Saturday 21 October 2023

Sofia Flora Skipwith, OBE (1855 – 1940) – WW1 VAD who founded an Auxiliary Hospital in her home Loversall Hall, Yorkshire

Sofia Flora Cooke Yarborough was born on 18th November 1855 in Middlesex, England, UK. Her parents were Charles C. Yarborough, a retired British Army Lieutenant-Colonel, and his wife, Ester Ann.C. Yarborough. 

In 1887, in Tonbridge, Kent, UK, Sophia married widower and British Army Officer Grey Townsend Skipwith (1838 – 1900) who had 8 children by his previous wife.  

Sofia and Grey lived in India and had two children - Flora Blanche Skipwith, born in India in 1889 and Charles Grey Yule Skipwith, born in India in 1890.  Charles also joined the British Army. Sofia’s husband died in India in 1900. 

When war broke out, Sofia joined the local VAD and turned her home – Loversall Hall in Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK - into an Auxiliary Hospital which was opened in 1914 and had 100 beds.  Sofia was the Hospital’s Commandant. 

One anonymous soldier-poet wrote of Loversall Hall: 

“The stately homes of Britain… 

Where many a high-born beauty her gracious warfare raged, 

Men at the call of duty, lie broken, maimed and aged, 

And many a man is living, 

Who for his death has prayed, 

Thanks to his maker giving 

That he the woman made.” 

Sofia’s daughter, Flora Blanche Skipwith, also served in her Mother’s hospital in WW1, as did the writer and poet Barbara Euphan Todd (1890 – 1976) – best known for her ten books for children about a scarecrow called Worzel Gummidge.  Having initially worked on the land, Barbara worked at the Hospital from 12/12/1917 until 15/02/1919

Sophia helped hundreds of soldiers, kept in touch with many of them when they returned to the front line, and was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her war work.

Sofia died on 19th December 1940.  Her Obituary was published in the “Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer” on  24th December 1940. 

Loversall Hall

Built by the Fenton Family of Leeds between 1808 and 1816, Loversall Hall is situated in the heart of the beautiful South Yorkshire Countryside within the village of Loversall just on the outskirts of Doncaster.


The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4th June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

The five classes of appointment to the Order are, from highest grade to lowest grade:

Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)

Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)

Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)


Sources: Find my Past, FreeBMD 14th Jul 2016

Julia Warde-Aldam MBE, ARRC (1857 - 1931) – opened her house as an Auxiliary Hospital, serving as Commandant and Matron

Sarah Julia Warde was born in Carleton, near Pontefract, Yorkshire, UK in early 1857.  Her parents were Revd. William Warde, an Anglican Church Minister - a former Vicar of Campsall - and his wife, Marianne Warde, née Smithson.

On her father's death in 1868, Julia and her elder sister Mary Ann jointly inherited Hooton Pagnell Hall, near Doncaster, which had been bought by the family of Sir Patience Warde in 1704. Mary died in 1880, leaving Julia as sole inheritor.

On 30th Apreil 1878 Julia married William Wright Aldam, son of William Aldam MP and owner of Frickley Hall, taking the name Warde-Aldam. They had two sons, William St. Andrew (1882–1958), who inherited the Hooton Pagnell estate, and John Ralph Patientius (1892 - 1973), who inherited the Frickley estate. On Willam's father's death in 1890, the couple also inherited Healey Hall in Northumberland and in 1899 they purchased the estate of Ederline in Argyllshire.

In September 1914, a month after the Britain's entry into the First World War, Julia opened up Hooton Pagnell Hall as the Hooton Pagnell Auxiliary Military Hospital. She took on the role of Red Cross Commandant and Matron of the hospital, and was awarded an MBE in the 1918 Birthday Honours and the Royal Red Cross, Second Class.

Julia died in 1931.

Sources: Find my Past 14th Jul 2016

Imperial War Museum website for photograph of Julia


The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4th June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions. 

The five classes of appointment to the Order are, from highest grade to lowest grade:

Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)

Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)

Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)


Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an MBE is the third highest ranking Order of the British Empire award (excluding a knighthood/damehood), behind CBE and then OBE.

The MBE is awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community which has had a long-term, significant impact.

