Cemetery : Wetherby Cemetery, Hallfield Road, Wetherby
Daughter of Arthur George and Martha
Elizabeth Tapsell of 10, High Street, Wetherby.
was born at Grimsby in 1898 to parents Arthur, a Domestic Gardener, and Martha Elizabeth, the family residing in premises
located in Alfred Terrace, Brighowgate, Grimsby.
The youngest of two daughters, her elder sister Lilian Gertrude being
born in 1897, it is unclear as to when the family actually took up residence in the town of Wetherby but this would suggest
to be just before the outbreak of the Great War, the family home being established at Number 10, High Street, Wetherby.
It appears that due to Arthur's occupation, the family led quite a transient
lifestyle, moving to where employment as a Domestic Gardener presented itself however his employer in the Wetherby district
is unknown at present. Little is known about Kathleen and her sisters teenage life in the flourishing and affluent market
town of Wetherby but the opportunities for recreation and social activities must have no doubt proved to be most welcome.
At this juncture, the Author will provide a detailed
analysis of the origins and formation of the Voluntary Aid Detachment. From inception to an established organisation, the
concept of voluntary aid evolved through various phases and processes to provide essential care for the wounded and sick,
its volunteers rising to their country's call at a most desperate hour.
The Evolution Of The Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.)
The Voluntary Aid Organisation had been formed in 1909 as a consequence of
the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act dated 1907, this act being more commonly referred to as the Haldane Act,
after the then Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane. This act brought into existence the Territorial Force in
1908 but in addition to the latters formation, concerns were also raised as a consequence of the implementation of this act
for the provision of the sick or wounded in times of conflict. The existing medical services of the Territorial Force were,
by and large, of sufficient size to cope in any future conflict, but, in a variety of functions that would have to be performed
both at home and abroad, the force, as it stood at present, was inadequate due to a lack of suitably trained personnel.
To this end, the Director-General Army Medical Services, Surgeon-General
Sir Alfred Henry Keogh K.C.B., K.H.P. enthusiastically embraced the task of reorganising the Territorial Forces medical services.
In mid 1908 Keogh established an Advisory Council, himself presiding as Chairman, in relation to the formation of a nursing
service for the General Hospitals of the Territorial Force. With the Duchess of Montrose acting as Vice-President and the
Council comprising of eminent members of the nursing fraternity, the latter was entrusted with the formation of the Territorial
on virtually the same procedures performed by the Royal Army Medical Corps, medical arrangements for the Army for home defence
were restructured, in the case of General Hospitals, an establishment of the latter, under administrative officers of the
Territorial Medical Corps was born. Manned with a staff of surgeons and physicians from large civilian hospitals in the locality
and assisted in their duties with a nursing staff drawn from the T.F. Nursing Service augmented by subordinate personnel from
the Territorial Force and Voluntary Aid Societies, this establishment would utilise, prepare and equip buildings undertaken
by the British Red Cross Society. In addition to this Convalescent Homes would also be organised by Voluntary Aid Societies.
Authors Note: In the locality of Wetherby, 'Homes' would be established at North Deighton (North Deighton Manor),
Thorner, and Lotherton Hall.
1909, the Army Council after consultation with the Council of the British Red Cross in addition to various Chairmen of the
County Associations stated more precise intentions. A "Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid in England and Wales"
was received by the Army Council from the Secretary of the War Office in August and subsequently a copy was issued to the
Territorial County Associations throughout the country. It would appear that the choice of terminology recorded in an article
published in The Times newspaper would suggest that the T.F. Associations were rather reticent adding "It is hoped
that the Association will place themselves in communication with the council of the British Red Cross Society without delay,
with a view to initiating the formation of voluntary aid detachments if it is not the wish of the Associations themselves
to undertake their formation and training."
Guide ToThe Scheme Adopted
summary of the scheme therefore concluded that 'societies' rendering assistance to the sick and wounded in times of
conflict had a tendency to operate independantly of one another and that efficiency in this assistance could not be achieved
unless all the voluntary aid was a coordinated effort. Organised on a county basis to which the Territorial Force operated,
the British Red Cross adopted this structure as the basis of its constitution.
In each county, the County Association would therefore be responsible for
the organisation of voluntary aid in their respective areas. The former, through the medium of local branches of the British
Red Cross Society would instigate the formation of voluntary aid detachments with an establishment which was detailed in the
Scheme. There was also no limit to be placed on the number of these detachments to be raised by a county,
these detachments being placed under the command of a County Director with each detachment being capable of a multi functional
role for example the staffing of clearing hospitals, rest stations or as ambulance personnel, such as they were required to
act in times of conflict.
training and equipment of these detachments would be determined by the British Red Cross an emphasis being placed on the ability
of the detachments to make practical and effective use of local resources for the improvisation of accomodation and transport
of wounded and for their temporary care and treatment until they reached a General Hospital.
The detachments would be formed into two classes, men and women respectively,
a structured organisation based on the relief detachments of the Japanese Red Cross Society and that of the voluntary aid
companies of Germany. Men would be specifically trained in the transport of wounded whilst their female counterparts would
be trained in nursing duties and the preparation of food.
by military authorities would also be carried out so as to maintain uniformity and standards of efficiency, a return of members
of each detachment being submitted periodically through the County Associations to general officers commanding-in-chief by
each County Director of Voluntary Aid Detachments.
St. John Ambulance Association
Although the foundations of the Scheme were laid down, there was room for expansion.
It was detailed that at present there was no personnel in place for organisations connecting the Field Ambulances with Clearing
Hospitals located near railway lines to expediate the evacuation of the wounded or sick. No personnel organised for Rest Stations
or Stationary Hospitals along routes of evacuation in addition to no personnel for the expansion of General Hospitals, buildings
for the location of the latter establishments in the vast majority having not yet being selected.
Of the Saint John Ambulance Association, preliminary instruction for a Scheme
had already been formulated prior to a memorandum issued by the War Office. A section of the Territorial Branch of the
St. John Ambulance Association would be established in each county in England and Wales for the purpose of the formation of
classes of instruction in first aid and nursing. It was proposed that the role of president in each county organisation be
assumed by the Lord Lieutenant and his wife and that each organisation would have two secretaries, one for the male classes
and one for the womens respectively. The members of the aforementioned classes who then passed an examination it was expected
would then be admitted for membership in the Voluntary Aid Detachments.
