Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Identity of Sister, Duchess of Westminster's War Hospital, Le Touquet, France (May 1915)


Recommended Posts

The attached letter was written on 6th May 1915 by a Sister of the Duchess of Westminster's War Hospital at Le Touquet, France regarding the death from wounds of a soldier (the subject of my research) 6596 Private Arthur Edward Egleton, 3rd Royal Fusiliers.


I cannot read her signature. Can anyone identify this Sister or have a list of hospital staff at this time?



Letter 1.jpg

Letter 2.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starting with the shaping of the "M" in the opening line, ("Dears Mr"), my first thoughts were M or N McPhall or McPhail \MacPhall or MacPhail.


Checking the Discovery catalogue there is a MiC for N. McPhail who served with the V.A.D. Previewing the card this is actually a Miss Norah MacPhail, 2nd Nurse. The Theatre of War and qualifying date titles have been manually written on the card, but then neither have been completed. As we are looking for a nurse who was out in France in May 1915, I was beginning to doubt this was the right woman. I could not find the card under either spelling on Ancestry.



The thing about the MiC's in the preview panel is that they come in batches of six to a page. The entry below Norah is for an R.M. MacPhail. She is shown as a Ward Sister and then a Sister, and her units are shown as French Flag Nursing, Q.A.I.M.N.S. and the French Red Cross. Her first theatre of entry is France and the date of entry, (partially obscured by the watermark), is I think 3.1.15. Her first name has been added but again its obscured by the watermark.

Once again I couldn't find her MiC on Ancestry, but I note there is a Service Medal Roll for a Robina M. MacPhail, but my free account won't let me see any detail for that.


Hope thats not a red herring,




Edit - the Royal College of Nursing have a page dedicated to a nurse who served at the hospital in 1915 which includes pictures of all the staff and doctors, although these are undated. All of them are named, but no MacPhail, or any "Mac" for that matter. Back to the drawing board :-)



Edited by PRC
1) Typo 2) Add RCN link
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

It doesn't appear to have been RM MacPhail (Robina Mary) when viewing her record via the watermark it looks as though she enlisted October 1915... resigning in 1916.



Similarly unlikely to be Mary MacPhail as she enlisted October 1917...



Not Helen MacPhee either as she enlisted September 1915 and subsequently was sent out to Egypt...



Not Gertrude MacPhail as she served as Gertrude Thomas....



It seems as if records are indexed under married names where appropriate which makes the search more "interesting".


Still looking....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The undated photographs shows the staff of Ward A as:-

Sister Morris.

Sister Vincent.

Sister Taylor.

Sister Rearden.

Sister Shankland.

Mr. Dick. (Probably Major)

Sister Hallett.

Captain Fraser.

Miss Carson.

Miss Ram.

Miss Villiers.

Josephine Angois.

Miss Price-Jones.



And the staff of Ward B are:-

Sister Oakden.

Sister Gash.

Sister Mitchell.

Sister Harris.

Sister Butterworth.

Sister Giles.

Major Pritchard.

Miss Densham, Matron.

Major Brandson.

Miss Stack.

Miss Layard.

Miss Durst.

Miss Johnstone.


No obvious candidate for the signature. It also beggars the question – does this include the night staff.


As to when the picture was taken, I had a look at the Red Cross site for some of the less common surnames.


The webpage is about Nurse Josephine Angois. She was at the Duchess of Westminster Hospital from the 2nd July 1915 to the 3rd July 1916.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Angois&id=4458&first=true

(So scope for her not being there at the same time as the author of the letter).


Nursing Sister Miss Meta Rearden served at the Duchess of Westminster Hospital from the 29th September 1914 to the 17th June 1915 and then again from the 18th September 1915 to the 18th June 1917.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Rearden&id=172434&last=true


Sister Norah Evelyn Shankland was at the No.1 Red Cross Hospital from May 2nd 1915 to the 23rd July 1917.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Shankland&id=186659

(There is possibly a second card which gives a different account of the 1917 period).


Nursing Sister Kathleen Agnes Hallett served at the Duchess of Westminster Hospital from the 29th September 1914 to the 22nd August 1917, when she took special sick leave.



Nurse Freda Villiers was at the Duchess of Westminster Hospital from the 2nd July 1915 to the 2nd January 1916.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Villiers&id=214025


Nurse Millette Price-Jones was at the Duchess of Westminster Hospital from August 1915 to September 14th 1918.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Price-Jones&id=122379&first=true


Sister Caroline Oakden was at at the No.1 Red Cross Hospital from Januay 6th 1915 to the 19th July 1918.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Oakden&id=162297


Sister Charlotte Honor Gash was at at the No.1 Red Cross Hospital from April 1st 1915 to the 19th July 1918.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Gash&id=82081


Sister Rosalind Margaret Butterworth was at the No.1 Red Cross Hospital from September 30th 1914 to the 14th January 1916.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=Butterworth&page=4&id=34321


I stopped looking at that point as it seemed increasingly like the picture was taken between August 1915 and the start of January 1916, so some months after the letter was written and so no guarantee the author hadn’t left by the time they were taken.


I then used the facility on the Red Cross site to look for individuals who had worked at Le Toquet. Possible match for the date, but not necessarily the signature was:-


Sister Margaret Annie McIntosh employed from the 9th December 1914 to the 4th May 1915 at No.5 Red Cross Hospital, Wimereau and No.1 Red Cross Hospital, Le Touquet.

Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?hosp=Le-Touquet.&page=10&id=141202


One last thought – is there anything in the content of the letter that precludes it being a nun rather than a nurse?


I too am still looking…..



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your insights and efforts and for showing possible ways of researching this line of enquiry.


Would this hospital have been under the control of the British Red Cross at this time (May 1915)? I understand that the transfer of control was sometime during 1915.


The Duchess of Westminster herself would have known her name!



Edited by MAW
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Hi there


The letter does not appear at all to have been signed by the same person as who wrote the actual letter. The Ps are completely different for a start. And why would the writer of the letter have stopped to change pen? 

Your research so far suggest it must have been British personnel but I am thinking the sister in question (either religious or medical sister) may have been French.

The letter was written out as a standard form in English and then signed off by whoever was on duty - maybe. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not a change of pen, but fresh ink after the pen dried up - either a dip pen or a fountain pen with an empty ink reservoir. To me the handwriting looks the same, perhaps modified by the need to take wider strokes because of more ink.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...