Archive for category First World War

Kate Frye’s Diary: Armistice Day 1918

Kate Frye had worked as an organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage from 1911 until the summer of 1915. In January 1915 she had married her long-time fiancé, John Collins, an actor who had for many years been a member of the Territorial Army. Now an officer, John was stationed at Shoeburyness with the Essex and Suffolk Royal Garrison Artillery until shipping out for France in December 1916. He spent the next two years on the Western Front and in June 1917 was awarded the Military Cross. His letters home to Kate are held by the Imperial War Museum.

One of the pages from her diary in which Kate describes her wedding day. It was she who attached the photographs of herself and John

Letter from John 1 Nov 1918

Dearest

So it is all over or practically so I wonder what happens next. Please to look for a flat for us duckie. I am longing now to get home to my dear one for good. Oh, won’t it be lovely.

It is a very wet day and I have been running about all day expecting anything but I don’t think we shall ever move again except to go home. There is practically no great excitement here over this morning’s news. Everyone seems to take as a matter of course. It feels just like the end of a term at School where one does not quite know the time the train goes home or how to employ ones time until that is known. It is a most peculiar feeling. I expect the feeling will suddenly burst out however. I wonder how the people at home are taking it. Oh dear Muzz you don’t know how lovely it is to think I shall soon be home with you. It is almost unthinkable after all these years but it’s going to come true after all. I am quite well and safe and fancy I have heard the last shell burst that I shall ever hear. I am now thinking of getting up some of the plays and a concert. What about my mustache – shall I take it off yet, or when I get home? There used to be a German Captain in this house. He was in charge of a German Dog School and he had an English wife who was here with him. The old party who owns the house says that his wife hated the Germans much more than the Belgians did. They left one Doberman behind a great big wolf dog not a bad party but a bit wild. Well dearest there is no more news except that I do love you ever so much.

Fondest love

John

On the day the War ended Kate was at home in her cottage at Berghers Hill in Buckinghamshire and wrote in her diary:

Monday November 11th 1918 [Berghers Hill]

I was thinking and wondering every inch of the morning, and could not settle to anything. Was cleaning a collection of shoes about 11.30 in my room, the windows were open – I sat up and listened. Boom-Boom-Boom – then a Hooter and then I thought it time to bestir myself and went in to Agnes then downstairs to Kathleen [the daily maid] and out to listen to the various sounds proclaiming that the Armistice has been signed. And thank God for our many and great mercies. Mother was down the hill and had called at the Manor House – the news was all over the green and soon up here – and the remarks of the hill were marvellous. As soon as I could settle to anything I sat me down and wrote to John. Is he safe, and will he really be spared to come home to me? [She eventually manages to buy a copy of the Daily Telegraph] ‘Yes, the glorious news, as announced ‘Surrender of Germany’ Armistice signed at 5 a.m. Cease fire at 11 a.m. The D.T. has news of Abdication of the Kaiser and Crown Prince, and flight to Holland. The whole of Germany is seething with revolution. It seems as if it will be a second Russia.

Sunday November 17th 1918 [Berghers Hill]

A fine day, though cold. Woke up at 7 and went off to Church as a beginning to my day of Thanksgiving. I did wish I could have had a letter from John but I tried to give a whole hearted thanksgiving for our many and great mercies….[After Church] When I got in the Postie has just been bringing me a letter from John, written on the 11th. Oh I was thankful and feel indeed to have a grateful heart. He is safe and well and of course very very pleased and looking forward to coming home. [In afternoon] Mother, Agnes and I off to the special service of Thanksgiving at 3 o’clock. The Church was just packed, every one there including Sir John and Lady Thomas. Such singing and the reading of that wonderful and extraordinary lesson from Isaiah – a nice sermon from the Vicar and the singing by him more or less of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Kate wrote many plays during her lifetime but the only one published, Cease Fire!, was set at the Front, in a cellar of a ruined house ‘Somewhere in France’, during the final hour before the Armistice was declared. One of the main protagonists is clearly based on John, the character’s military career following the same somewhat idiosyncratic pattern as had his, his deep love for his wife driving the plot. Published by Samuel French in 1921, ‘Cease Fire!’ reads very well today.

You can read more about Kate – and John – in Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary  and Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette. Both books are drawn from Kate’s voluminous diary, now held by the archives of Royal Holloway College

, ,

Leave a comment

Suffrage Stories: ‘Lloyd George’s War’ on BBC Wales

First World War Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Broadcaster and historian Dan Snow presents an examination of the role his great, great grandfather David Lloyd George played in the First World War in a 3 part series for the BBC produced by Made in Manchester in association with LJD Productions, Cardiff.

Dan Snow

David Lloyd George was the last Liberal to be Prime Minister and took Britain and its then Empire to victory over the Germans in 1918.

Lloyd George’s War charts how Dan’s great, great grandfather went from being ‘anti war’ to become Britain’s biggest recruiting sergeant – persuading millions of men to sign up to fight and rallying millions of women to work in the munitions factories. His sparkling oratory won over a generation and he gradually became the most important figure in the wartime Government. By December 1916 he was Prime Minister and by November 1918 he was being hailed a hero and ‘the man who won the war’ all over the world.

Producer Ashley Byrne says: ‘People think of Winston Churchill and the Second World War but rarely talk about Lloyd George and the First World War. Yet arguably he had a more difficult war. We’d never fought a war like it.

‘Lloyd George also had to deal with the Easter Rising in Ireland, the Russian revolution and trouble in the Middle East. The decisions he made 100 years ago – good or bad – are still being felt today. To tell the history of the modern world you really can’t do it properly without mentioning David Lloyd George,’ Ashley adds.’

The series also looks at Lloyd George’s influence on a young Winston Churchill, on his clash with the Generals and at how in his memoirs, published years later, he appeared to regret the conflict which killed so many people.

‘When LG died,’ says Ashley ‘Winston Churchill called him the Greatest Welshman since the Tudors.

As part of the programme Dan looks through his great, great grandfathers papers and letters and tries to assess why he made the decisions he did.

Dyfan Rees brings to life the voice of Lloyd George

The programme sees Pobol Y Cwm actor Dyfan Rees (who recently won a mental health award for his portrayal of someone with OCD) plays David Lloyd George and veteran character actor Christopher Strauli (Edward VII and Only When I Laugh) is Winston Churchill.

Actor Christopher Strauli

The first episode of Lloyd George’s War on BBC Radio Wales is available on the BBC iplayer – here with Episode 2 and 3 to be broadcast on the 9th and 16th December. It includes a special title theme composed by the musician Rebecca Applin.

, , , ,

1 Comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: Kate’s Wedding Day – 103 Years Ago Today – 9 January 1915

One of the pages from her diary in which Kate describes her wedding day. It was she who attached the photographs

One of the pages from her diary in which Kate describes her wedding day. It was she who attached the photographs

After an engagement of eleven years Kate Frye and John Collins are at last about to be married – in All Saint’s Church, Hove. No wedding photographs were taken so we have to imagine Kate in her ‘best black frock – new boots, my silk hat which is quite pretty – squirrel coat and muff. Agnes’ present [a gold watch and bracelet] has blue stones in it and I borrowed a handkerchief from Mother. I was wearing a mixture of old and new.’ John, of course, wore his officer’s uniform.

The moment of departure arrived, the hiatus between the old life and the new.

 My Wedding Day and my Birthday. 37. 

 ‘Just after 12.30 Mother, Agnes and I left in the taxi for All Saints Church, Hove. We walked up the Church – Mother and I together and she and Agnes went into a seat. Then I saw John coming from the Vestry. I was only conscious that he looked alright and not nervous. I spoke very, very slowly I noticed, as if I were weighing every word – and I said “obey” most deliberately and carefully. I would have rather had it left out altogether but had come to the conclusion that if I had the Church of England marriage service at all there wasn’t much more objection to that one word than to much of the other. That I still object fundamentally to unequal vows is one thing very sure, but it has been so restful not to have to go and argue with the Vicar beforehand, which I meant to do and should have done if I had not been so tied to the house. He would not have altered it I am sure and it would have spoilt all the joy of the good feeling. It probably sounds lazy. One ought to battle for one’s conviction.’

