Sunday, 20 December 2020

Lydia Grant (1880 - 1917) - Australian VAD who died serving and is buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery, Manchester, UK

 With thanks to Marjorie Earl for finding this poem about Australian WW1 VAD nurse Lydia William Falconar Grant, Elder daughter of Peter G. and Emily Grant of Brisbane, Queensland.  Member of the Brisbane Branch of the Red Cross Society of Australia. Nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment - 2nd General Western Hospital

GRANT, LYDIA WILLIAM FALCONAR VAD – Nurse, Red Cross Unit: BRCS VAD AUSTRALIAN DETACHMENT BRISBANE  Born in Scotland in 1880  Died 1 April 1917 - aged 37 - at the military hospital on Ducie Avenue (this was part of 2nd Western General Hospital) on 1st April 1917.

Her Brother, Chesborough G F Grant was in attendance and he gave on the death certificate an address of Whytecliff, Albion, Queensland, Australia. In 1903 and 1905 Lydia was living at Lynton, Norwood Street, Toowong, Brisbane with Emily Mary Graham Grant, Peter George Grant and John Macdonald Grant. She was buried in Southern Cemetery, Manchester, UK.

A Poem (In Memory of the Late Miss Lydia Grant.) published in the Cairn Post, Tuesday, 1st May 1917

Feeling compassion for. the sick and the wounded caused by the nations at strife.

Brought ardent desire to be up and doing her share in the battle of life.

Seeing no longer a reason why she should indolent be,

Announced she had found her vocation-"War work as a V.A.D.

Oft times her work became strenuous and sometimes irksome, too;

But she was ever ready patriotic work to do;

For had she not two brothers fighting "somewhere in France,"

She felt she could not be idle and miss so ennobling a chance.

She was one of the V.A.D.'s chosen the wounded and sick to attend;

Did she flinch when she knew 'twas in England? No! to ask it was but to offend.

Thoughts flew to her home and her mother, had fears lest she'd not give consent;

This was the answer: "God bless you and the mission on which you are bent"

That day on the quay when they parted, her tender emotions were stirred.

Though not regretting the step she was taking, she mingled her tears with theirs;

Then reminding them of the dear ones at the war who were doing their part,

She whispered, "Good-bye, mother dárling," the boat was preparing to start.

Then after anxious weeks of waiting a cable came to tell:

"Safe arrival, uneventful journey, happy and well."

Then letters followed, telling of, the wounded and dead, but

The sorrows of life are teaching a lesson, for which I am thankful," she said.

News of her serious, illness came, brothers sent for by doctor's request;

"O, God"! cried the mother in anguish, grave fears it had stirred in her breast.

In vain was the skill of the doctor, and the nurses who all did their best;

"Thy will be done," sobbed the mother, when she heard they had laid her to rest.

By L.E.R.

"Caringa," Townsville.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out who L.E.R. was.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Eleanor Charles Warrender (1862 – 1949) - British nurse in the Boer War and in the First World War

 With thanks to Becky Bishop for suggesting I research Eleanor 

Eleanor Charles Warrender was born on 20th February 1862. Her parents were Sir George Warrender, 6th Baronet of Lochend and Bruntsfield, and his wife, Helen, nee Purves-Hume-Campbell.   Eleanhor’s siblings were: Alice Helen Warrender b. 1857 d. 23 Sep 1947, Julian Margaret Maitland Warrender b. c 1856, d. 5 Apr 1950, Captain John Warrender1 b. 5 Mar 1859, d. 12 Jul 1894, Vice-Admiral Sir George John Scott Warrender of Lochend, 7th Bt. b. 31 Jul 1860, d. 8 Jan 1917 and Lt.-Col. Hugh Valdave Warrender b. 14 Sep 1868, d. 8 Mar 1926.

Eleanor must have studied nursing because she nursed on hospital ships during the Boer War and served with the French Red Cross during the First World War.  She was involved with the Guide Movement and was a supporter of local causes. She was awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec palmes and was appointed Dame of Grace, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (D.G.St.J.). 

In 1894, Eleanor and her siblings inherited a house called High Grove in Ruislip, Ruislip-Northwood U.D., Middlesex from her mother’s stepfather, Sir Hugh Hume-Campbell. In 1935, Eleanor sold 10.5 acres (4.2 ha) of the grounds of the house to the local council to establish a new playground and park, now named Warrender Park, and 13 acres (5.3 ha) to Ideal Homes for a residential development. During the Second World War, she made Highgrove available to the military, and British and American personnel from RAF Northolt stayed there.  

Eleanor never married and died in 1949.

If anyone has a photograph of Eleanor, please get in touch. 

Friday, 4 December 2020

Rosamund Essex (1900 – 1985) – British journalist, author and lay reader

Rosamund was one of the “forgotten generation” of women who forged lives for themselves in the Aftermath of the First World War.

Rosamund Sybil Essex was born in Bournemouth on 26th July 1900.  Her parents were Herbert James Essex, a church minister, and his wife, Rachel Bissett Essex, nee Watson.  Rosamund had a brother, Philip Louis George Essex, who was born in 1895.  Educated at Bournemouth High School for Girls, Rosaumund went on to study at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, where she obtained a Master of Arts Degree (M.A.).  Her brother, who went to study medicine  at the College of Medicine in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1912, abandoned his studies and joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1914, was promoted to the rank of Temporary Sub Lieutenant in March 1916 and died in 1917.  He is remembered in St Clements Church, Bournemouth, WW1 (WMR 51401).

In 1917, Rosamund’s headmistress told the girls that only one in every ten women could hope to find a husband “Nearly all the men who might have married you have been killed. You will have to make your way in the world as best you can. The war has made more openings for women, [but] you will have to fight. You will have to struggle."

Rosamund wanted to become a priest like her Father, but that was not possible for a woman back then.  She had also hoped to marry and have children.  In her book “Woman in a Man’s World” (Sheldon Press, 1977), Rosamund tells us of her struggles to overcome the difficulties faced by women during that time and how she realised her dreams by adopting a little boy, becoming Editor of “The Church Times” from 1950 to 1960 and becoming a lay reader.

 “The highlight of all my work in the Church came in 1969 when quietly, almost unnoticed by the Church at large, a canon law was given royal assent which allowed women to be readers.  

Rosamund died on 11th April 1985.  Her book was an inspiration to me when it was published in 1977. 

The photograph shows Rosamund with her adopted son, who was ordained as a priest. 
Cover of the book "Woman in a Man's World"

Find my past, Free BMD, “Woman in a Man’s World” and

Friday, 27 November 2020

Lady Diana Manners (1892 - 1986) - British WW1 nurse who later became famous as socialite and writer Lady Diana Cooper

Diana Olivia Winifred Maud Manners (show in the photograph - on the left, holding the cross collection box) was born on 29th August 1892.  She became a member of The Coterie, an influential group of young English aristocrats and intellectuals during the 1910s.

Lady Diana was one of the most famous members of the Coterie. She wrote to Edward Horner on 7 August 1914, claiming that she thought it was "...up to the Coterie to stop this war.  Members included Duff Cooper, Raymond Asquith, son of the Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, Maurice Baring; Patrick Shaw-Stewart, a managing director of Barings Bank, war poet Nancy Cunard and her friend Iris Tree; Edward Horner, Sir Denis Anson, Hugo Francis Charteris, Lord Elcho and Yvo Alan Charteris.  

During the First World War, Lady Diana worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse at the Rutland Hospital in Charring Cross and Guy's Hospital in London and was Mentioned in Despatches.  She later worked at a hospital for officers set up by her mother in London.   She also worked briefly as editor of the magazine "Femina" and for Beaverbrook newspapers, before becoming an actress. Her war work as a nurse increased her popularity.  Diana was mentioned in a WW1 parody of the music hall song “Burlington Bertie” - "I'll eat a banana/with Lady Diana/Aristocracy working at Guy's". 

Lady Diana Manners married one of the few survivors of WW1 from her circle of  friends - Duff Cooper – who went on to become an British Ambassador to France. She became became famous as the socialite and writer Lady Diana Cooper.

The photograph (photographer unknown) shows Nancy Cunard (centre) and Lady Diana Manners (left) at a sale in December 1915, held in Harrods department store, Loneon, UK in aid of the Red Cross Fund.   Photograph from “The Tatler” Magazine, 8th December 1915. 

Photograph found by Zoe Lyons and posted on Sue Robinson’s Facebook Group Wenches in Trenches

Friday, 23 October 2020

Book Review "An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War 1" by Chris Dubbs (Potomac Books, Nebraska, 2020)

If, like me – in spite of having commemorated the First World War for years – you thought that the role of women during that conflict was to stay at home, knit and “keep the home fires burning”, then - oh boy - is this book definitely for you!   Many of the exploits of the American women (and 1 British) journalists who braved the dangerous, U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic to travel to Europe during WW1 are, to say the least, hair-raising.   

I found so much of interest in Chris’s magnificent book that I could write a very long review – but that isn’t the point as reviews need to be fairly brief.  The front cover – a photograph of photojournalist Helen Johns Kirtland inspecting an exploded naval mine on the Belgian coast - sets the scene, heralding Chris’s research into the remarkable exploits of 39 women writers.  Due to my research during the centenary years for a series of commemorative exhibitions about the role of women in WW1, I already knew about Nelly Bly, Inez Milholland Boissevain and Louise Bryant but I had never heard of the others. 

In order to get round the restrictions involving travel in the war zones and the reluctance to allow women anywhere near the front lines, many of those journalists volunteered with the many American agencies, such as the YMCA, who sent personnel, equipment and money to the countries fighting for their freedom.  Some of them nursed too.  And they did not just cover the Western Front but, as you will discover, they travelled to many of the other countries involved in the conflict. Once there, they reported on conditions for civilians and troops alike while at the same time recording their own experiences and feelings.  I found the exploits of Peggy Hull, who was the first woman to be officially accredited by the U.S. Army (p. 243), and Eleanor Franklin Egan in Russia 1918 - 1919 of particular interest because my Grandfather was there with the British Army at that time.  Egan survived a tragic incident involving a Greek passenger ship and an Austrian U-boat near the Island of Crete (p. 189)

As well as quoting from the reports sent back to the various newspapers and magazines in America, Chris also tells us a good deal about the women themselves and includes photographs of the journalists, some of whom were not young women when they set out on their incredible journeys.

With superb illustrations, maps and biographies of the women journalists, plus a very detailed and impressive bibliography, this is a book you will return to again and again.

I could not put this book down, and I read it from cover to cover with great enjoyment. You must read it. With thanks to Chris Dubbs for a truly remarkable book and for mentioning me in the acknowledgements for Chris contacted me during the preparation of the book about some of the events included. 

Lucy London, October 2020 

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Josephine Letitia Denny Fairfield CBE (10 March 1885 – 1 February 1978) - British doctor

Josephine Letitia Denny Fairfield CBE, known as Letitia, was a doctor, a lawyer, a war-worker, and the first ever female Chief Medical Officer for London. She received a CBE for her outstanding achievements in medicine following her contributions during the First World War. 

Despite initially having been rejected by the War Office, Laetitia went on to work for the London County Council, where she campaigned for the initiation of new Public Health departments relating in particular to women's and children's health, and defending who she believed were the most vulnerable members of society. 

When the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed in March 1917, Fairfield was appointed as their Medical Officer. A year later, she was appointed Chief Medical Officer to the Southern Command, and was subsequently elevated to Inspector of Medical Services for the Woman's Royal Air Force.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Elisabeth Jalaguier (1890 - 1918) – French nurse (one of the few women commemorated on a war memorial)

Elisabeth was born in the Château du Lac in the rue d’ Avignon in Nimes, France into a wealthy family. 

Educated in the Ecole Normale in Nimes, Elisabeth was planning to become a teacher but at the outbreak of WW1, she trained as a nurse instead, with the la Société de Secours des Blessés Militaires in Nîmes.  In 1916 Elisabeth volunteered to serve closer to the fighting and went to look after the wounded on the Somme, on the Marne, the Meuse and in Italy.  

In 1918 Elizabeth was sent to Pierrefonds in the Oise, where the Red Cross had set up a field hospital.  There she met a military doctor and they became engaged.  On the night of 20th August 1918, the Germans began to bomb the area.  While her colleagues took shelter, Elisabeth refused to leave her post and her patients.  She was killed by a shell splinter while she was giving a soldier an injection.

Elisabeth’s bravery was acknowledged with the posthumous awarding of the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur.  When the war memorial was unveiled in Nimes in 1924, Elisabeth’s name was among the 1,312 men from Nimes who died for France during the First World War.   Her body, which had initially been buried in the civilian cemetery at Pierrefonds, was transferred to the Military Cemetery and a memorial was erected on the place where she died.