Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Tom14444

Eliza Wilkes - U.S.R Badge, VAD?

Recommended Posts

Tom14444

Hi all,

 

First post here, so if it is in the wrong place/format, let me know.

 

When my grandparents died, I came into possession of a number of photographs, medals, badges and other items, related to family members.

We had never seen these before, and unfortunately they didn't have much in the way of notes or information with them.

My great grandfather, Ernest James Wilkes, was in the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, from at least 1904, prior to this he fought in South Africa with the 3rd West Kents, a militia regiment.

An old contemptible, he fought throughout the Great War until demobilization, returning to Scotland with the Labour Corps.

 

His wife, my great-grandmother Eliza Kizia Wilkes (nee Mclean) is featured in a number of other photographs I have in my possession.

I have attached some of these images below.

The pictures show Eliza with other women - several who are holding canes. Eliza is second from right in image 1, standing left in 2, centre in 3.

I'm not sure what the uniforms are in the first image (excuse my ignorance), perhaps field nursing uniforms,  in the second they appear to be wearing more typical VAD nurse uniforms.

In the first image, I noticed that the women are wearing badges 'U.S.R' (see close-ups). Eliza's badge is U.S.R only, while another (close-up 2) appears to also have another pin, which looks to me like it could be the medical snake 'staff of hermes'.

Can anyone clarify what U.S.R could mean? The only similar badges I can find relate to the U.S navy, or U.S naval nurses, which seems unlikely to me for the wife of a Royal Scot in Edinburgh, but is this a possibility?

 

One other thing, among the items I found was a ticket to Buckingham Palace, for the wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles. I found some indication that a contingent of WW1 nurses were invited to the event, as Princess Mary was involved with the VAD during the war.

 

Thanks,

 

Tom

Eliza Wilkes 1.jpg

Eliza Wilkes 2.jpg

Eliza Wilkes 3.jpg

Eliza Wilkes 1 Closeup 2.jpg

Eliza Wilkes 1 Closeup.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
busterfield

I would think U.S.R. is for United States Reserve. The uniforms look suspiciously ill fitting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TEW

This website suggests they are as busterfield says.  US Reserve but US Navy as you suggested.

 

However they don't seem to be nurses uniforms. Perhaps the ill fitting nature means they have borrowed male uniforms for the photo.

 

Second photo, not VAD uniforms, see these.

 

They are not particularly 'uniform', they look to me more like house/parlour maid attire perhaps with 'cook' in the centre'.

 

Perhaps she was employed at an US Navy depot, hospital somewhere in UK? Strathpeffer?

TEW

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
royalredcross

At a guess, photo 1 shows ladies dressed in uniforms of brothers/boyfriends etc.  The second shows domestic staff, probably the cook in the centre and a couple of parlour maids.  Certainly not VADs. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TEW

Ah, another US Navy hospital in Leith.

TEW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
alf mcm

Eliza was living in Midlothian in 1911, so Leith would be a better bet.

 

Regards,

 

Alf McM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TEW

There are some good photos of US Navy nurses in uniform out there, no similarity at all to the parlour maid look.

TEW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim Strawbridge

As was the custom of the time, photographers had props of clothes that people could dress into for fun for a photograph. It would seem that your photographs are just that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TEW

Could well be. I see the male US Navy medics in photos at strathpeffer have a very different uniform.

TEW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tom14444

Thanks for the help everyone,

It may be as Jim Strawbridge says, that these were just fun photographs and nothing more.

 

My grandfather didn't speak to us about his parents at all, however he did write down a short sketch of his life - which we found and formed the basis of his eulogy some time later.

He wrote simply that his 'father Ernest was a soldier, his mother, a nurse'.

 

This is where the idea that Eliza was a nurse came from initially, before these photos were in hand.

I've yet to find any concrete record of this however, so perhaps she did work the home front in some capacity other than as a nurse. Maybe nurse was an overstatement, perhaps she was an untrained assistant, and it was just easier to tell my grandfather she was a 'nurse'.

 

Hopefully further research into my great-grandfather's service may turn up a clue or two about Eliza,

 

Tom

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WhiteStarLine

Nothing to add here but I love the photos and the women look as if they are hugely enjoying themselves.  Good on them!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TEW

I have no idea how the two Scottish US Navy hospitals sourced nurses for service there. Were most nurses from stateside? Or might there be trained UK nurses alongside or forming the bulk?

 

This website has images for the relevant uniforms. It may be she was uniformed correctly during the war rather than the 'fun' photo you have.