In essence, the Scheme adopted by the St. John Ambulance Association expressed
the duties to be conducted by the Voluntary Aid Detachments as follows, Source: The Times Newspaper Dated August 18th 1909.
1. Preparing vehicles
provided by the military authorities for removing patients lying down.
2. Improvising stretches and other means for severe cases carried by hand.
3. Converting country houses, farms, public buildings (this also included
villages and small towns) into temporary hospitals while waiting for transport.
4. Utilising local resources for trivial cases.
5. Forming rest stations en route for refreshment or accomodation over-night
while waiting for transport.
evacuating stations (expanded rest stations) at railhead for classifying sick and wounded for transport.
7. Forming redistribution stations (expanded rest stations) where required
- i.e. chiefly at railway junctions, for transport of sick and wounded to selected general hospitals.
8. Making local arrangements for transport from railway stations to hospitals
and medical posts and vice versa.
Providing personnel for accompanying sick during conveyance.
Fitting out empty vans and rolling stock for transport by rail.
Collecting and distributing material for clearing hospitals and rest stations, and managing depots thereof.
12. Conducting convalescent homes.
13. Caring for invalided men at their own homes.
The Response Of The County Associations & The Pre War Years
The scheme was warmly received
across the counties. In Yorkshire, the West Yorks County Association were confident that there would be no difficulties encountered
in the organisation of the detachments. Lord and Lady Harewood responded by enthusiastically accepting the office of presidents
of the county section as did the vast majority of the Lord Lieutenants of the land. The roll of Chairman was performed by
the Earl of Scarborough, Vice-Chairman, Sir William Clegg J.P., a former Lord Mayor of Sheffield. The duties of Secretary
devolved on Colonel Horatio Reginald Mends
the following year, the Ambulance Department of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of England who had carried out the initial
training programme of the Voluntary Aid Detachments withdrew from the Scheme for reasons not cited. The strain no
doubt placed on the St. John Ambulance Association to train the detachments is one possible explanation as it had processed
about 93,000 personnel of both sexes conducted through the establishment of over 4,650 classes in nursing and first aid. In
the last session of training alone, 33,000 personnel had passed through the system and although the course of action to withdraw
was unfortunate, the valuable cooperation provided by this organisation was duly noted by the War Office. Source: The Times
Newspaper Dated June 17th, 1910.
April 1911, the newspaper proudly published that since its formation in August 1909, 659 Voluntary Aid Detachments comprising
of both sexes were now registered with the War Office, not including those that were undergoing the act of formation. Of personnel
numbering nearly 20,000, about one third of their number were men. In the parody of a running race with a man vying for first
place, the paper published which counties had raised the most detachments, Gloucester and Hampshire locked in a tie at 50
There was however, some criticism aimed at the War Office and the British
Red Cross Society. At a conference of delegates from England, Wales and Scotland on the subject of voluntary aid held at the
Castle, Exeter, on the 2nd November 1912, Mr. John Samuel Champion Davis, the Devon County Director of the Voluntary Aid Organisation
and presiding the conference, listened as the delegates voiced their concerns.
At this being the first instance at which members of the voluntary aid organisations had
met in conference, it was expressed by the members that it was their opinion that the War Office and the British Red Cross
had not fulfilled their duties and responsibilities in regards to the organisation of the voluntary aid service. The major
criticisms were that there were no directing and mobilisation staff and that there was also no proper link with the Territorial
Force. Regulations as they stood also made it virtually impossible to raise detachments of men for service with the voluntary
aid service. The British Red Cross did also not escape the criticisms of the delegates who expressed the sentiment that they
had been left to more or less their own devices, knowing nothing of the excepted formula that other counties were working
to as regards training.
The conference therefore
passed resolutions on the desirability of administering the Voluntary Aid Service according to Territorial Force Divisions
and on the question of Divisional Staffs being supplied by the War Office. Furthermore, and to assist the programme of training,
the delegates thought it more suitable that training be carried out at some establishment formed as a school of instruction.
Director-General Of The Army Medical Services: A Conflict Of Interests?
In March 1913, the Director-General of the Army Medical Services, Surgeon-General
Sir Launcelotte Gubbins addressed the concerns raised previously at a the annual meeting of the County of London Branch of
the British Red Cross Society held at Grosvenor House. The basis of his speech declared that when the Scheme for
voluntary aid detachments was first formulated in 1909, it was projected that a roll of about 40,000 was about a figure to
be expected. It transpired that there were now 1,959 detachments in existence comprising of a strength of about 60,000 personnel,
over 83% of these detachments being raised by the Red Cross.
was, though it appeared, a conflict of interests fired by the recruitment of men into the Territorial Force as opposed to
joining the voluntary aid services, men numbering about 20,000 out of a total of about 60,000 personnel in the service. It
was true that the T.F. were under establishment at this juncture by about 50,000 men, the Surgeon-General of the opinion that
the dutiful place of any man physically fit and under the age of 30 years was indeed in the ranks of the Territorial Force.
The question as regards the role of the voluntary
aid services upon mobilisation was also raised however to some the answer must have proved to quite unsatisfactory. At present
there were no specific instructions available, the detachments it was deemed just to prepare and make themselves ready for
whatever duties they were required to perform when the act of mobilisation was announced. As regards mobilisation and training,
Gubbins was able however to inform the meeting that a sanction had been announced for the formation of a Cadre that
was to be allocated to the establishment of each division of the Territorial Force. This Cadre would consist of three
Officers and five Other Ranks who would perform a dual function; firstly, to assist in the coordination and training of the
Voluntary Aid Detachments in time of peace and secondly, upon the act of mobilisation, to adopt certain duties normally conducted
by the County Director.
He further brought
to the attention of the meeting that it had been suggested in some circles that the War Office showed an unfair bias towards
the Red Cross Society and had adopted an attitude that was perceived to be hostile towards the St. John Ambulance Association.
Gubbins denied that any friction existed and that in fact the War Office's stance in relation to both organisations was
one of "cordial neutrality."
