GM 1914

The First World War in Greater Manchester

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Gallant Service: Oldham Nurse’s Great Distinction

Gallant Service: Oldham Nurse’s Great Distinction Twice Mentioned

In the War of 1914-18 Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. Sister A.H. Wormald was mentioned in a dispatch from General Sir Ian Hamilton, G.C.B., D.S.O.,A.D.C., dated 11th December, 1915, for gallant and distinguished services in the field, I have it in command from the King to record His Majesty’s high appreciation of the services rendered – Winston S. Churchill, Secretary of State for War, War Office, Whitehall, S.W. March 1919.

This was the first of two certificates received in March 1919 by Sister Ada Wormald from the War Office announcing her mention in dispatches. The second certificate was similarly worded but was from Lieutenant-General Sir J.G. Maxwell, K.C.B, K.C.M.G., C.V.O., D.S.O., and dated 16 March 1916.

Ada Hannah Wormald was born on 11 June 1880 the eldest daughter of Thomas and Mary Wormald of 188 Union Street, Rhodes Bank, Oldham. Her father was a dental surgeon. She was educated at Hulme Grammar School, Oldham and then trained as a nurse at the General Infirmary and Dispensary, Bolton, from 1909 to 1912. After leaving Bolton she spent periods at the Maternity Hospital, Birmingham; the Corbett Hospital, Stourbridge; and as a Ward and Theatre Nurse at Clayton Hospital, Wakefield.

Ada H Wormald

Ada H Wormald – Oldham Evening Chronicle.

She applied to the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve on 3 November 1914 and signed for overseas service 6 January 1915. Following a period of military training in Edinburgh, where her first patients were sailors from the German battleship Blucher which had been sunk in the North Sea, she went out to Gallipoli in June 1915 to work on hospital ships. As a result of her work at Gallipoli she was mentioned in dispatches by General Sir Ian Hamilton and received the Royal Red Cross Decoration. Only the Matron and Sister Wormald received the decoration but Ada thought that every sister on the ship deserved it.

Following the evacuation of Gallipoli Sister Wormald remained in Egypt becoming matron at the Government Hospital, Benha and at the General Hospital, Cairo. It was here that she received her second mention in dispatches for nursing in the provinces of Egypt.

In November 1918 she moved to the Armenian Refugee Hospital, Port Said from were she received a glowing reference from the Commanding Officer:

 I have the honour to report that Miss A H Wormald, Sister, QAIMSNR was matron of the Armenian Refugee Hospital, Port Said for a period of six months. She showed herself to be a capable organiser and performed her duties very efficiently. She worked well herself and got her subordinates to work well too. I should strongly recommend her for a further period of service.

After being demobilised in September 1919 she returned to Egypt where in December 1920 she was appointed matron by the Egyptian Government, of a hospital at Mansoura, about 120 km north east of Cairo on the east bank of the Damietta branch of the Nile, in the delta region.

Ada Hannah Wormald died at Budleigh Salterton, Devon in 1967.


 This blog post was written by Sandra Ratcliffe at Oldham Local Studies and Archives.


National Archives: WO/399/9242
Oldham Evening Chronicle, 10 Jun 1916; 2 Jul 1921

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‘The First War in the Air’- AVRO and World War One

As Europe prepared itself for total war in 1914, Manchester not only offered its men to the front line. It also manufactured an array of commodities, from munitions to biscuits, through its already well established industrial economy. This article explores a well-known local business at the time named AV Roe and Company (AVRO), which was opened by Alliot Verdon Roe and Humphrey Verdon Roe. The AVRO 504 and later models played a part in strategic bombing and training during the war.

Brownsfield Mill, Ancoats. Rochdale Canal Lock 83. Copyright Chris Allen,

Brownsfield Mill, Ancoats. Rochdale Canal Lock 83. Copyright Chris Allen.