There was no father figure to give Kate away, no best man to support John and no bridesmaids. It was as simple a wedding as could be. Perhaps one All Saints regular might have slipped in a pew, but otherwise Mother and Agnes were the only witnesses. Did Kate have any moment of regret that hers was not a grand wedding? She had witnessed so many over the years as Gilbey, Blyth and Gold brides, bedecked with satin and lace and trailing bridesmaids, were supported up the aisle by their prosperous fathers. She had inspected mountainous displays of presents, listened to the congratulatory speeches and seen the happy couples depart on honeymoon visits to the Italian Lakes, or Paris, or Switzerland or Rome.  But, if there was ever a twinge of disappointment, Kate did not confide it to her diary. She thoroughly enjoyed herself, taking pleasure from everything the day had to offer.

‘Brighton was all en fête as the King and Queen had come to visit the wounded – and as chance would have it when we were turning off the front we saw a little group of people and finding the King was expected we waited for about ten minutes. Then past they came, the King quite deliberately turning to John and returning his salute. It was exciting and on my Wedding day too. I wanted to stop them and tell them all about it.’

Returning to Portland Road from All Saints, which Kate described as ‘such a gorgeous Church – like a small cathedral’, Mr and Mrs John Collins walked up the short tiled path and into number 58. The winter sun shone through the decorative door panels of art-nouveau stained glass as married life at long last began. ‘I just took off my hat and coat and John came upstairs. And John kept kissing me and I said “someone’s coming” in the old way, forgetting it wouldn’t matter.’ For tea ‘we had a wee cake covered with white sugar and I cut it with John’s sword’ and then it was off to Brighton station ‘to catch the 4.40 train. It proved slow – but it didn’t seem to matter – we just sat and hugged each other – Government compels us now-a-days to travel with the blinds down so it was alright.’

From Victoria they took a motor taxi to the Great Central Hotel at Marylebone Station, where they had decided to spend their wedding night. ‘I suggested we had better not pay too much, but it was really rather nice on our arrival not to be consulted and just taken to the first floor – Room No 123. I suggested to John – my husband – that he could go on down while I changed but he flatly refused so he sat and watched me do my hair and then did my dress up for me.

We went straight into dinner about 8.15 and had nine rather bad courses. Very few people there and the room gradually emptied till we were the last. I was hungry and ate quite a lot. Then we strolled round the palm court where a band was playing but we didn’t seem to want people so we went in the drawing- room.

Then we both said we were tired so I said I thought I had better go to bed – it was then 10. John said he would come, but I told him not for twenty minutes. He didn’t like it but gave in and I went and got the key and went up alone. I was so excited – who isn’t at such a moment?

I undressed all backwards and was only just done when John arrived. Ours was a gorgeous room, the bed in an alcove. We had meant to have a fire, it would have been nice, but really the room was so warm we didn’t need it. I laughed at first. Later I shed a tear or two and John would turn up the light to look at me. Then he saw my tears and wept himself. We did try to go to sleep, but I don’t think John had more than two hours and I had considerably less. But we were very, very happy.’

The bill for Kate's two nights of honeymoon - together with the identification number of their room. Although these items were not inserted into the diary, Kate kept them with her other papers for the rest of her life.

The bill for Kate’s two nights of honeymoon – together with the identification number of the room allocated to ‘Capt and Mrs Collins’9. Although these items were not inserted into the diary, Kate kept them with her other papers for the rest of her life.

The Hotel Great Central is still there – now the Landmark Hotel. In 1919 Kate was to renew her acquaintance with it in very different circumstances when it had been turned into a hospital for officers and John was admitted as a patient, seriously ill with Spanish Flu.

[Incidentally – very incidentally –  it was on the site of the  Hotel Grand Central that in the 1870s and 1880s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson ran her first ‘New Hospital for Women’. It was because the houses in which  the hospital operated were due to be demolished to make way for the new station and hotel that she was forced to look elsewhere – eventually selecting the Euston Road site on which to build what became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital – see Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery.]

Kate’s wedding day was re-enacted in episode 2 of ITV’s The Great War: The People’s Story (shown on 17 August 2014) – in which Romola Garai plays Kate and Tom Turner plays John.

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.

Kate

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

2 Comments

Kate Frye’s Diary: Christmas 1914: 25 December

Kate is spending Christmas with her mother and sister in digs at 58 Portland Road, Hove. This is their first Christmas since the death of Kate’s father, Frederick Frye, and very different from the glorious festivities that they enjoyed in the days of wealth and plenty. John Collins, Kate’s fiancé, is in the Army, stationed at Shoeburyness. They are to be married at All Saints Hove on 9 January 1915. Miss Green, who lives in Warwick Avenue, London, and is very well-off, is a very keen and active supporter of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Friday December 25th 1914 – Christmas Day

Called at 7 – and off to All Saints Hove for Communion at 8. Such a gorgeous Church – like a small Cathedral – I am glad its a nice Church.

Back again and Mother and I had breakfast together – then leaving dear love [Kate’s little dog – aka ‘Mickie’] for Miss Miles to look after the 3 of us to morning service. Agnes came back for Mickie and Mother and I went on the Parade and met Agnes coming back. In at 1.20 to a Christmas Dinner of hot Roast Beef and a weird pudding pretending to be a Christmas Plum.

The meal was brought to a sudden close by my opening one of the parcels which had arrived in the morning by post. I didn’t know the writing but it was a registered parcel and I found a pair of silver Table Napkin rings from Miss Green for a wedding present. We had so laughed about wedding presents of such a nature that we roared with laughter and I went on reading her letter aloud and then as it was so sad burst into tears. She had once been going to be married on the 4th January but her man had died. Really it was most pathetic. So then we quieted down and sat over the fire and read our letters etc. Nothing from John – when last I heard he was preparing for a Christmas present from the Germans. Dover has already had one – a bomb dropped from an Aeroplane but it fell into a garden and did no damage.

We had a quiet day and my cold came on with great violence and I felt very tired and seedy altogether and not at all Christmassy. I have had £10 from Aunt Agnes [Gilbey] for a wedding present and £7 from Constance [her cousin, daughter of Aunt Agnes] for Christmas and wedding. Mother has given me 5 shillings and Mickie a sponge bag and Agnes a little Jewel Box. Last year this time our Christmas was over  – John was on the point of departure. I wonder how Daddie is enjoying his Christmas – I hope his is a peaceful one.

All Saints Hove - postcard from Kate's archive

All Saints Hove  1914 – postcard from Kate’s archive

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here. I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.

cover e-book

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

, ,

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: Christmas 1914: 24 December 1914

Kate  is beginning her Christmas holiday. ‘Young Bernard Shaw’ was the son of her cousin, Agnes Shaw (née Gilbey) Shaw. Almost exactly a year later another of Agnes’s sons, Arthur, was killed in France; he was only 19.

The purchases that, with diffidence, Kate showed her mother, were modest items of clothing – mainly underwear – that she had put together as her trousseau. She felt rather guilty about spending money on herself.

 

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Thursday December 24th 1914

Up 7.30. Breakfast 8.30 and packed up by 9.30. Off soon after in a Taxi for Victoria and the 10.15 train to Hove. A crowded carriage – otherwise a comfortable journey only so saddened by seeing in the Roll of Honour killed in action young Bernard Shaw – Agnes’s second boy – 21 years old. Such a radiant young life ended and done with and what a heart ache for Agnes. Got a porter to bring my luggage and walked to 58 Portland Road. It was a lovely day though wet under foot. Agnes [her sister] and I took dear love [her little dog] just to see the sea after I had seen my baggage in – my room is messy and bitterly cold.

We sat over the fire all afternoon. Agnes went out after tea and I unpacked and showed Mother my purchases – I was a little diffident – but it went very well. Then Agnes had to see them. Then to a little needlework. Very tired and bed early. It’s a queer sort of Christmas.

KateFor much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here. I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

, ,

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: Christmas 1914: 23 December

Kate is working at the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage office in Knightsbridge, superintending the workroom that the society had set up to give employment to women dressmakers thrown out of work by the outbreak of war and the drop in demand for finery. She and John, her fiancé of many years, had at long last decided to get married. The chosen date was to be 9 January 1915, Kate’s birthday. At this time she was living in digs in Pimlico.