Establishment At The Close Of 1913
the close of the year 1913, the strength of the medical organisation of the Territorial Force was considered to be
satisfactory to meet the needs of the T.F. either on the route of march or in combat. Sufficient in medical establishments
and other units that would accompany the force in addition to the provision of general hospitals, it was however deemed that
it lacked some medical units to be found in the Expeditionary Force of the Regular Army and in armies overseas; ambulance
trains, casualty clearing hospitals, rest stations, stationary hospitals, convalescent homes and private hospitals.
To address just one of these factors, namely the provision of hospitals and
convalescent homes, British Red Cross Society officials began to visit country houses in search of properties which could
be adapted for hospital purposes in the event of invasion. In addition to these visits conducted through numerous counties,
in some instances, occupiers were invited to fill in forms consenting to either provide accomodation for an unspecified number
of wounded or to supply hospital equipment, this being conducted by the British Red Cross Society in accordance with the Scheme
For The Organisation Of Voluntary Aid in case of invasion.
In terms of numbers of Voluntary Aid Detachments raised by the British Red Cross Society
in England, Scotland and Wales, registered and numbered by the War Office as of the 22nd November 1913, the figure now amounted
Detachments - Men
Detachments - Women
Total = 1859
Total Number Of Personnel (Men) = 16,436
Total Number Of Personnel (Women) = 37,603
Total = 54,039
Source: The Times Dated, Monday, 8th December, 1913.
Organisation: An Inquiry, July 1914
On the 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian
throne was assasinated in Sarajevo. It was just a matter of time before the fragile treaties that bound Europe together would
collapse ultimately causing a chain reaction that would witness the commencement of World War One as one country went to war
in support of another.
announcement was made by the War Office on the 1st July that a committee had now been appointed to inquire into the working
practices and organisation of Voluntary Aid Detachments. Under the Chairmanship of Sir Walter Roper Lawrence Bt., G.C.I.E.
along with representatives of the Territorial Force Associations, St. Andrew's Ambulance Association, St. John Ambulance
Association, British Red Cross and the War Office, the purpose of this inquiry was as follows:-
"To inquire into and report upon the difficulties which have been
experienced in co-ordinating the work of the societies and associations in forming, registering, training, administering,
and controlling Voluntary Aid Detachments, and to make suggestions for amending the existing schemes for the organisation
of voluntary aid, with a view to the removal of such difficulties."
With Lieutenant-Colonel George Bradshaw Stanistreet M.B. performing the duties
of Secretary, the inquiry came in for criticism due to the committee being comprised exclusively of men. One correspondent
to the Times newspaper commented;
should therefore like to point out to those responsible for the selection of this committee that it is, under the circumstances,
scarcely appropriate that this inquiry should be conducted solely by the male sex. The work of V.A.D.'s is primarily women's
work, for it concerns the care of the sick and wounded, and I would deferentially suggest that the committee should include
some women doctors, some fully-qualified women nurses, together with some non-specialised women who have had experience as
organisers of women and as commandants in women's Voluntary Aid Detachments."
Authors note: The author of the letter was one Mabel Annie Stobart, the founder
of the Women's Sick & Wounded Convoy Corps and the Women's National Service League.
Upon the outbreak of war, the Voluntary Aid Detachments were mobilised under
the control of the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and that of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
By mid 1915, the War Office announced that it was not going to accept the
formation of any more Voluntary Aid Hospitals. Amongst the reasons stipulated was that of the number of hospitals currently
commissioned there were countless others that had not as yet been mobilised. In addition to this factor, it was viewed that
they were uneconomical and procured the services of too many nurses and doctors. The reality in terms of economics was that
the budget required to maintain these establishments was actually minimal, funding being primarily obtained at local and county
level by a charitable public. Of the services of doctors and nurses, of the former, the vast majority had their own private
practices to maintain in civilian life. If hospitals in stasis were closed, their free service would undoubtedly be lost as
would be a valuable asset to assist in the training of nurses before moving onto larger military based establishments. With
the numbers of sick and wounded passing through the voluntary aid hospitals increasing, it was, or appeared to be, a lack
of vision on the part of the War Office.
initial concern that needed to be addressed was the inspection in specific areas of the establishments. In the original scheme
formulated by Keogh, the British Red Cross were empowered to appoint County Directors who, on the outbreak of war, would act
as mobilisation officers. Of course it was a great undertaking by the society with the result that in some counties where
the Red Cross did not take action the directors were not appointed. To remedy this a system of dual control was established
whereupon mobilisation each detachment then came under the auspices of the War Office. It seemed all well and good on paper
but in essence, upon assuming this control, it somewhat diminished the influence of the Red Cross in certain matters resulting
in the roll of the County Director becoming almost redundant thereon in. With voluntary aid units now under the command of
military officers and mobilised under War Office authority as required, of those hospitals empty, as regards the question
of being uneconomical, it was to the contrary as the vast majority were maintained at full strength by private subscription.
National expenditure only amounted to two or three shillings per day per man if a bed was occupied, of those not, they purely
survived on the generosity of the public with no grant at all.
|V.A.D. Recruitment Poster Circa 1915
|Artist: Dennys Joyce: Copyright: Art.IWM PST 3268
As regards the preserve of discipline within the hospitals, the
conduct of convalescents being duly noted as a problem area, it was suggested that doctors in charge of establishments should
be awarded an honorary rank within the military with uniform. In addition to this, uniforms of the nurses should also be registered
so as to adopt an identity worthy of their status. Of the question of the financing of these establishments, a further reform
was also required that would witness that the War Office continue their grant towards hospitals even if they were empty. The
latter reform was imperative. With 1915 already witnessing the battles at Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge and with a major
offensive planned for the autumn, maintaining the hospitals at full strength in anticipation of an influx of wounded would
ensure that the infrastructure was already in place to provide treatment. Even at this stage of the war with the Voluntary
Aid Organisations still requiring fundamental reforms, volunteers still came forward to answer their country's call.