The Royal Red Cross (RRC) medal was introduced by Queen Victoria on 27th April 1883. The Royal warrant provides for the award to any ladies, whether subjects or foreign persons, who may be recommended by Our Secretary of State for War for special exertions in providing for the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers and sailors of Our Army and Navy. (During the reign of King George V the words 'or Our Air Force in the field' were added). Those awarded the 1st class medal are known as members whilst those awarded the 2nd class are known as associates (ARRC).   

Thursday 17 August 2023

Lady Edmond Talbot (1859–1938)

With thanks to Chris Warren for contacting me and

sending me copies of his two WW1-related books 

Born Lady Mary Bertie, daughter of the Earl of Abingdon, she was married on 5th August 1879 to Edmund Talbot (1855 – 1947), whose name at birth was Lord Edmund Bernard FitzAlan-Howard By Royal Licence, he assumed the name Talbot in 1876 to enable him to inherit the estates of Bertram, Earl of Shrewsbury. 

Lord and Lady Talbot had two children and lived in Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park, London, UK.   They were Catholic. Lord Talbot was elected Member of Parliament for Chichester in 1894, a seat he held until 1921. In April 1921 Lord Edmund Talbot was appointed by the British government as Lord Lieutenant, or Viceroy, of Ireland. Much was made of the fact that Talbot was Catholic – the first to hold the office since the 17th century.

Retired school teacher Chris Warren has published two excellent WW1-related books:

- his Uncle Jack’s letters sent home from the Western Front - “Somewhere in France: Letters written from the Front 1914 – 1918 by Jack Turner, MC, Croix de Guerre”.


-  “In Flanders Now: The War Poems of Father Albert Purdie 1915 - 1918”

John Turner MC, Croix de Guerre (1882 – 1918) – British schoolteacher and artist (known as Jack Turner).

In a letter home written in July 1915 by Chris’s Uncle Jack when he was serving on the Western Front, he wrote about meeting the Catholic Chaplain Father Albert Purdie and reading the poem Father Purdie had written about Ploegsteert Wood. 

For the poem by Father Purdie, please see

In an extract from one of Jack’s letters published in the book, he mentions being given a copy of a book – a special gift to Catholic soldiers during the First World War from Lady Edmond Talbot.

“He has also given me a jolly little “Garden of the Soul” (Lady Edmond Talbot’s gift to the Catholic soldiers) which is small but has all the offices in.”

Chris Warren’s wonderful books can be purchased by following these links:


“Somewhere in France: Letters written from the Front 1914 – 1918 by Jack Turner, MC, Croix de Guerre”.

Thursday 25 May 2023

Lady Sybil de Vere Brassey (1858 - 1934) – British Suffragette

Sybil de Vere Capell was born on 29th November 1858 at 2 Lyall Street, Belgrave Square, London, UK.   Her parents were Arthur de Vere Capell, Viscount Malden, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, and his wife, Emma Martha, nee Meux. 

On 18th September 1890, Sybil married Thomas Brassey, Baron Brassey of Bulkeley, 1st Earl Brassey, son of Thomas Brassey (1805 – 1870) and Maria Farringdon Harrison. They were married in St. Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, London, UK.  Sybil was the second wife of Lord Thomas Brassey, a former Liberal Member of Parliament, who was a supporter of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society.

The Brassey family were extremely wealthy.  Thomas’s father, also called Thomas, was a civil engineering contractor and manufacturer of building materials.  He was responsible for building much of the world's railways in the 19th century.

From 1895 to 1900, Sybil's husband was the Governor of Victoria, Australia.  Sybil went with her husband when he sailed his three-masted topsail-yard schooner steam yacht “The Sunbeam” to Australia and back.  When war broke out in 1914, the couple had their ship converted into a hospital ship and set out for Lemnos, before going on to Imbros, where they arrived on 14th August 1915. 

Sybil and her husband returned to Britain, leaving their ship to serve used as a convalescent ship for wounded Allied officers.

"The Sunbeam"

There is very little else I could find about Lady Sybil so I wonder what she did in Britain during WW1? 

Lady Sybil died on 20th February 1934 and was buried in Golders Green Cemetery.

Imbros, (now officially Gökçeada) is the largest island belonging to Turkey, located in Çanakkale Province. It is located in the north-northeastern Aegean Sea, at the entrance of Saros Bay.  Imbros has an area of 279 km2 (108 sq mi) and has some wooded areas.

