Grandpa was an Old Contemptible with the Royal Field Artillery and I have commemorated the First World War all my life, yet it was not until I began researching six years ago for a series of commemorative exhibitions in the Centenary years that I realised the extent to which women were involved.  I had no idea quite so many died or were killed while serving either – “Peace Lily” goes a long way to putting that right.

“Peace Lily” costs £8.99 and is to be launched on 8th March 2018 to coincide with International Women’s Day and as an aid for the schools programme visiting the Battlefields of Ypres and The Somme.  There are other books by Robinson and Impey in this delightful series about the First World War and I for one am going to buy copies of them all for the young (and not so young) members of my family who I know will love them.

For more information, please see https://www.strausshouseproductions.com/

 Lucy London, February 2018