The Response In The Wetherby District
With particular reference to Kathleen Tapsell's service with the Voluntary
Aid Detachment, research material available at the time of original compilation by the Author proved to be minimal and amounted
to just two newspaper articles, one stating that Kathleen unfortunately died in the Spanish Flu pandemic whilst serving at
the Chester War Hospital. As a consequence, the original draft commemoration lacked sufficient evidence and substance in relation
to enlistment, service, and the establishment she was serving at the time of death, that is, until the Author was contacted
by Mr. Dave Rees of Chester.
Dave, a fellow
member of the Western Front Association and Treasurer of the Hoole History & Heritage Society, in addition to conducting
most praiseworthy research into the fallen commemorated on his local war memorial at Hoole and Newton also has an avid interest
in the war on the home front with particular reference to the two Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals and an official War Hospital
located in his locality in which one establishment a relative served.
Hoole History & Heritage Society
In the course of his search for information, Dave as part of his
research criteria accessed the records of the British Red Cross for those who served in his locality. As well as locating
valuable information for his own projects, he informed the Author that he had found a record of service for Kathleen Tapsell.
Expanding on this unique source of information, it was found that using the Red Cross search engine enabled one to perform
a search by location/hospital. Using the 'key' word of Wetherby, the results proved to be most interesting opening
an entire new field of research into those who volunteered from the Wetherby district for service both at home and abroad
during the Great War. At this juncture the Author will provide just a few examples of those who volunteered from a wide and
varied social spectrum.
origins of those individuals residing in the Wetherby district who volunteered for voluntary aid establishments throughout
the county and country appear to eminate from the Wetherby Detachment of the St. John's Ambulance Association. Numbered
the 84th Detachment and organised on a county basis, the precise date of formation at present is not known however documentary
evidence proves that it was in existence and established by September 1910. At this period, one Agnes Evelyn Foster of Stockeld
Park was appointed Commandant of the Wetherby cum Stockeld Detachment (84). Agnes, the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer,
departed the detachment in June 1915 to take up duties in the same rank at Harrogate with the 2nd Detachment V.A.D.
It is not known at present who then took over as Commandant of the Wetherby
Detachment but it appears that their membership began to increase in the year 1915. In March of that year, one Miss Emma Holliday
Ellis joined the ranks of the 84th Detachment. The daughter of Ephraim Ellis, a Woollen Manufacturer of Westlea, Deighton
Road, Wetherby, Emma, aged about 24 years, would perform initial duties on engagement at North Deighton Manor (Officers Hospital).
Witnessing various postings throughout her engagement including Harewood House V.A.D. Hospital and Mulgrave Castle Auxilliary
Military Hospital located near Whitby, Emma, though her service was terminated in January 1919, would re-engage in March of
In January 1915
(Authors note: Date of engagement is recorded as December 1915 but this appears to incorrect), Mrs. Mary Birkmyre of Ingmanthorpe
Hall offered her expertise. The wife of one James Birkmyre, a manufacturer who had made his fortune in Soul Cloth, Tents
and Waterproof Covers, initial service was conducted at Harewood House V.A.D. Hospital before transferring to the Officers
Hospital located at North Deighton Manor. (Authors note: The date of the establishment of this hospital for officers is unknown
but documents suggest the latter being established in late 1915. The roll of Commandant was appointed to one Mrs. Beatrice
D.M.B. Duncombe, widow of Adolphus Montagu Duncombe, the owner of North Deighton Manor, a former Hon. Major in the Yorkshire
Hussars and a Justice of the Peace).
Mrs. Duncombe would be ably assisted in her duties as Commandant by Miss Frances Dorothy Holt who assumed the roll
of Secretary in December 1915. Resident of Laundry Cottage, Kirk Deighton and the daughter of Gabriel Holt, Frances would
marry one Harold Kirk, a Chemist, of 'Rose Cottage, Wetherby, in 1923. (Authors note: The brother of Sergeant John Charles
Kirk, killed in action in July 1918 and commemorated on the Wetherby War Memorial. Harold also served in the 3rd Hussars).
Miss Joyce Murton, of Wharfedale
Lawn, Wetherby, joined the V.A.D. in June 1916. The daughter of Frederick Murton, a retired businessman in the bleaching of
cotton cloth, Joyce joined the Marple, Cheshire Branch, 114 & 110. Serving at Brabyns Hall Auxiliary Military Hospital
and annexe, Marple, Cheshire performing the duties of cook, just one year later Joyce would have to terminate her services
due to a complete breakdown in her health.
In the year of 1917, Miss Gladys Muriel Jessop of Claremont, Wetherby, joined the Detachment as a Clerk. Serving
at Ripon and Reading Military Hospitals, Gladys was still serving in 1919 having returned to Ripon as Head Clerk.
I cannot close this chapter without a particular mention of three sisters
from Wetherby who enlisted in 1918, namely Mary, Nancy and Freda Sharman. Daughters of John Earl Sharman, a Wool Merchant
of Castlegarth, Wetherby, both Freda and Mary would volunteer their services in January 1918, Freda serving as an Assistant
Cook and Mary as a Housemaid/Nurse at Knaresborough Auxiliary Military Hospital, the Commandant at this juncture being Lady
Evelyn Anne Collins.
Tapsell: Service Record
It can be ascertained from surviving British Red Cross records of those that served with the Voluntary Aid Detachments
that Kathleen volunteered her services in late 1917, the date of her engagement being the 19th December 1917. Early service
is somewhat ambiguous however we do know that she initially served with the 84th Detachment, West Riding of Yorkshire. If
one of the newspaper articles discovered by the Author is taken at face value, this article reports that Kathleen had witnessed
previous service at Harewood House Convalescent Hospital however there is no record of this engagement on her service record.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility however that some service at this establishment may have been performed of such
a short duration and possibly as some initial training procedure, that it is not recorded. On the basis of assuming that Kathleen
did in fact serve at Harewood, the Author will now provide a link to an audio recording held in the sound archives of the
Imperial War Museum, London. Recording the memoirs of one Dorothy Harriet Julia Wright, a V.A.D. Nurse who served at various
establishments throughout the course of the war, this recording provides a fascinating insight into her childhood and family
background as well as duties when she arrived at Harewood in August 1915 as a Ward Maid.
