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Remembered Today:

Heroines in strange places


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At present I'm indexing around a thousand entries for women who received awards - DBE, CBE, OBE, MBE, and the Medal of the Order of the British Empire in WW1. All have photos at the IWM and many have additional information on the reverse. I've come across several to schoolteachers who showed exceptional courage during the bombing of Upper North Street School, Poplar, on 13th June 1917.

One of those was Mrs. Gertrude Middleton awarded the Medal of the Order (later the B.E.M.), and the reverse says:

During an Air Raid on Upper North Street School, Poplar, on the 13th June 1917, a bomb landed in her classroom and 18 children were killed. Although hurt herself she rescued many children from the debris, until the doctor forbade her going in. He said she deserved the V.C. Soon after the raid her health began to fail.

The raid and school memorial has been mentioned on the forum before, but what happened to Gertrude Middleton? The photo was sent in by an E. Glover or 106 Essendine Mansions, Maida Vale, who also wrote the 'citation'. There is a death recorded for a Gertrude A. Middleton, aged 25, in Paddington, during the December quarter 1918. Does anyone know if this is the same Gertrude Middleton, and any further details of what happened to after the air raid?

Sue

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spconnolly007

Sue, how strange that you should post this request just as Ive walked in the front door after visiting Tower Hamlets Local History Library, researching the very same incident!! I cant add anything specific at the moment regarding Gertrude but if I come across anything I will let you know. Parking at the library was £3.50 an hour so I photocopied anything that looked of interest and left asap :devilgrin:. The Upper North Street bombing continued to cause heartache when later that year (1st Nov.) Benjamin Edwin Batt died "from shock received whilst doing his duty during the air raid" (inscribed on headstone). Benjamin was the schools caretaker at the time and helped to remove the dead and injured children from the building, one of which was his son Alfred (5yrs). This has been a side project of mine for a while but what I did find out today is that in 1929 a Mr. Frank Denner (former headmaster of the school) had by this time moved out to Essex and was residing at Ravenscourt Drive in Vange when he committed suicide.

Regards,

Sean.

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Thanks Sean - the three female teachers who received honours were Gertrude Middleton, Annie Elizabeth Allum and Wenceslia Watkins. It's such a good example of the Home Front being eclipsed by other aspects of the Great War.

Sue

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Sue,

PC is playing up so if this is a duplicate posting forgive!

Another Gertrude Middleton is reported in Times deaths 12 April 1927, age 66, middle initials E.B. and location Guernsey so probably not yours?

There are two Times reports on the bombing:

The Air Attack On London, Friday, Jun 15, 1917; pg. 3

Infant Air-Raid Victims. Thursday, Jun 21, 1917; pg. 3;

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spconnolly007

Sue, no mention of Gertrude in the stuff that I copied today but I will be back there again shortly and will keep a look out for her in the archives. Having read through the newspaper clippings, there is a small article about Frank Denner's suicide. Apparently, he was also awarded for his part in recovering children from the building, an O.B.E. for gallantry. After retiring from teaching and moving away from the area, he was to continue suffering from the effects of that day. Sadly, he shot himself and a verdict of 'suicide while of unsound mind' was returned at the inquest. He was 74 years old. Lets hope that Gertrude had a happier future.

Regards,

Sean.

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Thanks Jane - the photo of Gertrude Middleton on the IWM site shows her to be young, pretty and smiling, so the age at death of the Paddington woman (25) does look as though it would fit. I guess the only real answer is to get the death certificate some time.

Sue

Lets hope that Gertrude had a happier future.

I have an increasing feeling that she probably didn't.

Sue

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Continuing to work my way through the list of awards, I've now arrived at a young woman called Hannah Spash - this comes from a newspaper clipping stuck to the back of her photo. The paper is not named, but the date is 15th December 1917.

MUNITIONS GIRL’S ADVENTURES

Hannah Spash, a happy-faced girl of 20, is one of the girl workers to whom the King and Queen spoke during a visit to a munition factory in the London area yesterday.

“The King asked me whether I liked the dangerous work better than any other,” she said later, “and I replied, to the King’s amusement, ‘Well, I have been blown up three times, your Majesty, so I have got used to it.’ And so I have. The first time I was very lucky. A pot of a certain chemical dropped in my shed and the explosion blew an arm off the girl standing next to me, but I escaped almost unhurt. The second time the explosion blew up the table at which I was working, and it was wonderful that I did not have both legs blown off instead of having only a knee and foot dislocated and my face badly scarred. You can see the scars now. The third time was when I was working in a gunpowder shed. The explosion blew the shed to pieces and killed two girls. I was flung out on to a field, and only recovered consciousness while being taken home. All the accidents happened in a year, and I had to be away three months after two of them, but I was always longing to get back to work. I am still on explosives. Why do I like it? Well, I am very fond of a brother who is fighting in France, and I like it because it helps him and the others who are there.”

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royalredcross

Sue, a publication on the Medal of the Order of the British Empire has recently appeared, by Roger Willoughby published by Diana Birch (Savannah Publications) He includes many citations and reference to the photos in the IWM collection. It might save you a bit of work. Norman

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Thank Norman - yes, I had seen some details of the book. All I've done is index the photos, 964 of them, as I thought it might be useful for anyone researching a particular locality for the Centenary. About half of them have addresses attached, so my list includes just name, organisation if applicable, location, and reference of the photo. I will add the bare bones to my website some time soon so that they can be found - if anyone is looking of course!

Sue

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  • 2 weeks later...
James A Pratt III

Here are some brave women from other countries:

Russia LTC Maria Bochkareya and her Women Battalion of Death. The book "They fought for the motherland" Laurie Stoff.

The book "The End of Chivalry mentions a Russian-American battlefield nurse Helen Ivaneko who in May 1915 took part in a charge of the 9th Lancers. dismounted to take care of the wounded and is decorated. Another nurse Ryhmma m Ivanova who was with the 105th Infantry regiment took command of it's 10th company during an attack fought the attack off but died of wounds suffered later. She received the Order of St George poustomously.

German I have seen a picture of a WW I German nurse with an iron cross 2nd class ribbon. Then there is the most (in)famous munition worker in Germany during WW I. Who was wounded in an explosion. Franziska Schanzkowska AKA Anna Anderson who claimed to be Tsar Nicholas II's daughter Anistasia.

Rumania: The book "the Rumainian Battlefront in WW I" Mentions Ecaterina Teodorina who in 1916 as a nurse helped fight off a german attack was made a Lt and Platoon leader and was killed in action on 3 September 1917.

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  • 2 years later...

Thanks Sean - the three female teachers who received honours were Gertrude Middleton, Annie Elizabeth Allum and Wenceslia Watkins. It's such a good example of the Home Front being eclipsed by other aspects of the Great War.

Sue

Don't forget Mary Philomena Cunnington M.O.B.E. Birth: 20 April 1881, Rathass, Tralee, Ireland. Death: 18 May 1946, 35 Birch Grove Road, Acton, London, Middlesex, England. No known Photo exsist.post-99543-0-96867100-1455831274_thumb.j

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  • 8 months later...

JUST TO LET YOU ALL KNOW THAT SUE LIGHT PASSED AWAY IN JULY 2016 IF YOU SEARCH HER NAME ON GOOGLE THERE IS AN ORBIT ALSO LINKS TO HER GROUPS

STAN

Edited by satman53
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That's very kind of you, Stan, but we are indeed aware 

 

Dear Sue is much missed.

 

sJ

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
James A Pratt III

Two other women who were nurses in WW I and were decorated:

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna received the St Georges medal for taking care of the wounded. Her brother Dmitri was involved in the Rasputin murder.

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was also decorated for taking care of the wounded. She was the Tsars sister.

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  • 3 years later...
On 27/06/2013 at 12:22, Sue Light said:

At present I'm indexing around a thousand entries for women who received awards - DBE, CBE, OBE, MBE, and the Medal of the Order of the British Empire in WW1. All have photos at the IWM and many have additional information on the reverse. I've come across several to schoolteachers who showed exceptional courage during the bombing of Upper North Street School, Poplar, on 13th June 1917.

One of those was Mrs. Gertrude Middleton awarded the Medal of the Order (later the B.E.M.), and the reverse says:

During an Air Raid on Upper North Street School, Poplar, on the 13th June 1917, a bomb landed in her classroom and 18 children were killed. Although hurt herself she rescued many children from the debris, until the doctor forbade her going in. He said she deserved the V.C. Soon after the raid her health began to fail.

The raid and school memorial has been mentioned on the forum before, but what happened to Gertrude Middleton? The photo was sent in by an E. Glover or 106 Essendine Mansions, Maida Vale, who also wrote the 'citation'. There is a death recorded for a Gertrude A. Middleton, aged 25, in Paddington, during the December quarter 1918. Does anyone know if this is the same Gertrude Middleton, and any further details of what happened to after the air raid?

Sue

Sadly Gertie Middleton died on the 21st Oct 1918 aged only 29, a possibility that she died of the Spanish Flu?, Gertie is buried with her Father in Ladywell Cemetery, Lewisham, of note her headstone reads as O.B.E. could anyone helm me with the date of the award and citation?

IMG_1019_MIDDLETON Gertie.JPG

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2 hours ago, Phill BW said:

Sadly Gertie Middleton died on the 21st Oct 1918 aged only 29, a possibility that she died of the Spanish Flu?, Gertie is buried with her Father in Ladywell Cemetery, Lewisham, of note her headstone reads as O.B.E. could anyone helm me with the date of the award and citation?

 

 

 

1.  See pages 6893 and 6897:

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30738/supplement/1

 

2.  See page 200:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Roger_Willoughby/publication/319681645_For_God_and_the_Empire_The_Medal_of_the_Order_of_the_British_Empire_1917-1922_London_Savannah_Publications_2012/links/59b95348458515bb9c486d4d/For-God-and-the-Empire-The-Medal-of-the-Order-of-the-British-Empire-1917-1922-London-Savannah-Publications-2012.pdf

 

JP

Edited by helpjpl
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