 

Alternatively, she may have been a VAD with the RANK of nurse. Not all VAD records survive but it would be interesting if there any VAD cards for either hospital. 5 pages of results for Leith, although for most this seems to be a home address.

 

Perhaps photo#2 is post war?

TEW

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tom14444

I actually have a home address:

In 1910 Eliza (Mclean) was at 5 Leith Street Terrace, Edinburgh (from marriage certificate),

 

Which set of records were you looking at TEW?

 

Tom

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tom14444

This is the only other image I have similar to the ones posted above, which really doesn't add much additional context.

 

Tom

Eliza Wilkes 4.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TEW

Nice photos, not sure of the significance of the roses? tucked in.

 

If you mean the VAD records they are here. If you search the location/hospital box you will still get results for VADs who came from EG Leith but served elsewhere. I've not seen any cards to VADs specified as being at the US Naval Hospital, Leith. However, I've just found that Leith War Hospital (the poor house) had been a normal hospital for most of the war and only took in a percentage of US troops for a few months leading up to Nov 1918.

 

There are some cards to VADs serving at Leith War Hospital. For example; Helen Fraser Paterson served there as a VAD from April 18 to Aug 18 so may well have tended US troops.

 

I'm still perplexed by the uniforms worn in photo#1. Clearly not their's but also not US Navy USR uniforms or of naval patients. Perhaps the US Navy hospitals in Leith and Strathpeffer are a red-herring. So, possibly although from Edinburgh she served elsewhere.

TEW

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BullerTurner
On 04/04/2020 at 11:02, TEW said:

Nice photos, not sure of the significance of the roses? tucked in.


Minden?? 😉

 

Alexandra Rose Society (f.1912) might be a slim possibility but I believe it focussed on the London poor?  As for St George’s Day - in Leith?  Archibald, certainly not!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JOVE23

Those uniforms are definitely American. I would support the boyfriend/brother theory or maybe they are borrowing some patients or doctors uniforms for a fun photo?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bosun Bob

My initial thought when viewing the first image was that these ladies were wearing 

United States Army uniforms. Some appear ill fitting enough to suggest that the uniforms 

they wear may have been originaly issued to somebody else, suggesting that these ladies

were having a bit of fun. Bless their hearts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

A very intriguing set of photos.  I would add that the US Army uniforms (albeit possibly ‘Reserve’) and legwear are all of commissioned Officer quality (cuff rings, etc.) and absolutely pristine, implying little wear and certainly not wear in the field. The insignia on visor (forage) caps and collars are clearly the bronze eagle and ‘caduceus’ of the period.
The backdrop to all three photos is the same suggesting the same location.

As pointed out previously the women’s apparent workwear is that of scullery maids (mob caps), kitchen staff (plain aprons) and perhaps a cook (all white).  
It seems to me that they are probably house staff from a grand house, or hotel that has been utilised as an Officers’ Mess for US Army officers accommodated at Edinburgh/Leith, and probably US Army staff involved in the medical effort supporting wounded and transiting troops in Scotland.

 

Apparently the US medical staff were all recruited from the California Hospital in Los Angeles, so they might not have worn Navy uniform, but perhaps that of a generic medical reserve. 

Records indicate that the patients were not all Navy personnel or Americans. About 75% of patients were from the British Army. The American Navy patients were mostly influenza cases. The British Army patients were battle casualties. They arrived by train from the Channel ports having been taken off the battlefields about three days before and having only received First Aid at Field Dressing Stations.  The hospital closed soon after the Armistice.

 

Apparently the hospital did not just comprise the main building, but was supplemented by “private residences loaned and equipped by the Scottish Red Cross”.  
 

There is some circumstantial evidence of the use of hotels, as the other US Navy hospital, at Strathpeffer, also used a hotel as a secondary location (perhaps as accommodation for staff) called the Spa Hotel, which was subsequently destroyed in a fire during WW2.  There were several other Strathpeffer hotels taken up in this way by the US Authorities, presumably Leith might have been similar, which would chime with the quote above regarding the Scottish Red Cross.

 

1BE62F42-2D38-4988-961D-0C0B6B068966.jpeg

323B714A-E6BB-4538-A4ED-1C30F7D3DFC9.jpeg

 

21CED0B2-157F-4253-8C33-9A379DE7E8CB.jpeg

DC6C8366-854E-4879-A82C-7EC78C6F7897.jpeg

8E29ED30-7EF1-4D15-840A-08DCAC29920E.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

Share this post


Link to post
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...