IWM Interview, Dorothy Harriet Julia Wright
Posted to the Chester War Hospital, described as the Chester V.A.D.
Hospital in one newspaper article, Dave Rees discovered a photograph located in the archives of the Army Medical Services
Museum of the staff of the War Hospital dated February 1918 and kindly forwarded this to the Author. Comparing this photograph
with a portrait photograph also uncovered in the I.W.M. archives, both the Author and Mr Rees concluded that this group photograph
did in fact include Kathleen stood amongst the ranks of the hospital staff.
On the 1st April 1918, Kathleen returned to Wetherby to perform duties as
a bridesmaid at her elder sister's wedding, Lilian Gertrude, at Saint James' Parish Church, Wetherby. Entering a union
of marriage to one Corporal Alfred Ridsdale Royal Army Medical Corps, the bride was given away by her father, the best man
being one Corporal Ben Allen Holroyd also of the R.A.M.C. (Ripon). Surviving service documents of the latter soldier indicate
service at the Northern Command Depot so one would assume that Alfred Ridsdale was serving at this establishment also.
Authors note: Alfred Ridsdale, son of the late Alfred Ridsdale of Sandringham
Terrace, Wetherby. Four of his brothers would also serve in the Army. A further newspaper article records that at this juncture
Kathleens' father Arthur George was serving as a Sergeant in the West Riding Volunteer Regiment, a unit formed for Home
Defence purposes not dissimilar to the role of the Home Guard in the Second World War.
Chester War Hospital
With research material at a premium, what little information that can be
gleaned from various sources including newspaper articles and surviving service documents paints a minimal picture of the
hospital. Housed in the former Workhouse located in Hoole Lane and operating from August 1917, the staff of the hospital numbered
a little under 200 personnel comprising of a complement of both sexes drawn from a wide variety of detachments from across
the country. Initially established to provide care for over 550 patients, by the close of the year this figure was increased
to 600 with a proposal to increase still further to a capacity of about 700.
In charge of the running of the hospital was one Lieutenant-Colonel William
Thomas Prout, C.M.G., M.B. A specialist in tropical diseases, Prout had served in various countries throughout the continent
of Africa and was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Temporary Major in March 1915. Serving in Egypt and
promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel in April 1916, in July 1916 the Colonel received the news that his only
son, Second-Lieutenant William Thomas Prout had been posted as missing in the Somme offensive whilst serving with the 1st
Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.
England, the exact date of his appointment at the Chester War Hospital is unknown however one may surmise that this was from
the date of establishment of the facility. It is beyond doubt that Colonel Prout's proven organisational skills and expertise
appealed to higher authority and stood him in good stead to have the hospital up and running efficiently and as quickly as
At this point,
the Author will record the details of just two servicemen, one, receiving treatment at the Chester War Hospital, the other,
less fortunate and the subject of a post mortem examination carried out at the establishment to determine the cause of his
death. In the course of this commemoration, search criteria is specific to 1918 when it is known that Kathleen Mary Tapsell
would have been performing her duties as a Nurse at the hospital. These two accounts are quite lengthy however they reflect
some of the functions and procedures performed at the hospital.
Private Harry Jones, 12234, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Harry Jones, occupation,
a Sash Maker, attested for service at Chester on the 28th October 1914. A married man, Harry's terms of enlistment were
that of the Special Reserve with conditions that stated one years service with the Colours albeit to be retained if the war
was not over in this twelve month period. With over 8 years previous service with the 1st Battalion, Cheshire & Carnarvon
Volunteers. Serving in succession with the 1st Garrison Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, Harry was posted overseas to the 1st
Cheshire's on the 22nd July 1917 but was transferred possibly at the Infantry Base Depot to the 10th Battalion of the
Regiment, 25th Division.
major engagements during the Battle of Third Ypres, in October, Harry was admitted to the 35th General Hospital located at
Calais suffering from Nephritis, inflamation of the kidneys. Eventually transferred to the 3rd Northern General Hospital in
Sheffield, after recuperation he was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, based in Newcastle.
In March 1918 an application was received from Messrs. Williams Gamon &
Co (lead light and casement makers) through the channels of the Ministry of Munitions for release from military service of
Private Harry Jones, 12234, for a period of three months. If this offer of employment was accepted, there would however be
a financial penalty as Harry would have to forfeit his entitlement to pay and allowances from the Army, his employer having
to pay his wages from acceptance of this offer of civilian employment.
With an authorised transfer to the Army Reserve, Class 'W,' (liable to be recalled
to the Colours at a moments notice) with effect from the 17th April 1918, Harry proceeded to the family home located in Watergate
Street Row, Chester, on the 10th April.
would appear that on or about the end of the month, Harry became incapacitated through ill health, an application being made
to the City of Chester War Pensions Committee for monies between the period 1st May - 12th June. It is noted that he had been
under the supervision of a Panel Doctor, a local physician appointed for the medical treatment of the sick and had received
some sick relief from the Committee for a period of seven weeks. The recommendation of Number 2 Record Office, Number 4 District,
Shrewsbury, Western Command, was that Harry was entitled admission to a Military Hospital, the neccessary arrangements to
be made at Chester by the Committee. As a consequence, Harry was admitted to Chester War Hospital on the 8th July and taken
on Army Pay from this date no doubt much to the relief of his family.
Diagnosed with Mitral Stenosis, the narrowing of the Mitral Valve of the heart, the condition
was attributed to war service and may have possibly arose from the patient suffering rheumatic fever at some stage in his
life complicated by service with the army. Discharged from the service due to his medical condition on the 9th August 1918
after serving 3 years and 286 days with the British Army, Harry died on the 15th November 1918 aged 45 years and is now known
to be buried at Overleigh Cemetery, Chester.
Sergeant Major Arthur Joseph James Fairbairn, S/12784, 490th Company H.T. Army Service Corps
Arthur, a native of Bermondsey, London, enlisted into the ranks of the British
Army in 1896 after previous service with 3rd (Militia) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. Surviving service documents also indicate
that Arthur at some period had previously served with the Army Service Corps but was discharged as "not likely to
become an efficient soldier."
into the A.S.C., after a lengthy period of service at home that would also witness him re-engaging in the service after his
time had expired, Arthur was posted to South Africa and it was whilst serving on this continent that his health began to suffer.