AVRO was established in 1910 and its first site was in Brownsfield Mill, situated on Great Ancoats Street. As the world’s first enterprise to be registered as an aeroplane manufacturer, unsurprisingly it aroused great interest and wonder amongst contemporaries. An article in The Manchester Guardian from January 1914 described an AVRO aeroplane at a recent aviation display as ‘probably the most efficient aeroplane ever designed, and is, to our pride of Manchester manufacture’. The aircraft on display that day could reach a height of 1,300 feet per minute, and travel at 130 miles per hour.

In 1913 AVRO moved to a manufacturing space in Miles Platting, and later Newton Heath. Many of the training and defence planes in use during WWI would have been assembled in these local workshops.

By 1914 the British government had seen the potential of the aeroplane and feared the possibilities of enemy technology, so the relatively new concept of aerial warfare was included as part of British military strategy. Thousands of aircraft were ordered by the War Office, including an initial order of 13 (a large order by 1914 standards) AVRO 504 biplanes with 80hp Gnome engines for use by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service). 

AVRO - Finest Of All advert.

AVRO – Finest Of All advert.

 Tragically the AVRO 504 was one of the first aircraft to be shot down on 22 August 1914 by the enemy, piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Vincent Waterfall. However, three months later it was to feature in a major successful raid on the German Zeppelin works in Friedrichshafen. The Zeppelin airship was considered by many in both public and military circles with trepidation. These ‘gaseous monsters’ could as reported by sensationalist press stories, drop both bombs and men in their hundreds of thousands over British cities. The destruction of the Friedrichshafen plant would therefore be a symbolic triumph.

In November 1914, four AVRO 504s each equipped with 20lb bombs were flown over Lake Constance situated on the German border, and detonated their cargo onto the plant. The lead pilot Commander Briggs was shot down and was met by some hostile locals on the ground. After a short altercation he was later taken to hospital, whilst the other pilots managed to escape to France. It is now debatable amongst contemporary historians how much damage the attack caused to the works, however the Manchester Guardian in 1914 reported the ‘bombs thrown completely wrecked the only workshops equipped with the indispensable tools and machinery for the repair of the airships.’ It is clear that irrespective of the damage the mission caused, it was used as propaganda on the home front to influence public opinion. Additionally, the AVRO aircraft’s speed, endurance and ability to carry a rifle, machine gun or explosives had rendered it the machine of choice for a round trip to Friedrichshafen by Commander Briggs and his fellow aviators.

AVRO - Nothing Better advert.

AVRO – Nothing Better advert.

As the war progressed, the AVRO 504 aircraft was adapted several times for use as a training plane and was one of the primary trainers during this period. The 504C was also used for reconnaissance and as an anti-Zeppelin aircraft, plus a small number were from 1917 used as part of the RFC Home Defence Squadron. The 504 variants were produced in large numbers so that by the end of the war, 8,340 planes had been produced by AVRO and its subcontractors. The company was still experimental during this time, and the performance of many of the planes was so poor production had to cease. However, successful modifications included greater-powered engines (100hp-300hp), conversion into a passenger plane and the fitting a speaking tube so trainer and trainee could communicate. These changes set a precedent for later systems in later fighter and training aircraft.

The end of the war led to the cancellation of several contracts and the business experienced financial demise, so many of its employees had to be laid off. However, AVRO undoubtedly left a legacy in the history of aircraft production for warfare, and the Manchester company in its later more prosperous form went on to produce the iconic Lancaster Bomber during World War Two. 

Avro 504 aircraft airborne - 3/4 front view. Archives+ GB124.DPA/2083/48

Avro 504 aircraft airborne – 3/4 front view. Archives+ GB124.DPA/2083/48


This blog post was written by Jess Dodd, a volunteer at Archives+.


Brownsfield Mill, Ancoats. Wikimedia Commons. Copyright Chris Allen, 2008.,
I. Castle , London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace (2008)
R.Jackson, Avro Aircraft, (1995)
‘A.V.Roe & Co. Ltd’, The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester (2009), [accessed March 2015].
‘Nothing Better’, The Historic British Aviation Advertisements Archive: 1900-1970, [accessed March 2015].
‘The Finest of All’, The Historic British Aviation Advertisements Archive: 1900-1970, [accessed March 2015].
‘Avro 504’, History Learning Site, [accessed March 2015].
Avro 504 aircraft airborne-3/4 front view, Manchester Archives+ Flickr, [accessed March 2015.]
‘The British Air Raid’, The Manchester Guardian, 27th November 1914, pg. 7.
‘Looping the Loop in Manchester’, The Manchester Guardian, 2nd January 1914, pg. 8.