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Kate c. Christmas 1914

 Wednesday 23 December 1914

A real busy day at the office getting everything tidied and straightforward for my holiday. Had quite a surprise first thing by a presentation of an Ink Pot from all the girls – so really nice of them. They had given Miss Grey a flower stand – it’s most awfully generous of them. I told Miss Grey later on that I was going to get married and she was very interested and full of good wishes.

Miss Simeon left at lunch time and Gladys who had not come till about 11.30 left at 3.30 – so although I had accepted an invitation to tea up in the Work Room I had to give it up, but they brought mine down – a cup of cocoa and a lots of Scotch cakes made by Miss Grey. The girls were crazy with excitement all day. I had a thorough clear out and tidy up of everything – then locked up – at 5 o’clock. Had such a queer feeling as I came away – like locking my old self within – because probably my old self never will return – if I am married by then it will be so different.

I was rather tired but ate my supper – made up a big fire and started to pack up – had not finished before midnight.

Kate

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her e-book biography – see here -only £1.19 to download from Amazon . I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

, ,

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: Armistice 1918 And Remembrance Days 1928 and 1956

 

John Collins

John Collins

For the latter part of the First World War Kate Parry Collins (nee Frye) lived in a cottage in the tiny Buckinghamshire hamlet of Berghers Hill – on tenterhooks for news of her husband, John, who had been fighting in France since the end of 1916. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during the Battle of Arras – and, to Kate’s great relief, came through the war unscathed. We can imagine the emotion that lay behind the following entry in her daily diary.

Monday November 11th 1918 [Berghers Hill]

I was thinking and wondering every inch of the morning, and could not settle to anything. Was cleaning a collection of shoes about 11.30 in my room, the windows were open – I sat up and listened. Boom-Boom-Boom – then a Hooter and then I thought it time to bestir myself and went in to Agnes [her sister] then downstairs to Kathleen [the daily maid] and out to listen to the various sounds proclaiming that the Armistice has been signed. And thank God for our many and great mercies. Mother was down the hill and had called at the Manor House – the news was all over the green [Wooburn Green] and soon up here – and the remarks of the hill were marvellous. As soon as I could settle to anything I sat me down and wrote to John. Is he safe, and will he really be spared to come home to me?

[She eventually manages to buy a copy of the Daily Telegraph] ‘Yes, the glorious news, as announced ‘Surrender of Germany’ Armistice signed at 5 a.m. Cease fire at 11 a.m. The D.T. has news of Abdication of the Kaiser and Crown Prince, and flight to Holland. The whole of Germany is seething with revolution. It seems as if it will be a second Russia.

Kate snapped shopping in London in the 1920s

Kate snapped by a street photographer while shopping in London in the 1920s

Ten years later, Kate and John were living in a tiny north Kensington flat. For the past three years, at 11 o’clock on Remembrance Day,  they usually visited the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner – John having been a member of the RA. But on this special 10th anniversary of the Armistice they planned to join in the main London celebration. Kate was determined that she would have a Sunday free from domestic chores in order to dedicate herself to remembrance.

Saturday November 10th  1928 [Leinster Square, London]

A great day of preparation so as to be free for Remembrance tomorrow. So John went out for me and did the rest of the shopping and I first did the usual housework and a bit extra then dinner at 5.30. Shoulder of lamb, onion sauce, potatoes, sprouts, apple crowdies and a large one for tomorrow. Then cleared away, washed up, put all ready for the morning and scrubbed the kitchen. Sat down rather broken – but determined to wake at 7 tomorrow.

Sunday November 11th  1928

I woke at 7.30 and up straightway and J and I both up to breakfast. Up – washed breakfast and off. Train to Westminster – a packed tram and an impossible place – such a crowd. I jumped on a bus to get out of it. fortunately it took us to Charing Cross. We tried Whitehall from top – no good. I was afraid of the crowd – so eventually just off by Whitehall Court and heard the singing and the last post – a marvellous two minutes silence. A rest in the Club – then an hour and a quarter pilgrimage to pass the Cenotaph – again most wonderful. Came on to rain so made for Lyons for lunch in Victoria Street. Then to go through the Abbey past the Tomb [of the Unknown Warrior] and for the 3 o’clock service.

 

Kate in bed - headphones at the ready

Kate in bed – headphones at the ready

Home by bus, raining still – the queue [stretching] from Trafalgar Square. Our dinner – frightfully tired. Service on wireless. Bed – then Albert Hall meeting in bed with one earphone each up to 11pm. A really wonderful day of Remembrance.

Twenty-eight years later, after several years of caring for John at home as he became increasingly afflicted with dementia, Kate was finally forced to allow him to be admitted to the local asylum. They did not have sufficient money to pay nursing-home fees. She recorded the following entry in her diary on the first Remembrance Day after he was lost to her.

11th November 1956 [Hill Top, Berghers Hill]

To Cenotaph at Wooburn. I sat and wept – but tried to pull myself out of the tears. But so sad without John here with me. Remembering all the 11 o’clocks we had heard together.

KateTo discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – do read the e-book, Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette published by ITV as a tie-in with their series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. It can be downloaded from  from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  from Amazon.

I’d love to hear what you think of Kate and the life she lived. 

To read in detail about Kate’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign – in a beautifully-produced, highly illustrated, conventional paper book – see  Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

1 Comment

Suffrage Stories: The Women’s Freedom League Toy Factory At Hackney, 1915

We are familiar with the toy factory opened during the First World War by Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of Suffragettes at Bow in London’s East End, but how many of us know that another suffrage society, the Women’s Freedom League, operated a similar factory in Hackney?

The Toy Factory at Hackney run by the Women's Freedom League, 1914

The Toy Factory at Hackney run by the Women’s Freedom League, 1915

At the beginning of the First World War the WFL announced that, among the schemes prompted by the new situation, they had opened a toy factory ‘where girls and women have been trained to turn out perfectly finished and well-dressed dolls – the specialities being the Dombey boys and the Tipperary Twins.’

With the outbreak of war the various suffrage societies had recognised the need to provide employment for women put out of work as dress-making establishments suffered a sudden drop in demand. In the autumn of 1914  the thoughts of the women of the nation were, unsurprisingly, on other than on sartorial matters. The New Constitutional Society, for instance, hoped to help destitute dressmakers by opening a war-relief work-room , organised by Kate Frye (for details see  Campaigning for the Vote –  to see Romola Garai as Kate Frye in that work-room as realised by ITV see here ) .  The NCS opted to make clothes.

The ELFS and the WFL, however, decided to take advantage of the gap in the market that had opened now that toys could no longer be sourced from Germany, hitherto the main supplier of presents for British children.

But where in Hackney was the WFL toy factory?  It looks from the photograph as though it was located in a private house, probably comprising only a couple of rooms. This wasn’t a factory on the scale of Lesney – Hackney’s other – once-famed – toy maker. 

Update: Reading Jennie Churchill’s Women and War Work  I’ve discovered that the toy factory was in South Hackney…but have not yet pinpointed a road. Interestingly, the photograph at the head of this blog post came from a postcard album compiled by  Louisa Thompson-Price, who is named as a contributor to the chapter that mentions the WFL toy factory.

How long was the factory in production? Mrs Sarah Ann Mustard (1864-1936), of 48 Moresby, Upper Clapton, had been president of the Hackney branch of the WFL from about 1910 and it is she who described the work of the factory at a WFL meeting- in Mayfair – on 26 March 1915. However, the WFL’s newspaper,The Vote, then goes decidedly quiet on the factory and its products. It is especially curious that none of the reports of the many fund-raising bazaars makes any mention of Hackney-made toys for sale – nor does The Vote carry any small ads for its wares.

And yet the WFL had felt it worthwhile to ask Fleet Street photographer, Barratts, to come along to their ‘factory’ and take a photograph. This doesn’t seem to have been published in The Vote, but, fortunately, was issued as a postcard – allowing us a glimpse of one all- but- forgotten War Work effort with, in the background, an array of its products.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

 

 

, , ,

1 Comment

First World War – And Wars Before: Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors

This week I’m busy packing up books and ephemera to take on Friday to the Women’s History Network Conference – held this year at the University of Worcester. In this First World War centennial year Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict  is the Conference theme – see here for details.

I usually have a small  selection of ‘Women and the First World War’ material in my catalogues  (latest is  Number 185 – see here)  – and often when cataloguing spend time poring over photographs trying to identify the uniforms worn by young women of that period as they pose in studios or are photographed in camps or hospital wards – checking them against a variety of ad hoc sources.