At Roberts Height's, a military base located near Pretoria, in 1914 he contracted and displayed the symptoms of Lobar
Pneumonia resulting in a period of 27 days hospitalisation.
Returning to England in November 1914, Arthur gradually rose through the ranks and was promoted
to Staff Sergeant Major in early 1915. Posted to the Western Front in May 1915 and serving in the Headquarters of the 9th
(Scottish) Division, the challenges of service at the front proved too much, possibly even at this early stage, due to the
condition of his health, consequently, he was sent back to England in July of that year.
Serving with various units and in due course promoted to 1st Class Staff
Sergeant Major, Arthur was transferred to the 490th Company A.S.C. in October 1916. A married man with four children, in 1918
the family took up residence in Chester whilst their father and husband took up duties in the General Staff Office, Headquarters,
17th August 1918, whilst serving at Number 18 Camp, Kinmel Park, at around lunchtime Arthur left the office to go to the canteen
located at the 'Roodee,' the present day Chester Racecourse. One Corporal William Charles Hindley, A.S.C. recounted
at an inquest that Arthur had been suffering ill health for a number of months and on arrival at the mess he had heard a call
of, "Hindley." Looking from which the direction of where the call was made, he observed Fairbairn near
Watergate and the City Walls and upon approaching him the unfortunate Arthur made the plea "Get a doctor please"
as he began to cough and vomit up blood.
being assisted to the dry canteen, it was quite clear that Arthur was in dire need of medical assistance, remarking that he
was "passing into the great divide." Major Herbert Thomas Jenkins, Royal Army Medical Corps arrived, remaining
with Arthur until he unfortunately passed away. The cause of death at this point was uncertain so as a consequence the body
was dispatched to Chester War Hospital for a Post Mortem examination.
The autopsy conducted at Chester War Hospital by Captain Edmund Duncan Tranchell Hayes M.B.
revealed the following results. There was marked tuberculosis of both lungs, death being due to a hemorrhage following rupture
of a branch of the pulmonary artery into the left lung due to tuberculosis. The jury at the inquest subsequently returned
a verdict of death by "natural causes."
aged 40 years, now lies in St. Mary's Churchyard, Worsted, Norfolk, the residence of his wife's family.
1918: Flu Pandemic
The exact geographical origin of the influenza pandemic is still discussed
at length to this day with various hypotheses as to where and when the influenza at first manifested itself. The first instance
referred to by the English press as the "Spanish Epidemic" was reported in early June by The Times, the aforementioned
article reporting the deaths of 700 of the populace of Madrid in 10 days with over 100,000 people infected in the city and
with the numbers rising.
article written just three weeks later now described the outbreak as the "Spanish Influenza" with numerous cases
being reported in the British Isles in Hertfordshire, South Wales, West Yorkshire and Northern Ireland. The City of London
was also reported to be suffering greatly in early July as the disease began to spread with some rapidity throughout the country,
in particular the areas of the Midlands such as Nottingham, Leicester and Northampton reporting that the outbreak had a significant
hold in these areas. As regards the industrial coal mining areas of the North-East of England, the mining communities of Northumberland
and Durham were so badly hit that the output of coal, so vital to feed the manufacture of materiel destined for what
had evolved as an industrial war waged on the Western Front, began to suffer severely.
As a consequence, authority was given for a number of schools to close in
areas seriously affected. The workforce of both munitions factories and ironworks in the Birmingham area also began to suffer
considerably, such was the suddeness of the disease that both men and women employed in these areas had to be sent home in
ambulances no doubt adding to the strain on the hard pressed medical services in the area.
The epidemic was also spreading across Europe, news filtering out through
a number of news agencies that Germany was also suffering considerably and that the Swiss Army was virtually incapacitated
with over 7000 cases being reported. Vienna and Budapest were now added to those locations affected as well as Holland and
the list was growing further.
August, the rationing of coal was initiated, the curb on household consumption amounting to a saving of about 8 million tons,
a further saving of 7 million tons being also made available by initiating a system of rationing industries by priority. With
coal output falling dramatically due to sickness in the workforce and the ongoing drafting of miners into the British Army,
patriotic messages of support were received from both at home and abroad urging coal production to increase and bring about
an end to the war.
death rate increasing in London and Glasgow also in the grip of the disease, it soon became apparent that unlike past influenza
pandemics such as the outbreak in 1890, this particular strain appeared to result in the vast majority of deaths in the age
range of 5 years - 45 years. As the disease now took a hold in the vast majority of the cities of the United Kingdom, the
chances of survival from this mutating influenza virus were minimal, even more so for soldiers who had lung damage from exposure
to chemical agents.
had a little bird,
I opened a window,
(A children's skipping rhyme circa 1918)
Symptoms were similar to the common seasonal influenza, fatigue, fever, a
headache and pain in both the joints and muscles. Along with the usual respiratory symptoms, a cough, runny nose and a sore
throat, this particular strain of the influenza virus attacked the lungs with extraordinary inflammation of the bronchi and
alveoli resulting in the skin of the infected person turning blue in colour due to oxygen starvation. Some patients were reported
as coughing up foaming blood from the lungs in addition to diarrhoea and blood loss from other orifices of the human body.
Bacterial infection, pneumonia, would then set in, and in most cases, be the predominant cause of death.
Chester War Hospital: Case Studies - The Victims
As regards the first deaths recorded in the Chester District due to the influenza,
it is impossible to state categorically who actually died of the disease and when the latter first manifested itself in the
locality. An analysis of the death rate in the district suggests that there was a peak in deaths certainly in October/November/
December 1918, but isolated deaths may have occurred as early as September. With the cause of death in most cases recorded
as pneumonia, the secondary infection, it is impossible at this point in research without further analysis of more localised
research resources, to differentiate between those that initially contracted influenza and died of the complications associated
with the former. The Author will therefore now provide various accounts located in surviving service documents of those who
were known to have died at Chester War Hospital due to the effects of the pandemic.