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Three Military Crosses in One Family

Richard Nelson, a volunteer with Trafford Local Studies, has been researching Trafford servicemen awarded medals or distinctions for gallantry, distinguished service or meritorious service.

Three Military Crosses in One Family:

Captain Eric Gilbert Leake, 48th Canadian Highlanders, 7th Manchester Regiment, RFC and RAF, (1893 – 1918) M.C.

Captain Russell Medley Leake, 3rd Battalion, attached 1st, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (1894 – 1918) M.C. and Bar.

Captain Kenneth Harper Leake, 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, RAF, (1896 – 1980) M.C.


To be awarded a Military Cross is an outstanding achievement and a testament to true bravery. To achieve three in one family is surely astonishing.

Research in the Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian identified that three of the four sons of Florence and James Medley Leake, a grey cloth agent for JB Lee’s, Son & Roberts of Brazenose Street, Manchester, all won Military Crosses. Further research in a wide range of sources has revealed more of their remarkable stories.

The three boys were born in Fallowfield, Manchester, before the family moved to Wood Hill, Harrop Road, Hale, by the time of the 1901 census. They were living at Ardencraig, Ollerbarrow Road, Hale, at the 1911 census and through the war period. All three boys attended Sedbergh School, as did their older brother, Gordon Lee Leake, who had established himself as an accountant in New York by the time war broke out.

Eric Gilbert Leake

Eric Gilbert Leake was born on 26th January 1893. He started at Sedbergh Preparatory School in 1901, after a period at Wadham House School, Hale. He became Head Boy at Sedbergh Preparatory School before moving to the main school in 1906. Here he played rugby and sang in choral competition for his house teams and joined the Officer Training Corps where he reached the rank of Lance-Sergeant in March 1910.

He left Sedbergh in 1910 and worked for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank for nearly three years before moving to Ontario, Canada, in 1913 to work as a bank clerk for the Royal Bank of Canada.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the 15th Battalion, Canadian Infantry and went with them to France in February 1915. He was wounded fighting for the 48th Canadian Highlanders in April that year. He attained the rank of Company Quartermaster Sergeant with the Canadian forces and, on 28th November 1915, he transferred to a commission in the 7th Manchester Regiment. He saw active service with this regiment, and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant by the end of December that year.

Like many army officers he took the opportunity to experience the excitement of the Royal Flying Corps. He joined this in September 1916 and gained his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate in January 1917. Now a temporary Lieutenant, he was formerly seconded to the R.F.C. in March 1917. He flew with 59th Squadron in RE 8 two-seater aircraft, designed for bombing and reconnaissance.

E G Leake

Eric Gilbert Leake (photograph courtesy of Royal Aero Club Trust)

Flying was a dangerous business. His aircraft was damaged in combat with an enemy aircraft while on a photographic mission on 8th April 1917, in the period before the Battle of Arras, when the crews of the other three British aircraft in the patrol became casualties. He sustained slight wounds from anti-aircraft fire in May and June that year. He was shot down over the Collincamp area in March 1918, but he and his observer returned safely, despite his aircraft being destroyed. Next month he was appointed Flight Captain of 59th Squadron.

He was awarded his Military Cross in June 1918 for action between 1st and 7th April 1918. His citation in the London Gazette records:

“On one occasion, observing a hostile scout, he at once attacked and fired 1000 rounds at close range. The hostile machine went down in a steep glide and crashed to earth. Later, when on contact patrol, his machine was damaged and forced to land just behind our lines. Although under heavy shell fire he, assisted by another officer, succeeded in saving all the instruments and equipment on the machine before destroying it. He set a very high example of courage and devotion to duty throughout the operations.”

On the 1st July 1918, Eric, now Captain Leake, was at home on a short leave. On return to France, on 24th July, the day after rejoining his squadron, he was wounded when his aircraft came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. His R.A.F. Service Record notes him as being in a Casualty Clearing Station on 29th July and his Sedbergh School obituary states that there were hopes of his recovery. That was not to be. He had sustained a broken blood vessel in his brain and died in hospital of his wounds on 31st July 1918. A fellow officer wrote of him as: “One of the best, popular with his squadron, and an excellent Flight Commander.” He is buried at Bagneux British Cemetery at Gezaincourt. His brother Russell Medley Leake attended his funeral.


Russell Medley Leake

Russell Medley Leake was born 9 July 1894 and sent to Sedbergh Preparatory School in 1903 where he played cricket for the school. He won a scholarship to enter the main school at Sedbergh in June 1909. He favoured literary and musical interests but took sport seriously. He won the Junior Shakespeare prize in 1909 as well as the IVB form prize. He sang in house music competitions in 1911, 1912 and 1913. A report of his cricket play in 1911 states: “A very promising left hander. He starts with great confidence and gets the ball in the middle of the bat. His weak spot is the ball on his leg stump. Bowls without guile, but keeps a length. Very slow in the field.”

He was made a House Prefect in the summer of 1912 and by the winter term of 1912, was a Librarian and the Secretary of the Literary Society. In March 1913 he took the role of War Minister in the Debating Society’s Mock Parliament session and was awarded the Prefect’s Leaving Prize at the end of that year. The writer of his obituary, published in the school magazine, the Sedberghian, describes him as “a clever, whimsical boy, whose mature self-command concealed a nature sensitive and passionate to an extreme point.”

In 1913 he left Sedbergh to continue his education as a Classical Exhibitioner at St John’s College, Oxford. The war intervened and, despite what his school described as “his intense hatred of militarism”, he enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion in August 1914 and went to France in November that year as a private in the 19th Royal Fusiliers. His leadership qualities were quickly recognised, and in August 1916 he was awarded a commission with the 3rd Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

He gained the Military Cross in April 1917 for his actions on 6th/7th March at Dompierre in Picardy:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He made three most gallant attempts to rescue a wounded officer and eventually succeeded in getting him to a place of safety. He set a splendid example of courage and determination.”

He gained a Bar to his M.C. in November 1917 and was promoted to Lieutenant in February 1918, having already held the role of Acting Captain.

By the time of his death on 18th September 1918 he was a Captain, commanding B Company of the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. On that day his regiment was involved in an attack to capture high ground held by the Germans to secure part of the start line for the assault on the Hindenberg Line. According to the Regimental History, he was killed by machine gun fire in a German counter attack as his company were attempting to take Villemay trench, near Holnon village in France as part of the Battle of Epehy. His Colonel’s words describe his qualities as a soldier: “I have never met a more fearless man… His act by which he gained the Military Cross on 6/7th March 1917, was one of great bravery… He is buried at Bellicourt Cemetery.

A sum of money was bequeathed to Sedbergh School by the estate of the late Russell Medley Leake, as the nucleus of a fund for providing an annual “Chamber Concert” at Sedbergh; himself a great lover of orchestral music, he wished that musical enthusiasts at the school should have a regular opportunity of hearing good instrumental music.

Death Penny

Death Penny of Russell Medley Leake (source unknown).

Kenneth Harper Leake

Kenneth Harper Leake, the youngest of the brothers, (born 30 July 1896) attended Wadham House School, Hale, and Sedbergh Preparatory School and played cricket for this school’s team in 1908.

Cricket Team

Sedbergh Preparatory School Cricket Team 1908; Kenneth Harper Leake, far right bottom row, Russell Medley Leake, 2nd left bottom row (image courtesy of

Moving to the main Sedbergh School in 1910, his achievement there seems to have been mainly in the field of sport. In July 1911 he gained his Colours for First XI Cricket team and became Captain of Cricket in 1913, though was forced to resign his captaincy through illness. He represented his house teams at gymnastics and rugby and played for School under 16 rugby team in 1911.