Herbert William Hillier (1869 - 1956) British  WW1 War Artist -  “An annotated panorama, in two sections, showing several warships in Kephalos Bay at Imbros”. Art.IWM ART 4325 a

Herbert joined the Royal Naval Reserve and in 1915 volunteered as a war artist and served as an Able Seaman in the Gallipoli Campaign at the age of 46,aboard a former tramp steamer, requisitioned by the British Navy as HMS Manica, which became the first Royal Naval balloon ship.

Primary Source:  An article entitled “A Suffragette in Kephalos Bay” by Jim Claven, published in “The Gallipolian”, Winter 2021 magazine of the Gallipoli Association. and

Other sources:,%20HERBERT

Wikipedia –

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Book Review “The History of Women’s Football” by Jean Williams (Pen and Sword, Barnsley, 2022)

“The History of Women’s Football” by Jean Williams (Pen and Sword, Barnsley, 2022)

For anyone truly interested in the history of the women’s participation in  ‘the beautiful game’ of Association Football, this book is a MUST READ.   From the first game played at Crouch End with a crowd of 10,000 paying spectators (p vii Introduction) up to 2022, the book is full of interesting accounts and anecdotes   With copious stories of players, photographs and memorabilia, this is a book you will want to refer to again and again.

My main field of interest is the First World War and, although I knew quite a bit about women’s football games played to raise funds for the soldiers during the conflict, Chapter 2, entitled “Banned”, goes into that era in depth.   Included is the aftermath of the ban following the success of women’s football during WW1, on the playing of women’s matches on their grounds which was decreed by the Football Association on 5th December 1921.

My interest in women’s sport started a few years ago, when my husband and I were volunteer programme presenters at a community radio station in Lancashire.  As my husband is a sports journalist and writer, we felt very lucky to be invited to attend the England Women’s Football match against Malta in October 2009 at Bloomfield Road stadium in Blackpool.  That was the opening match of the qualifying matches for the 2011 Women’s World Cup. 

We asked a friend of ours, a former media sports photographer with a national daily newspaper, if he was going to attend but he said “Oh no – it’s only women!”.   Those words stung me and when, a few years later helping out at a women’s ice hockey game, I heard the same phrase, I was inspired to write the lyrics for a song about it.   Southport-based singer /songwriting duo put music to my lyrics and interpreted it for me:

In October 2009, we did a live telephone interview with Fara Williams on our radio show on 103.2 Preston FM the Tuesday afternoon in the run up to the game and we then attended the media day at the hotel when the team arrived in Blackpool on the Thursday.

We were the ONLY media that turned up! So we got all the allotted interview time and had a long chat with England manager at that time, Hope Powell, and Sue Smith, who was - at the time - the most capped England women’s player.

In the afternoon, we were able to go and watch the team's outdoor training session.

After the game itself on the Sunday, we saw Hope Powell and Fara Williams at the press conference and there were a few other media people there for that.

Having been researching the First World War since 2012 for a series of commemorative exhibitions, I knew about the success of women’s football teams who played charity matches in aid of war work during the conflict.  They were so popular and successful that the English  Football Association banned the palying of football matches by women’s teams on their grounds until the 1970s.

‘The Beautiful Game’ is a nickname for association football. It was popularised by Brazilian footballer Pelé, although the exact origin of the phrase is disputed. Stuart Hall, an English football commentator, used it as far back as 1958. Hall admired Peter Doherty when he went to see Manchester City play at Maine Road and used the term "The Beautiful Game" to describe Doherty's style of play.

Association football, known as football or soccer, is a team sport played between two teams of 11 players each, who use their feet to propel a ball around a rectangular field called a pitch. The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team by moving the ball beyond the goal line into a rectangular-framed goal defended by the opposing team. Traditionally, the game is played over two 45-minute halves, for a total match time of 90 minutes.

The games are officiated by a referee, who has "full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed" (Law 5), and whose decisions are final. The referee is assisted by two assistant referees. In many high-level games there is also a fourth official who assists the referee and may replace another official should the need arise.

The Football Association (known by its abbreviation The FA) is the governing body of association football in England and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Formed in 1863, it is the oldest football association in the world and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in its territory.