Robert Ledsham, a married man and a native of Chester, had attested for service
in the British Army in December 1915. Mobilised in the month of August 1916, Robert was initially posted to the ranks of the
2/6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, a Second Line Territorial Battalion, and in March 1917 he was then transferred to the
Northamptonshire Regiment, battalion unknown. His time with the Regiment was of a short duration as in May he was transferred
to the 5th Labour Battalion located at Thetford, Norfolk. A further series of postings to various units now followed, 582nd
Home Service Employment Company in August, 579th in September, 682nd Agricultural Company in December, before his final posting
to the 547th Agricultural Company in June 1918, the latter operating in the Chester District, Officer Commanding, Captain
John Hubert Grogan.
161968, Robert and the men of the 547th Company as their designation implies, worked on the land. With a shortage of manpower
and food and forage production vital to feed the war effort as well as food supplies for those at home, the company consisted
of men who had been medically downgraded and were as a consequence not fit for service overseas.
Admitted to Chester War Hospital on the 19th October with a headache and
a cough in addition to his body shivering, Robert displayed the characteristic symptoms of the influenza. With a temperature
of 102.6 degrees Fahrenheit recorded the following day, it was now apparent that he was suffering pneumonia, his body temperature
now fluctuating between 102 - 103. With no sign of the temperature decreasing in the days that followed, at 9.40 a.m. on the
morning of the 24th October after six days in hospital, Robert, aged just 23 years, unfortunatley died, his body being interred
at Overleigh Cemetery, Chester, on the 28th.
a married man residing at Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire, had attested for service in December 1915. Placed on the Army Reserve,
he was then mobilised in April 1917 and posted to the Depot (Authors note: Service record illegible but possibly denotes processed
by the Depot of the West Yorkshire Regiment located at York) before being assigned to the 14th (Home Service) Battalion, King's
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry the following month and issued the serial number 45048. On the 31st October 1917, Herbert was
also transferred to the 547th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, number 441512, and it was whilst serving with this
unit that he was declared to have deserted on the 1st October 1918.
exact circumstances that led to Herbert deserting are unknown, however a telegram located in surviving service documents report
that he was declared as such by a Court of Inquiry held on the 26th October by Eastern Command. Possibly attempting to make
his way to family in Leeds, a further telegram originating from the Leeds City Police states his eventual internment at Hunslet,
No doubt despite the efforts of the
military to locate him, one may surmise that the authorities were not even informed when Herbert was admitted to the Chester
War Hospital on the 22nd October suffering from influenza. Displaying a temperature of 99.6 degrees, in the days that followed
this would eventually rise to 107, hospital notes recording the grim sentence, "Few expectations, rapid breathing."
After 6 days in hospital, Herbert aged 33 years, died of pneumonia on the 28th October and was buried at Hunslet Old
Cemetery on the 2nd November 1918.
Richardson, a native of Wallasey and a married man, attested for service in August 1916. Posted to the Army Reserve, William
was mobilised in March 1917 and just two days later was posted to join the ranks of the 3rd Garrison Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.
Transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, a further transfer were ordered under Army Authority to the 2/1st Denbighshire Yeomanry
in late July 1917 ultimately pending transfer in March 1918 via the 98th Depot, Yeomanry Hussars to the ranks of the Labour
Corps. Posted to the 547th Agricultural Company and issued the serial number 546238 later that month, William was admitted
to the Chester War Hospital on the 25th October suffering from chronic gastritis in addition to exceptionally bad teeth.
Contracting influenza shortly after admittance, excessive vomiting then followed
for a number of days, the patient then developing bronchopneumonia in both lungs, William unfortunately died on the 30th October
of cardiac failure aged 32 years and was interred at Overleigh Cemetery on the 1st November 1918.
Further analysis concludes that influenza was most prevalent at this juncture
at the War Hospital, the men of the 547th Company, Labour Corps as the above records grimly state, falling particular victim.
Although these several cases represent just a microcosm of those that died, it was in November that the disease began to escalate
in rapidity taking its toll on the staff as well as those patients admitted to the hospital. The following final case study
records the fate of just one man who had enlisted from the far reaches of the Commonwealth to answer England's call, one
a Cooper by trade and a native of Ballarat, Australia, enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) in February 1916.
A married man, George proceeded overseas in September 1916 and was sent to France in early 1917. Initially serving with the
1st Anzac Entrenching Battalion, Sapper George McLarty, 5386, was eventually posted in March 1917 to the 1st Australian Tunnelling
Company. Witnessing service in the Ypres Salient during the remainder of the year, it was on the 29th September 1918 as the
company were working on improving roads to the east of Peronne, that George along with one officer and 17 Sappers was wounded.
Admitted to the 12th Casualty Clearing Station located at Tincourt suffering from the effects of Gas Shell, George
was evacuated to the 6th General Hospital located at Rouen before being transferred to England on the 2nd October. Admitted
to the Chester War Hospital on the 4th October and with his lungs already damaged by chemical agents, George succumbed to
pneumonia on the 4th November 1918 aged 36 years. Interred at Overleigh Cemetery, Chester, on the 11th November, George was
accorded a full military funeral, his wife, a patient for a lengthy period of time previously at Claremont Asylum, Western
Australia, receiving the unfortunate news of her husbands death in the days that followed.
Sunday, 3rd November 1918: The Death Of Kathleen Mary Tapsell
Kathleen continued he duties
as did all of the staff even though the amount of patients infected increased daily. It was inevitable that those providing
care to the needy also fell prey to influenza. It was on the 3rd November 1918, Kathleen unfortunately fell victim and died,
the telegram received at 10 High Street, Wetherby, notifying her parents of her death being acknowledged with a very heavy
heart indeed. Her father, Arthur, most conscious that the loss of his daughter be recognised, then made efforts to perpetuate
her memory resulting in a series of correspondence between himself and the Women's Work Sub Committee in London.
Women's Work Sub Committee: The Origin Of A
In early 1917, sanction
had been approved by the War Cabinet to a scheme put forward by Sir Alfred Mond M.P., the First Commissioner of Works, for
the establishment of a National War Museum. A committee was therefore formed with Sir Alfred as Chairman, the commitee comprising
of numerous notable members including Sir Martin Conway acting as Director-General.