Ingham

 

This rather pleasurable occupation will now become much easier – by consulting a fascinating book that comprehensively covers all the branches of the Services open to women.

In Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors Mary Ingham takes as her starting point the early 19th century – for it was then that the Army began to employ schoolmistresses to educate the children of the soldiers stationed in garrisons across the Empire . For this one service she cites holdings at The National Archives, National Army Museum, Adjutant General’s Corps Museum, British Library, Westminster College Archives and gives details of several printed sources.

VAD

She then covers in considerable detail all the nursing and medical services attached to the various branches of the armed services – from the Crimean War onwards. I must say I’m rather taken with the work in the First World War of the Almeric Paget Massage Corps, the honorary secretary of which was a niece of Charlotte Despard. And I know that I if I’d been a VAD I’d have been completely stymied by the instructions on how to pin on my nursing cap. However I’m sure many a period drama wardrobe mistress has welcomed such a diagram as is reproduced in the book. Flowing – and so fetching – that cap must have enticed many a young woman to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment. If we are looking now for details of the service of any one such woman Mary Ingham directs us to  a variety of archival sources.

Members of the WRNS and WRAF at Warsash Air Station 1918 (courtesy of RAF Museum website)

Members of the WRNS and WRAF at Warsash Air Station 1918 (courtesy of RAF Museum website)

The book then details the work of the Women’s Auxiliary services – and the WRNS, the WRAF, the Women’s Forage Corps and the Women’s Land Army.

Mary Ingham gives full and most helpful information on how to access the relevant records for all the services and, most usefully, lets us know when records are not available – or do not include as much information as we might expect. This kind of knowledge – doubtless accrued painfully  – is so useful in managing expectations. We don’t waste our time on wild goose chases – Mary has done the chasing for us.

I am sure that academic researchers and family historians alike will find Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors  both interesting and useful. And it’s packed with illustrations. More information may be found at Mary Ingham’s website.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

,

1 Comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: What Was Kate Doing One Hundred Years Ago Today – The Day She Appears On Our TV Screens?

Tonight Kate Parry Frye – in the guise of Romola Garai – appears on our television screens (Sunday 17 August, ITV at 9pm). What was she doing on this day 100 years ago?

Kate was still on holiday from her work with the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage, spending the time with her sister and mother in their rented rooms at 10 Milton Street, Worthing. However, this was no summer idyll such as the Fryes had enjoyed in days gone by. Then they had rented a large house and travelled down from London with their four servants, to spend a season by the sea. Now that they were virtually penniless, these rented rooms were all they could call home. In the life of Kate and, more tragically in that of  her sister, we see the jarring disconnect when young women, brought up to a life where marriage was to be their only trade, are left with insufficient money to support their social position and expectations. As such Kate’s life story is very much a tale of its time.

Monday August 17th 1914

Gorgeous day. Up and at house work. Out 12.30-  just to the shops. Wrote all the afternoon  and after tea to 6. Papers full of interest. Preparing for the biggest battle in the World’s History. There is no doubt the English have landed over there. I hear from John most days – that he is very busy but not a word of what his work is. Mickie [her Pomeranian] and I went out after tea. Agnes still a bit limp.

John Collins, Kate’s fiancé, who had long been an officer in the Territorial Army, had already been recalled to his barracks at Shoeburyness – leaving his engagement with a touring repertory theatre company. Kate’s sister, Agnes, at the first hint of the European trouble had taken to her bed, prostrate. Kate, a would-be playwright, was busy writing – although exactly what she was writing at this time she doesn’t divulge. On her death forty-five years later she left behind a box of unpublished scripts – and one that was published. She  hoped one day to achieve fame and fortune. As it was she would soon be back at work at her suffrage society’s headquarters – with a new role as organizer of their War Work Work Room.

Work Room set up by the New Constitutional Society for Women's Suffrage - of which Kate was in charge. Note the NCS flag in the background - the only image of it that survives

Work Room set up by the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage – of which Kate was in charge. Note the NCS flag in the background – the only image of it that survives

Kate

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £4.99 from Amazon.

I’d love to hear what you think of Kate and the life she lived. 

To read in detail about Kate’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign – in a beautifully-produced, highly illustrated, conventional paper book – see  Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

NOW PUBLISHED: Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life Of An Edwardian Actress And Suffragette

Kate

 

Based on her prodigious diary, this e-book is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the  ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here. Kate appeared in the second episode – which you can now watch here.

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  from Amazon .

Writing up her diary in her miserable rented room in Worthing on 7 August 1914 Kate could not have thought – even in her wildest dreams – and she certainly did on occasion allow herself wild dreams of fame – that one hundred years later YOU would be able to read her life story.

It is something of a fairytale – from the discovery of the boxes of wringing-wet diaries in a north London cellar to the publication of Kate’s story, now available for the World to read at the click of a mouse.  It is a dream realised, not only for the Kate I have got to know so well and who through her diary entries makes us privy to her hopes, but also for myself. To be given the chance to resurrect the story of an ‘ordinary’ woman (though she most certainly was not ordinary to herself) is the culmination of a lifetime of biographical reading.  Moreover it is ‘hidden lives’ -such as Kate’s – that have been of abiding interest.

There is a certain fitness that at a time when the major publishing conglomerates tend, for safety’s sake, to concentrate on the lives of those whose names are already known – for whom a market already exists – that it is a television company, ITV, that is taking a bow at a venture and allowing you to read the life of an ordinary woman. Kate, I am sure, would have been most interested to watch The Great War: the People’s Story. For her entire life she was entranced by the telling of tales – in novels, on the stage, on film, on radio and, in her latter years, on television and it so happens that the one play she succeeded in getting published was set on the Western Front – in the final hour of the Great War.

When editing Kate’s suffrage years as Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary I did briefly debate (and did so at much greater length in a post – Kate Frye and the Problem of the Diarist’s Multiple Roles)  the ethics of mining a diary and presenting only one aspect of the subject’s life. I have now been able to reconcile any doubts I might have had. Kate’s suffrage diary undoubtedly adds to our understanding of the suffrage campaign and it is now with considerable satisfaction that I am able to present to you Kate’s life in its entirety.

Coincidentally yesterday I spotted a new blog review of Campaigning for the Vote that not only gives a delightfully long review of that book – but also reveals that the writer is longing to know more about Kate and – at the last moment – is pleased to have just downloaded the e-book and begin a deeper acquaintance.

 

If you are interested to find out more about Kate’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign – in a beautifully-produced, highly illustrated, conventional paper book. .In London it is in stock in Foyles, Charing Cross Road, and at the Persephone Bookshop in Lamb’s Conduit Street. and is available by mail order from the publisher –  see  Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

2 Comments

Kate Frye’s Diary: War: 7 August 1914

TODAY’S THE DAY ITV is publishing  Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this e-book is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here. The first episode of the series can be seen on ITV at 9pm on Sunday 10 August – I think Kate makes her entrance in Episode 2 – 17 August.

Leading up to publication I’ve shared with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Today’s in the last in this series. Writing up her diary in her miserable rented room in Worthing on 7 August 1914 Kate could not have thought – even in her wildest dreams – and she certainly did on occasion allow herself wild dreams of fame – that one hundred years later YOU would be able to read her life story.

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. It will also be available  -today –  any moment now – on Amazon.

 

Kate

Through her day-to-day experience as recorded in her diary we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate Frye was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft – but has now begun her summer holiday, staying with her mother and sister in Worthing.

‘Friday August 7th 1914

News of British steamer – the Queen Amphion – having been sunk by a German mine – some of them saved, but many including some German prisoners blown to bits. Nothing else official. Rumours of course of all kinds – some to make one’s heart ache. But the admiration of the World for plucky Belgium. A lovely day. Up and did my room – our landlady is so disorganized it is the only way of getting it done before night. Jobs.

Mother went out and did the shopping then I took Mickie out to the Beach 12.30 to 1. Had a Telegram from John when I got in asking me to meet him in London tomorrow. So after lunch I went off to find out about trains and send the answer – telling him to let me know where to meet.

Then on the Parade for a miserable walk until 4.45. Jobs in the evening and sat talking to Agnes. Mother out in the evening. I did not go but sat upstairs. Agnes still in bed and very weak. I felt dead tired. After supper there was a wild rumour so I rushed out to get a later paper. The Germans have asked for an Armistice at Liege. It says they have 25,000 dead and wounded. It seems impossible. The wonderful German army. There could only be an excuse for the Kaiser taking his country to War, and that would be that his army is invincible – that nothing could vanquish it and that he is prepared to conquer Europe. If not the man must be a fool.’ 

And with that decisive opinion we take our leave of Kate – at least for the time being.

To read in detail about Kate’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign – in a beautifully-produced, highly illustrated, conventional paper book – see  Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

 

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: War: 6 August 1914

Tomorrow – 7 August 2014 – ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £4.99 from Amazon.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft – but has now begun her summer holiday, staying with her mother and sister in Worthing.

Thursday August 6th 1914

A fearful wind all day. Up late and household jobs seeing after Agnes etc – out at 12 with dear love, bought a paper and sat in a shelter reading it until 1. There is very little official news, but I think there is no doubt they are arranging for an expeditionary force to go to help France and Belgium. Germany seems ruthlessly violating every treaty that was made and will soon end by not having a single friend in Europe or elsewhere. The Belgians area making a most spirited and heroic defence of their forts – and so far the Germans have had a set back which could never have calculated upon. They thought the Belgians would let them calmly walk through their country to attack France. A nice sense of honour  they must have got themselves. We have the sinking of a German mine layer to our credit.

The reading of the paper and rushing out for the latest Editions has become a vice with me, but I can’t keep away from them. Read in the afternoon, and who should arrive but Stella Richardson at 3.30 till 4.45 and had tea with us. But I felt in no mood for her with her cheap opinions. I am afraid I flared out at her. Agnes was of course in bed all day, said she felt a bit better.

I had a card from John – he has his orders – has to report himself at Shoeburyness on Sunday. Oh dear!!! A letter from Constance full of War news – their men being called up – the younger generation volunteering etc – and Jack Gilbey off to the front. That pretty gay young lad. What a responsibility the Kaiser has taken upon himself to be sure. Oh if only someone could get at him and his precious son and do for them. John thinks banishment to Bacup the best punishment – we want to get him here and hammer him all over beginning with his feet. I have heard someone suggest cutting his head off and making it into sausages for the Germans to eat – and that she would willingly turn the handle. I wonder what history will make of him?

John's card_0001

Johns's card, written on Wed 4 Aug and posted on 5 August from Exeter, where he was playing with a touring theatre company

Johns’s card, written on Wed 4 August and posted on 5 August from Exeter, where he was playing with a touring theatre company

It was ironic that Stella Richardson should choose this moment to call. She was very much a representative of the ‘gay and reckless’ life that Kate had once enjoyed. You will be able to read about Stella – and her husband – and their relationship with Kate – in Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette.

Kate’s diary is certainly a faithful record of events. On the Today programme this morning a naval historian mentioned the sinking of that mine layer as being one of the first naval actions of the War.Moreover,  I think it’s interesting that on a day such as this – with no knowledge of what lies ahead (perhaps, despite what John predicts, the war will be over by Christmas) – that Kate thinks, however fleetingly, in terms of the Kaiser’s place in history. While concerning herself with the quotidian, she is well able to appreciate that hers is but one moment in time. It is this self-awareness that gives the diary a measure of importance as a document of social history.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

 

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: War: 5 August 1914

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

For ITunes preview of the book see here.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft – but has now begun her summer holiday, staying with her mother and sister in Worthing.

‘Wednesday 5th August 1914

Agnes in bed. I had slept in the dark hole and had a fearful night with the cats tramping in and out and fighting in the garden. I tidied Agnes and the doctor – Dr Hudson – came soon after 10. He didn’t say much but keep her in bed – no solid food – probably catarrh of the stomach and a chill – some inflammation. He was nice.

I had begun to think Mother would not have a comfortable journey to Wooburn as the government has taken over all railways and so many men are travelling to join their regiments – all reserves and Territorials called out – and she didn’t feel inclined to go with Agnes so seedy. I went up to the station to inquire and found as far as they knew trains were running fairly smoothly but they could not guarantee anything.

So I came back and she decided not to go – so Mick and I went off again to send a Telegram to Constance. They would not change a £5 note at the Post Office. Wrote some letters and then read all afternoon. A stroll in the evening – feeling utterly miserable. Heard again from John – has not had his orders yet but they must be on their way. England Mobilizing!!! What a thought. Could get to nothing that required concentration of thought – so greased Dear Love all the evening. A strange occupation with England going to War – but like life.’

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: War: 4 August 1914: And What The War Held For My Family

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £4.99 from Amazon.

Kate Frye c 1906

As a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft – but has now begun her summer holiday, staying with her mother and sister in Worthing.

Tuesday August 4th 1914

A beautiful day as regards weather. Well it is settled England is to go in with France to protect her and Belgium. What a slap in the face for Germany !!! And as Italy won’t fight with Germany and Austria that is another set back. Germany expects to be allowed to walk over anywhere just as she pleases. What a brutal country – and what a Kaiser!!!

A letter from John from Exeter saying he is expecting a letter every minute giving him instructions to join his Unit. He writes in very low spirits. I think South Africa was enough for him. Agnes said she felt very ill – so I got up and arranged the room and got her up to my room and Mother went out for the doctor. He wasn’t in so she left a note. Agnes seemed better and not so low spirited when I had her in a cheerful room, but oh dear I don’t want the work of it. I feel so tired myself and disagreeable and overwrought I want to shriek.

I went out 12 to 1 with ‘Dear Love’. Read papers all the afternoon, writing and needlework in the evening waiting for the doctor – then as he didn’t come I went round and asked him to come early tomorrow morning if not tonight. He was still out so did not turn up.

This entry from Kate’s diary speaks for itself. That the day’s events – both national and domestic -have left her tired, disagreeable and overwrought seems entirely natural. Who wouldn’t want to shriek?

But what of those who did not keep diaries? Perhaps I’ll take the opportunity on this commemorative day to tell briefly how the War affected one other small family.

My mother, Christmas 1914. On the reverse of this postcard is written 'With Best Wishes for a Merry Xmas From Meg, Tom and the 'Wee Un'.

My mother, Christmas 1914. On the reverse of this postcard is written ‘With Best Wishes for a Merry Xmas From Meg, Tom and the ‘Wee Un’.

On 4 August 1914 my mother, Margaret Wallace, born on 5 October 1913, was one day short of ten months old. She was living with her parents in Edinburgh where her father, Thomas Wallace, was a cashier in a brewery. On 2 December 1915, a couple of months after her second birthday, he joined up, aged 27.  He qualified as a signaller and telephonist (First class signalling certificate )with the Royal Garrison Artillery, was mobilized on 17 August 1916, setting sail from Plymouth for France.

Thomas Livingston Wallace

Thomas Livingston Wallace

He served in France  until November 1917 when the 289th Siege Battery was redeployed  to northern Italy. I have read 289 Siege Battery’s War Diary (held in the National Archives -WO 95/4205 289) which covers the period from Dec 1917 to May 1918 and gives a very interesting picture of army life up in the mountains above Vicenza. The officers seem to have enjoyed reasonably regular short breaks, allowing them visits to Rome.

Thomas Wallace’s army record seems uneventful. On 22 March 1918 he was admonished by the C.O. for turning up 85 minutes late to 9pm Roll Call, so I hope he had been having some fun. I doubt he ever got to Rome. On 19 April he was awarded First Class Proficiency Pay of ‘6d per diem’ and on 17 May was sent on a ‘Pigeon Course’ at General Headquarters, rejoining his Battery a week later. Three weeks later,  on 15 June, during the first day of the battle of Asiago he was killed. Army records show that his effects – comprising photos, 21shillings, metal wrist watch (broken) and signaller’s certificate – were returned to his widow, my grandmother.

The story handed down in the family ran something along the lines that, as a signaller, Thomas Wallace had been alerted to the fact that the Austrians were about to make a surprise attack, that communications had been disrupted and that he was relaying this information by travelling down the Line in person when he was killed. One is naturally very wary of ‘family’ stories, knowing full well how they get corrupted in the telling  but in records held in the National Archives, I did read, in a report of the battle of 15 June,

“289 Siege battery detached and section from them to engage suitable targets among the enemy’s advancing infantry

10.15 Runner and motor cyclists used because lines cut to brigade headquarters

Casualties in Brigade: 1 officer and 4 other ranks killed.’

The report of course doesn’t name the ‘other ranks’ but I wondered if Gunner Thomas Wallace was not one of those men.

He is buried at Magnaboschi Cemetery, a lovely tranquil spot, which when we visited some years ago we approached on foot through meadows. A fair proportion of the men buried in this small cemetery were also killed on 15 June 1918. The War Graves Commission information for Thomas Wallace is correct, whereas that created by the War Office is careless enough to have him killed in France. It just shows that one should never trust even the most official of records without corroborating evidence. Some years ago I did manage to get his entry corrected in the Roll of Honour of the Royal Garrison Artillery, contained in Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle. Wasn’t it just typical, I thought, when you know something about anything ‘They’ would get it wrong.

 

Thomas WallaceThat cemetery was a world away from the life my grandmother knew – the villages and small towns of Fife. I doubt she ever saw a photograph of his grave. She never seemed to recover from his death. Life on a war widow’s pension was a struggle. She kept all the letters he sent from the War – and when I was about 12 years old I was allowed to read one or two. I particularly remember one that described his crossing of the Lombardy Plain on the way to Italy. Alas, those letters disappeared around the time of her death in a nursing home in the early 1960s.

My widowed grandmother, with my mother and her brother, in the doorway of their Falkland cottage

My widowed grandmother, with my mother and her brother, in the doorway of their Falkland cottage

Like so many other children of their generation my mother and her brother, who was born in December 1917, grew up without a father. That was all they had ever known.

My mother in her University of St Andrews graduation gown

My mother in her University of St Andrews graduation gown

What were that young couple saying to each other as they discussed the news of War in their Edinburgh tenement  on 4 August 1914?  Until now they had surely been more content with life than had Kate Frye. Did they sense the cataclysm awaiting them? Alas, however well one may understand the situation of those close by ties of blood, without a written record it is impossible to know them in the way that a diarist – such as Kate – has determined that we should know her. It is  Kate’s mood that I feel still reverberating this centennial Fourth of August.

 

Incidentally, although Thomas Wallace may not have seen much more of Italy than the Lombardy Plain and the Dolomites, one of his great-granddaughters is now exceptionally well-acquainted with Rome – find her at Understanding Rome. Isn’t it remarkable the pattern Life makes?

For more about Kate Frye see Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

, , ,

1 Comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 3 August 1914

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. 

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £4.99 from Amazon.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft.

Kate has just begun her summer holiday – staying with her mother and sister in their rented rooms in Worthing.

Monday August 3rd 1914

I think the Blackest Bank Holiday that the world has ever known. What an appalling day – the most dire and awful depressio over everyone – like a pall shutting out the idea of holiday – jollity, sunshine and air – everything dead and dumb and yet one’s nerves turned up to a frightful pitch.

A European War and England must be drawn in. It is all rushing upon us now – a huge welter of realisation of what we are in for – what our navy means to us, and what the machines of death will bring to innocent men and their wives and families.

I am all for peace – always for peace, war is too repulsive, but I am for the honour of England too – and come what may we must link ourselves with France and help keep off the aggressive – brutal – nation that is at her doors. What an awful day. I shall never forget it.

Agnes in bed very seedy in that miserable dark hole of a room – would not even have the blind up all day. I went out in the morning and evening for strolls – not a smile on the face of anyone one met – simply a grim, hard, and quiet manner, but terror at our hearts. What will the war mean towards us?

Read the papers all the afternoon. The Bank Holidays are to continue for 3 more days to let the staff get things into order and issue £1 & 10/- notes to make up for the shortage of gold. Some people are getting panic stricken – taking out their money. Then some people are buying up huge quantities of food stuffs and stocking their houses as for a siege. How mean and beastly of them – the people with money trying to get some advantage over the poor who cannot hoard – and of course creating an artificial demand and raising prices needlessly. One lady bought 18 hams – besides a huge amount of other goods – some people giving orders of £75. I hope their foodstuffs will be chasing them round the house before they can eat it. 

Travellers are getting stranded in Austria and Germany where they are mobilizing and using the railways for that purpose so that people cannot get home. Oh dear – oh dear. It’s awful.

I did not go out after tea but greased Mickie’s skin for 2 hours. He is in an awful state. I brought a small pot of my stock of grease when we left the Plat last September.

Well, Kate’s words speak for themselves. Hers was the experience of most of Britain – a month ago she would never have dreamed that the country was about to enter a European War. Then, on 3 July,after a morning of canvassing for ‘votes for women’ in Peckham,  she and John had pottered down to Worthing for a short weekend-break.  As unremarkable a couple of days by the seaside as one could imagine. Here she was in Worthing again – and the world she had known was turning upside down.

Worthing Parade, 1914

Worthing Parade, 1914

Do look at this article on Worthing History  to read about the enticing range of entertainments Worthing had to offer on that Bank Holiday Monday while Agnes, typically, lay in her ‘dark hole of a room.’ Kate, although she may not have gone to listen to the illuminated concert on the Parade, at least went out to sample Worthing’s mood and when at home soaked up what information there was in the papers. Knowing  how near to penury her family now  was, we can recognise why she took a very personal interest in the reported selfishness of the wealthy.

NOW PUBLISHED (7 August) Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £5. 14 from Amazon.

See also Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 2 August 1914

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. 

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £4.99 from Amazon.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft.

Kate has just begun her summer holiday – staying with her mother and sister in their rented rooms in Worthing.

Sunday August 2nd 1914

Not out all day as furious wind, everything jangling and banging. I felt seedy and got up late. Agnes too was very queer – says she knows she is going to be ill. Read and dozed in the afternoon and did some writing in the evening.

Germany has declared war against Russia for interfering against Austria over Servia – and against France!!! Goodness alone knows why unless this is what she has been preparing for and planning for years. England must be drawn in – I don’t see in honour what else we can do. John may be called to a Fort at any minute. Oh the whole idea frightens me.

John Collins

John Collins

John Collins, had been involved with the army all his life, despite being the most un-warlike of men. The Collins family had long  been leading members of Knaresborough (Yorkshire) society. John’s father, however, had been a younger son, had not inherited any family wealth and had gone into the army, becoming a colonel.  In 1900, after a brief spell as a student at Cambridge, John had served out in South Africa as a private  with the Yeomanry Field Hospital, Bearers Company during the Boer War.  Ever since returning he had worked in the theatre while continuing as a member of, first, a Volunteer brigade and then as an assiduous member of the Territorial Army. His theatrical career had been punctuated by length periods spent at training camps – on Salisbury Plain and at coastal forts such as Shoeburyness. So we can see why the thought of war caused Kate a particular fear.

See also Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

,

Leave a comment

Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 1 August 1914

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate. 

To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  £4.99 from Amazon.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman. Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting  a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft.

Kate has just begun her summer holiday – staying with her mother and sister in their rented rooms in Worthing.

Saturday August 1st 1914

Very warm. Up late. Agnes, Mickie and I to the Beach 12 to 1. Work in the afternoon. Rain in the evening so I went out by myself to the Library. But I can’t read – there is too much in the papers, and all this uncertainty makes one restless.

This must be one of the shortest entries in Kate’s entire life-time of diaries. As such, as she says ,it is an indication of the impossibility of concentrating on anything other than the hitherto inconceivable fact that a European war would not now be averted. It was merely a matter of waiting to see which countries would be involved.

Kate with Mickie in happier days - at The Plat

Kate with Mickie in happier days – beside the river Thames at The Plat, Bourne End

See also Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

,

Leave a comment

Women And The First World War: The Work Of Women Doctors

I wrote the following article back in 2006 and it was published in that July’s issue of Ancestors, a magazine published by The National Archives but now, alas, defunct.

The Work of Women Doctors in First World War

On 15 September 1914, six weeks after the outbreak of the First World War, Louisa Garrett Anderson, daughter of Britain’s first woman doctor, wrote to her mother, ‘This is just what you would have done at my age. I hope I shall be able to do it half as well as you would have done’. Louisa was writing in the train on her way to Paris where, with her companion, Dr Flora Murray, she proposed to set up a hospital to treat the war wounded.

Louisa Garrett Anderson (r) and Flora Murray - plus dog. (Phot0 courtesy of BBC website)

Louisa Garrett Anderson (r) and Flora Murray – plus dog. (Phot0 courtesy of BBC website)

Neither woman had any previous experience of tending male patients. Louisa was a surgeon in the New Hospital for Women, founded by her mother, and Flora was physician to the Women’s Hospital for Children that she and Louisa had established in London, in the Harrow Road.  Although it was now nearly 40 years since British women had become eligible to study and practise medicine, they were still barred from posts in most general hospitals. Their work was confined to general practice and to the hospitals that had been founded by women to treat women and children. The war, however, created new conditions and by its close around one-fifth of Britain’s women doctors had undertaken medical war work, both at home and, more particularly, abroad.

This experience was not at first gained through the conventional conduit of the Royal Army Medical Corps or through the joint committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John that had been formed to co-ordinate voluntary medical work. The War Office, believing it had sufficient reserves of male medical personnel, refused to employ women doctors in war zones. However in the chaos of war the relief of suffering was open to any groups – even groups of women – able to raise the necessary funds and staff.

In autumn 1914 British agencies, such as the Serbian Relief Fund, the Society of Friends, the Wounded Allies Relief Committee and the British Farmers, quickly organized medical teams for service overseas. Many of these, such as the Berry Mission and the Almeric Paget Massage Corps, were happy to include women doctors. Of other ‘free enterprises’ the Women’s Imperial Service League, the Women’s Hospital Corps, and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals employed only women doctors.

Mrs Stobart (centre) with her group in Antwerp. Sept 1914. Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum Collection

Mrs Stobart (centre) with her group in Antwerp. Sept 1914. Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum Collection

The Women’s Imperial Service League was formed by Mrs Mabel St Clair Stobart in August 1914. Unlike most women of her day Mrs Stobart already had experience of organizing a medical mission to a war zone. In 1912 she had founded the Women’s Convoy Corps, taking it to Bulgaria during the first Balkan war. Mrs Stobart’s team had comprised three women doctors, ‘for the purpose of fully demonstrating my argument that women are capable of undertaking all work in connection with the sick and wounded in warfare.’  Similarly, at the invitation of the Belgian Croix Rouge, on 22 September 1914 she took the Women’s Imperial Service League unit to Antwerp.

Florence Stoney, wearing the decorations she received for her service during the First World War

Florence Stoney, wearing the decorations she received for her service during the First World War

The doctor-in-charge was Dr Florence Stoney, who before the war had set up the x-ray department at the Royal Free and the New Hospital for Women and who brought with her the very latest in x-ray equipment.  Accompanying her were five other women, Drs Joan Watts, Helen Hanson, Mabel Ramsay (for her account of the expedition click  here) , Rose Turner and Emily Morris. As the Germans overran Belgium the women were quickly forced to evacuate.

In April 1915, after working for a time in France, the Stobart Unit set out for Serbia, under the auspices of the Serbian Relief Fund.  That country had lost many of its own doctors and was grateful for the assistance of the Unit, which by now comprised 15 women doctors. The Unit dealt with those wounded in battle but also played an important part in treating the neglected civilian population. Typhus was a major threat to the health of both soldiers and civilians and the Unit set up roadside dispensaries so that patients could be treated before they entered towns and spread infection further.  This work came to an end when Bulgaria invaded Serbia in October 1915 and the Unit was forced to retreat.

George James Rankin, Mrs M. A St Clair Stobart (Lady of the Black Horse(c) British Red Cross Museum and Archives; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation)

George James Rankin, Mrs M. A St Clair Stobart (Lady of the Black Horse. (c) British Red Cross Museum and Archives; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation)

Mrs Stobart, a feminist but fiercely independent, had not been directly involved in the pre-war suffrage campaign, unlike many of her doctors. Drs Helen Hanson and Dorothy Tudor, who went out to Bulgaria with her in 1912, were members of the Women’s Freedom League and Dr Mabel Ramsay had been secretary of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage society in Plymouth. Indeed women doctors, as a class, had been very much involved in the suffrage movement, the greater number being associated with the non-militant National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Most women could not afford to jeopardize their livelihood and professional standing by serving a prison term.

As tax payers many doctors were members of the Tax Resistance League, prepared to commit acts of civil disobedience that did not result in imprisonment.  Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray were relatively unusual in being supporters of Mrs Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union. Indeed in 1912 Louisa Garrett Anderson had joined the hunger strike when imprisoned in Holloway after taking part in a WSPU window-smashing raid. However on the outbreak of war the suffrage campaign was suspended and within eight days women doctors, both suffragettes and suffragists, were planning how best to give practical support to the war effort.

Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray wasted no energy in approaching the War Office. Instead, on 12 August, they called in person at the French Embassy, offering to raise and equip a surgical unit, comprising women doctors and trained nurses, for service in France. Within a week the French Red Cross had accepted this offer. The newly-formed Women’s Hospital Corps quickly raised £2000 and on 17 September 1914 Louisa Garrett Anderson was in Paris, writing that ‘we found Claridge’s Hotel [in which their hospital was to be housed] a gorgeous shell of marble and gilt without heating or crockery or anything practical but by dint of mild ‘militancy’ & unending push things have advanced immensely.’

Working alongside Anderson and Murray were Drs Gertrude Gazdar, Hazel Cuthbert and Grace Judge. On 27 September Louisa wrote to her mother: ‘The cases that come to us are very septic and the wounds are terrible. .. We have fitted up quite a satisfactory small operating theatre in the ‘Ladies Lavatory’ which has tiled floor and walls, good water supply & heating. I bought a simple operating table in Paris and we have arranged gas ring and fish kettles for sterilization…After years of unpopularity over the suffrage it is very exhilarating to be on top of the wave, helped and approved by everyone, except perhaps the English War Office, while all the time we are doing suffrage work – or woman’s work – in another form…I wish the whole organization for the care of the wounded…could be put into the hands of women. This is not military work. It is merely a matter of organisation, common sense, attention to detail and a determination to avoid unnecessary suffering and loss of life.’

In March 1915, after running a second hospital at Wimeueux, close to heavy fighting, the Women’s Hospital Corps received the accolade from the War Office of being put in charge of a new military hospital in London, housed in the former St Giles Workhouse in Endell Street, Covent Garden.

Endell Street Military Hospital, 1919. Courtesy  Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk

Endell Street Military Hospital, 1919. Courtesy Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk

The hospital staff comprised women only and included 15 doctors, surgeons, ophthalmic surgeons, dental surgeons, an anaesthetist, bacteriological and pathological experts and seven assistant doctors and surgeons, together with a full staff of women assistants. Members of the executive staff were ‘attached’ to the Royal Army Medical Corps, holding equal rank and receiving equal pay with Army doctors, but were not commissioned and did not wear army uniform. Flora Murray’s rank was equivalent to that of a lieutenant-colonel and Louisa Garrett Anderson’s that of a major. For a ‘Woman’s Hour’ podcast about the Endell Street Hospital click here.

The hospital proved particularly successful in gaining the loyalty of its patients. One, Private Crouch, wrote in 1915 to his father in Australia: ‘The management is good, and the surgeons take great interest in and pains with their patients. They will persevere for months with a shattered limb, before amputation, to try to save it…The whole hospital is a triumph for women, and incidentally it is a triumph for suffragettes’. The Endell Street hospital was retained in service until October 1919, longer than many other temporary military hospitals, and in its time treated over 24,000 soldiers as in-patients and nearly the same number of out-patients.

Plaque commemorating the Endell Street Military Hospital (photo courtesy of Plaques of London website)

Plaque commemorating the Endell Street Military Hospital (photo courtesy of Plaques of London website)

Louisa Garrett Anderson who, like all the other women surgeons, had had no previous experience of trauma surgery, was particularly interested in the treatment of gunshot wounds. She backed the BIPP treatment (bismuth and iodoform paraffin paste), publishing articles on the subject in the Lancet. Both Murray and Anderson were, in 1917, among the first to be appointed CBE.

Elsie Inglis, 1916

Elsie Inglis, 1916

On the very day in August 1914 that Anderson and Murray were offering their assistance at the French Embassy, Elsie Inglis, a Scottish surgeon, proposed to a meeting in Edinburgh of the Scottish Federation of the NUWSS, of which she was secretary, that help should be given to the Red Cross. Matters swiftly progressed until Inglis was able to offer a unit of 100 beds to either the War Office or the Red Cross. After receiving a sharp rebuff, she, too, approached the French Ambassador with an offer to send hospital units to France. A similar proposition was also made to the Serbian authorities.

By 19 November 1914 the first Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit For Foreign Service was in Calais, dealing with an outbreak of typhoid. The doctor in charge was Alice Hutchinson, who in 1912 had been a member of Mrs Stobart’s Women’s Convoy Corps. In fact it was for service in Serbia that this unit had been recruited and, after dealing with the Calais emergency, by spring 1915 it was able to set up a 40-tent hospital at Valjevo, 80 miles from Belgrade.

Scottish Women's Hospitals Collecting box 1914-1918. Image courtesy of National MuseumsScotland. www.nms.ac.uk

Scottish Women’s Hospitals Collecting box 1914-1918. Image courtesy of National MuseumsScotland. http://www.nms.ac.uk

On 2 December 1914 the SWH’s first French unit (that is, the first intended for France) left Waverley Station, bound for Royaumont, where it was to be housed in a 13th-century Abbey.

Norah Neilson-Gray. The Scottish Women's Hospital : In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont. Dr. Frances Ivens inspecting a French patient. Picture courtesy Imperial War Museum Women's Work Section

Norah Neilson-Gray. The Scottish Women’s Hospital : In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont. Dr. Frances Ivens inspecting a French patient. Picture courtesy Imperial War Museum Women’s Work Section

The unit comprised seven doctors, under the charge of Dr Frances Ivens.  It was one of the hospitals closest to the front line and at its peak was, with 600 beds, the largest British voluntary hospital in France.  On 25 September 1915 Miss M. Starr, a VAD at Royaumont, wrote of a casualty that had just arrived, ’One arm will simply have to be amputated, he had had poison gas, as well, and the smell was enough to knock one down, bits of bone sticking out and all gangrene. It will be marvellous if Miss Ivens saves it, but she is going to try it appears, as it is his right arm. He went to X-ray, then to Theatre, and I believe the operation was rather wonderful, but I had no time to stop and see’. Four days later she wrote,  ‘The operating theatre is a horrible hell these days, it goes on till 2 and 3 in the morning. Then there is another fitted up temporarily on one of the Ward kitchens’.

In mid-1917 Royaumont opened a satellite camp hospital even closer to the line, at Villers Cotterets. From there in May 1918 Dr Elizabeth Courtauld wrote, ‘Terrible cases came in. Between 10.30 and 3.30 or 4 am we had to amputate six thighs and one leg, mostly by the light of bits of candle, held by the orderlies, and as for me giving the anaesthetic, I did it more or less in the dark at my end of the patient’.

Between January 1915 and February 1919 the surgeons at Royaumont and Villers Cotterets performed 7204 operations. The hospital had an excellent x-ray unit, necessary for locating bullets and shrapnel before surgery, and placed great importance on bacteriological examinations.  To prevent death from gas gangrene the doctors followed the procedure developed in 1915 of extensive excision of the wound, which was then kept open, with an appropriate dressing, for later suture.

In May 1915 a second Scottish Women’s hospital was established by the ‘Girton and Newnham’ Unit, in tents, near Troyes. Its doctors included Laura Sandeman, Louise McIlroy and Isabel Emslie.

In November 1915 the unit was moved from France to Salonika, attached to the French Expeditionary Force. By April 1915 Elsie Inglis was in Serbia, in charge of another unit, the ‘London’. She worked there and in Russia until the autumn of 1917 when, with her unit, she returned, mortally ill, dying the day after arriving at Newcastle.

In Serbia the necessity was less for war surgery than for combating disease. Dysentery, typhus and malaria were rife. The SWH laboratory attached to the Girton and Newnham Unit was the best equipped in Serbia and its pathologists were kept busy.  In it Isabel Emslie carried out cerebro-spinal fluid examinations for the consultant physician to the British Army, writing later, ‘I was proud and most willing to help by giving this voluntary contribution to the British, who had not thought fit to accept our SWHs.’

Girton and Newnham Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals about to embark on board ship at Liverpool, October 1915. Photo courtesy of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Archive

Girton and Newnham Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals about to embark on board ship at Liverpool, October 1915. Photo courtesy of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Archive

In the summer of 1916 another SWH unit, named the ‘American Unit’ because it was financed by money raised in the USA, was sent to Ostrovo, 85 miles from Salonika. It was to remain in Serbia until mid-1919. Isabel Emslie became its chief medical officer in 1918.

Dr Isabel Emslie. : Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.ukCourtesy

Dr Isabel Emslie. Courtesy Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk

She later wrote, ‘I did the operating and was ably assisted by the keen young doctors, latterly arrived from home, who were able to brief me on the latest methods, for it was now four years since I had been home. I undertook major operations which I never imagined would have fallen to my lot, and I would never have had the temerity to tackle all the specialist operations if there had been anyone else capable of doing them. Looking back on a long life of medical work and service, I believe that my sojourn in Vranja was the most worth-while period of my war experience and possibly of my life’. The work of the SWH in Serbia only ended in March 1920, by which time over 60 British women doctors, some of whom were working independently of the SWH, had served in the country.

By 1916 the War Office, recognizing that the supply of male doctors was dwindling, reversed its policy and sent a contingent of 85 medical women to Malta. Others followed and, for the remainder of the war, were to be found working in Egypt, Salonika and the Sinai Desert. These women were attached to the RAMC, receiving 24s a day, the pay of a male temporary officer. However they did not have equal rights, were forced to pay for their own board and were not permitted to wear uniform.

In Britain, again in response to the shortage of male doctors, a few women were appointed to posts in military hospitals. For instance Dr Helena Wright was a surgeon at Bethnal Green Military Hospital and Dr Florence Stoney, following her work with Mrs Stobart’s Unit, was appointed to the x-ray department of the Fulham Military Hospital. In addition, as the war dragged on, new posts became available to women doctors in connection with the new women’s services, the WAAC, the WRNS, and the WRAF.

During the war the necessity of providing the country with doctors forced the medical profession to allow women access to schools previously the preserve of men. The London School of Medicine for Women also played its part, expanding rapidly until, by 1919, it was the largest medical school in the country.

In How to Become a Woman Doctor, published in 1918, the author optimistically wrote that ‘War-time appointments at large hospitals have given great satisfaction and done much to break down old conservative ideas’. However, with the return to peace, the forces of reaction regrouped. The Royal Free once again became the only London teaching hospital offering clinical instruction to women. Women doctors, even those who had gained extensive experience in all aspects of medicine during the previous four years, were relegated to the type of position that they had held before the war. Although doctors such as Louise McIlroy, Frances Ivens and Isabel Elmslie had distinguished post-war careers, these were not based on the practical experience they had gained during the war.

The war-work of women doctors was quickly forgotten. It is only in the last decade or so that detailed research on the subject has been published. This has been facilitated by war diaries and collections of letters donated to archives either by the women medical workers themselves or by their descendants. If you believe that you have in your possession any such material, do consider depositing it at one of the archives listed below.

 

Taking it further

Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ  holds books, papers and photographs relating to the work of medical women in the First World War.

The Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT – is a specialist collection of primary material relating to the First World War, including papers of women doctors.

The Wellcome Library, 210 Euston Road, London NW! 2BE  holds the archive of the Medical Women’s Federation, which includes some material relating to the work of women doctors in the First World War.

The Women’s Library@ LSE – holds papers relating to Louisa Garrett Anderson, Flora Murray and the Women’s  Hospital Corps

Mitchell Library, 201 North Street, Glasgow holds the main archive of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals

 

Further Reading

Eileen Crofton, The Women of Royaumont: a Scottish women’s hospital on the Western Front (Tuckwell Press, 1997)

Monica Krippner, The Quality of Mercy: women at war, Serbia 1915-18 (David & Charles, 1980)

Leah Leneman, In the Service of Life: the story of Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (Mercat Press, 1994)

Flora Murray, Women as Army Surgeons (Hodder & Stoughton, 1920)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[

 

 

 

, , , , ,

Leave a comment