For further information about this and other Pen & Sword publications, please see their website

Lucy London, April 2023 

Sunday 5 March 2023

Ada Reeve (born Adelaide Mary Reeves, 3 March 1874 – 5 October 1966) - English actress of both stage and screen

Found by Historian Debbie Cameron and shared with her kind permission

Born in East London on 3rd March 1874, Ada was the eldest child of a minor theatrical family. Her father was an actor and her mother had been a dancer. Ada was just four years old when she made her theatrical debut in the pantomime Red Riding Hood. She was one of the most popular British singing comediennes of all time, and considered to be a headliner in variety and vaudeville.  

During World War 1 the immensely popular stage and music hall star actively embraced war work as an independent, self-appointed fundraiser. She used her fame to raise funds to help those affected by the war, putting on variety shows in aid of ‘Our Blinded Heroes’, the Red Cross and other good causes. She also entertained injured troops in the military hospitals and camps. She travelled and entertained soldiers in camps and hospitals in Britain, Egypt, India, Australia and New Zealand. In 1917-18 while touring Australia and New Zealand she used her cachet as a star performer to directly appeal to audiences to donate funds for the Anzac Club and Buffet for Diggers on leave in London. She became known as “Anzac Ada” and when in London, she sang at the Anzac Buffet.

Ada also entertained injured British troops, for example, in Netting, Scotland in late 1915. Furthermore, during the week commencing 29 May 1916 she put on a variety entertainment in Birmingham “to raise a substantial sum to lighten the load of our Blinded Heroes and ensure their future welfare and comfort.”

Photo: “With the Diggers at her home Malta Cottage in Norton, Isle of Wight, 1915. 

Some of Historian Debbie Cameron's research can be found here:

Group Remembering British Women in WW1 – The Home Front and Overseas

Friday 17 February 2023

Nina Larrey Smith Duryea (1874 – 1951) - American writer awarded medals for her voluntary relief work in France during the First World War.

While watching a recording of the 2022 Final of the British Quiz Show Mastermind,

I discovered Nina and just had to research her

Nina Larrey Smith was born in Cohasset, Massachusetts, United States of America on 11th August 1874. Her parents were Franklin Waldo Smith and his wife, Laura Bevan Smith.   Nina’s father was a merchant in Boston.  He was a founder of the YMCA in the United States. Educated in Boston and Belgium, Nina married Chester Burrell Duryea, an inventor, in 1898. The couple had one son, Chester but separated in 1903.

Nina used to spend her summers in Brittany and at the start of the First World War, she was so horrified by the influx of refugees from Belgium that she founded Duryea War Relief (known in French as Secours Duryea) in Dinard - a commune in the Ille-et-Vilaine department of Brittany, France.

With a headquarters in Roye, Somme in the Picardie Region and a depot in Lille, Nina and her volunteer assistants distributed clothing, food, garden tools, medicine and other necessities to over 70,000 war survivors and refugees.  The American lyricist/composer Cole Porter was one of the volunteers helping Duryea War Relief in WW1.

Nina's organization also opened a children's center, offering meals and a safe playground (when playing outdoors was still dangerous  because of shrapnel, explosives and other hazards), a hospital for children with tuberculosis and an orphanage. Nina was made a member of the French Legion of Honour for her war work, with additional decorations from Belgium, Italy, Russia and Montenegro.

Nina, 2nd from left front row in front
of her typewriter - with some of the volunteers

After the war, Nina beame Vice President of the International Revival of Industrial Arts, building a market for handicrafts from war-affected regions. She also invented a textile named Sona and a garment called Torsolite, for protective use in hazardous situations.

Nona also wrote plays.  In 1919 a comedy play written by Nina, entitled “Mrs. Drummond's War Relief”, was produced in New York.  The production was directed by Hilda Spong and Nina and her friends raised  funds and gave speeches about post-war reconstruction during the intervals   In 1932, nother play written by Nina - entitled WLove — Common or Preferred” - was also produced as a fundraiser.

Nina died on 1st November 1951 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts

One of Nina's books was “The Soul of Fighting France”, which was published in 1918 - I have not been able to find any trace of a copy, unfortunately.

Additional information source: