Memorial bench at Lochnagar Crater dedicated to WW1 nurses and VADs,
Lochnagar Crater, Ovillers-la Boisselle, France
The Lochnagar mine was an underground explosive charge planted by the British beneath the German front line. It was detonated on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The explosion – the largest and loudest man-made* explosion at the time – left a crater 70ft (21m) deep by 330 ft (100 m) wide.
The crater is now preserved as a WW1 memorial. A wooden walkway installed around the rim of the crater offers a good view of the depth. Twenty interpretive panels tell about the crater, the people and the aftermath of war.Continue reading →
Napoleon on the Colonne de la Grande Armée, watching over Terlincthun British Cemetery
Terlincthun – Special Memorial to 51 soldiers’ bodies found in 1982
Graves of Barrow, Ingram, King, McKay & Young – 5 of 9 women buried in Terlincthun
Terlincthun – memorial to 6 soldiers whose graves were lost
Terlincthun – graves of German prisoners of war
Terlincthun, between Boulogne and Wimereux, was along the line of hospitals and rest camps established near the coast of France during WW1. Terlincthun British Cemetery was begun June 1918. The central path of the cemetery aligns with the nearby Colonne de la Grande Armée, so the statue of Napoleon appears to be keeping watch over those buried there.Continue reading →
St Sever Cemetery, Rouen – graves of Branfoot, Dickson, Knox, Pearton, Riggall & Smith Lee
St Sever Cemetery Extension – graves of Armstrong, Bousfield, Gosling, Johnston, Llewellyn & Steele
St Sever Cemetery and St Sever Cemetery Extension are located in a large communal cemetery in the southern Rouen suburbs, near the sites of several WW1 Allied hospitals and camps.* WW1 burials from Commonwealth forces number 11430 in the cemetery and cemetery extension.
Looking for clusters of women’s war graves? Look no further than the hospital sites. The seven women buried in St Sever Cemetery and the six buried in St Sever Cemetery Extension all died of illness or illness-related accident. Two were nursing sisters, six were VADs, three worked with Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, one with the YMCA, and one was a civilian volunteer.Continue reading →
Anna Elizabeth Whitely, one of 13 WW1 women buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery
12 of thirteen WW1 women buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery
Each nurse, VAD and canteen worker tells a story.
Few women who served in WW1 are buried near the Western Front. Those who are can mostly be found in cemeteries near the coast, close to large hospitals or staging centres. They died mostly of disease, although some were certainly caught in the crossfire of war.
On 21 April 1918, Nursing Sister Anna Elizabeth Whitely died at Boulogne of a stomach tumour. She was buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, the first Canadian woman in WW1 whose final resting place was in France. Continue reading →
Linda J. Quiney’s This Small Army of Women, tracing the Canadian and Newfoundland volunteer nurses in WW1, is part of a growing scholarship on the role of medical women in the war. (Readers will know this is a particular interest of mine.) Linda is a historian and retired lecturer and serves as an affiliate with the Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry at the University of British Columbia. She has kindly agreed to discuss her work today with Great War 100 Reads.
What first interested you in VADs from Canada and Newfoundland?
Linda J. Quiney: It was more of a happy accident than an intentional undertaking. I was considering a research topic on women in the Second World War when a colleague mentioned a photograph she had discovered while researching a First World War topic. The image depicted a woman wearing a St. John Ambulance VAD dress uniform, but offered no clue to her identity or what her uniform represented. I had read Testament of Youth years before, Vera Brittain’s romantic journal of her wartime experience as a British Red Cross VAD nurse, but I had no idea there had been a Canadian or Newfoundland equivalent under the auspices of St. John. The mystery led me to St. John Ambulance headquarters in Ottawa, but the preliminary research was limited. I was close to abandoning it until the “eureka” moment, when a box of random records unexpectedly revealed a list of more than 300 Canadian women who had been posted overseas as St. John Ambulance VAD nurses during the war.
It gradually became clear that the VAD program had been a unique undertaking, far different from any other form of Canadian women’s patriotic work. Most intriguing for me was that it was almost invisible within the larger historical record of the war, a history waiting to be written.Continue reading →
Shown into his luxurious office, I asked whether he could hurry my departure. I was terrified when this great fat man, who seemed as old as the hills to me, pulled me down on his knee and began kissing me! As I was struggling to get away his secretary came in and showed no surprise whatever at the scene. Apparently there was nothing unusual in this situation! But this was my first experience with a licentious old man, I was overwhelmed! However, he did promise me this: Not another girl will leave Canada before you! And they didn’t. (This Small Army of Women, p 67)
Latest #metoo revelation of sexual harassment? No, a 1916 account of Canadian VAD Violet Wilson. 1916.
Over the years, sensational allegations rise and fade, rise and fade. But until everyone – men as well as women – recognizes sexual harassment and sexual assault as systemic problems of entitlement and power, the culture of acquiescence continues. It’s about time to say #metoo for change.
Continuing my explorations of women in the medical services, in War-Torn Exchanges: The Lives and Letters of Nursing Sisters Laura Holland and Mildred Forbes, and Your Daughter Fanny: The War Letters of Frances Cluett, VAD. Both books bring to life women’s war service close to the front.Continue reading →
Those who know about Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth only by reputation or the recent movie might think of it simply as a tale of love and loss in WW1 … the account of a spunky young woman whose brother, fiancé and other male friends are killed … a woman’s loss and a lost generation.
The book is so much more.
It has taken me several weeks to work through Testament of Youth – really three books captured in its 600 pages. Brittain documents the pre-war life of young middle-class women, the war years and the aftermath in the decade following.Continue reading →