The ultimate objective was to form a collection of objects for the public to view illustrating
the British contribution to the war. The exhibits would be drawn from a wide variety of sources, for example, arms and war
materials used by British military and naval forces, captured trophies of war as well as examples of the war at home, munitions
production, literature and art etc. From inception, the formation of a National War Museum was however in danger. In some
circles it was viewed that the mass of collected material would ultimately contain such a wide scope of subjects that not
only would the collection utilise a large amount of floor space if all available was displayed, but also have a limited 'attraction'
in the years to come to the viewing public. In the context of the role of women in the Great War, it was decided to facilitate
the formation of a committee, the Women's Work Sub Committee, over which Lady Florence Priscilla Norman, suffragist and
member of the Voluntary Aid Organisation would preside. Formed on the 4th April 1917 and with Miss Agnes Ethel Conway, daughter
of Sir Martin acting as Honorary Secretary, these two major protagonists were more than ably assisted by Lady Violet Mond,
Lady Margot Asquith and Lady Dorothy Haig.
addition to the task of accumulating a wide variety of material in relation to a record of war activities performed by women,
it was also further envisaged that the tasks undertaken by women either in the replacement of men or in rolls specifically
allocated for the female sex be also represented. This would be accomplished by the display of small scale models depicting
costumes and the activities that women were engaged in during the course of the war. It would now appear to be a very modernistic
approach to the practice of exhibition but due to the scope and amount of material collected and created, it would ultimately
prove to be most problematic to display the collection in its entirety.
were formalised in November 1917 for the now Imperial War Museum's collections to be displayed. Due to the museum having
no premises of its own the first exhibition would be presented at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, these premises being
loaned for this purpose by the Council of the Royal Academy. From the outset, the Women's Work Sub Committee found itself
at a disadvantage. The time scale for the event, determined as the 7th January, left little time for the Committee to prepare
their exhibition. In addition to time available, bomb damage suffered to one gallery at Burlington House in September 1917
also limited display space to a premium as well as other factors that decreased ever further the interpretation and presentation
of the women's contribution to the war effort.
Exhibition of Empire War Exhibits duly opened on Monday, January 7th 1918, all proceeds being donated to the British
Red Cross Society. On the opening day admission was by invitation only however on the following day the exhibition was formally
opened to the public at the price of one shilling. Although not realising its full potential due to the outside influences
mentioned previously, a further opportunity for the Committee would arise in April when Mr. Charles Campbell Ross, Secretary
of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, offered the premises for a more comprehensive exhibition.
Opening on the 9th October 1918, the exhibition was also augmented by a display of the Women's
Services organised by the Ministry of Labour. The ground floor was divided into bays, either with models or mannequins to
assist in the interpretation of numerous photographs and exhibits that had been gathered from a variety of subjects in relation
to women's work in the war. One bay was set aside and draped in black as it contained the record of the 500 women who
had already made the ultimate sacrifice whilst on war service in a multitude of capacities. The exhibition was a triumph and
by the close had attracted over 80,000 people including The Queen, accompanied her Private Secretary Sir Edward Wallington
and the Princess Mary who visited on the 31st October.
after the unfortunate death of Kathleen Mary Tapsell, her father, Arthur, commenced a series of correspondence with the Hon.
Secretary of the Women's Work Sub Committee, Imperial War Museum, Miss Agnes Ethel Conway, M.B.E. (Gazetted June 1918).
No doubt aware of the efforts of the Committee, Arthur was contacted by the Secretary in December 1918 requesting a photographic
image of Kathleen for their archives. This being duly sent, the photograph is now located in the collections of the Imperial
War Museum, cataloged, "First World War Portraits (Women's War Work) Classified Collection" (photographs).
The Author is once again indebted to Mr. Dave Rees of Chester for locating what is a most touching photographic image
of one who died so young.
Kathleen was laid to
rest in Hallfield Road Cemetery, Wetherby. Although at present there is no date for her internment, her death was registered
at Chester in December 1918. Remaining at her duties whilst those around her died, her epitaph inscribed on her gravestone
"She Put The World Aside, Poured
Out The Rich Sweet Wine Of Youth, Gave Up The Years To Be."
her mother Martha, the loss of her daughter proved too much to bear. Struggling on due to depression her body was found in
a pumping pool belonging to Stubbin Colliery on the 28th February 1919. A subsequent inquest held at Parkgate on the 4th March
returning a verdict of suicide whilst suffering from depression.
|Wetherby Cemetery: Author
In addition to being commemorated on the panels of the war memorial
located at Wetherby, Kathleen is also remembered in York Minster, York. The Five Sisters Window located in the North Transept
of the Minster is the only war memorial in the country dedicated to the women of the British Empire who made the ultimate
sacrifice during the Great War. Dating from the thirteenth century, the window was restored and rededicated between the years
of 1923 - 1925 as a direct response to a public appeal made by Mrs Helen Drage Little, the wife of Colonel Charles Blakeway
Little, who, after visiting the Minster, had an almost biblical vision inspiring her to act.
With the proposal having being accepted by Dean William Foxley Norris and
the Chapter it immediately invoked a response from all corners of the British Empire. In just nine weeks after the launch
of the appeal, over 32,000 subscribers had raised in excess the sum of £3000 required to restore the window. Unveiled
by the Duchess of York on the 24th June 1925, in addition to the restoration of the window and located in the Chapel of St.
Nicholas in the immediate vicinity, a wooden screen was placed, fabricated from York Minster's own oak. Designed by the
Minster Architect, Mr Tupper and carved in the Minster workshop, on the panels located in the screen were painted the names
in excess of 1,400 women of Britain and her Dominions, recorded by the various organisations in which they served. Each panel
is protected by a door bearing the insignia of each organisation or unit commemorated and inscribed upon the screen is this
Screen Records The Names Of Women Of The Empire Who Gave Their Lives In The War 1914 - 1918 To Whose Memory The Five Sisters
Window Was Restored By Women."
In the words of Mrs Helen Drage Little recounting her vision as she awoke from her slumber stated:-
"I had risen in my sleep, and was standing when I woke and cried
out, my words being heard by my husband - The Sisters' Window for the Sisters."