On leaving school in 1913, he attended the Royal Military College and was awarded a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in March 1915. He went to France at the beginning of October 1915 and was promoted to Lieutenant in December that year.

The London Gazette in October 1916 gives the citation for the award of the Military Cross:

For conspicuous gallantry in action. After an attack he took out a patrol with a machine gun, and established a post to protect the right flank of the outpost line, though the enemy were still in position on the flank and rear and were using machine guns.” He lost his right arm in subsequent action at High Wood. Presumably it was this that forced him to relinquish the office of Temporary Captain in November 1916.

Both the Yorkshire Post and the Sedberghian Magazine report the Royal Visit to Sedbergh School on 18 May 1917 to inspect the school contingent of the Officer Training Corps. King George V and his wife, Queen Mary, were introduced to Kenneth and spoke kindly to him. On 22 November 1917 Kenneth married Hilda Cunningham Hacking at St Stephen’s Church, South Kensington. Unfortunately she died during the last three months of 1918.

At the beginning of June 1918 Kenneth returned to war service and was appointed as Lieutenant in the Administrative Branch of the RAF as an Assistant Adjutant and on 28th September moved to 5 Training Depot Station at Easton on the Hill, Northamptonshire. However he was admitted to Wothorpe Hospital on 9th October for a short period and was placed on the half pay list on account of ill health caused by wounds in January 1919. He was admitted to Wothorpe again at the end of March and retired at the end of November 1919.

In January 1920 he travelled to New York on the SS Royal George, possibly to visit his brother Gordon who lived there. In November 1922 he announced his engagement to Gwyneth Mary Brownrigg Jay and married her in Dorset on 18 August 1918. She petitioned for divorce in 1927. No children have been located with certainty. He lived in London after this and in Croydon from the late 1950’s until his death in 1980.


Thanks to Katy de la Rivière, Archivist at Sedbergh School for information and a superb resource in the Sedberghian magazine on line. Thanks to Andrew Darwent, Trustee, Royal Aero Club Trust and Andrew Jackson of the website for permission to use photographs. Thanks to staff at Trafford Local Studies for support and encouragement.

Sources: RAF Service Records,The Royal Aero Club Trust, The London Gazette, the Great War Forum at, The Manchesters website –, The Loyal North Lancashires website,,, The Manchester Guardian on line, Trafford Ward Dead website, and for census, birth death and marriage registrations, parish records, passenger lists etc.

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The Prince of Wales National Distress Fund

This blog was written by Jennifer Clark from Oldham Local Studies and Archives. The post explores ‘The Prince of Wales National Distress Fund’, an initiative set up by Edward, Prince of Wales, to help the families of serving men and those suffering from ‘industrial distress’. 

The Prince of Wales National Distress Fund

On Thursday 6 August 1914 the Mayor of Oldham, Herbert Wilde, issued a circular inviting attendance at a preliminary meeting at the Town Hall the following day:

 I have been requested by the Government to form a local committee for the purpose of dealing with any distress that may arise in the town consequent upon the war and to control the distribution of any relief funds that may become available for this purpose.

 At the meeting it was resolved that a subscription list be opened, advertisements placed in local newspapers and banks invited to receive subscriptions.  During the meeting a telegram was received by the Mayor:

 Earnestly trust that you will assist my National relief Fund by opening Subscription List without delay and forward result to Buckingham Palace. Please do all that lies in your power to interest those among whom your influence extends.

 The telegram had been sent on behalf of the Prince of Wales requesting the Mayor to open a local fund as part of the National Relief Fund.


Image 1: HRH The Prince of Wales Edward VIII pre-1914. Wikimedia Commons.

A public meeting was then held at the Town Hall on Monday 10 August 1914 for the purpose of forming a Local Committee to be known as the ‘Oldham War Relief Committee’.  The Committee consisted of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and representatives from the following organisations:

 Oldham Chamber of Commerce;  Master Cotton Spinners’ Association; Oldham Insurance Committee;  Cardroom Operatives;  Operative Spinners;  Amalgamated Society of Engineers;  Weavers Association; Church of England Clergymen;  Nonconformist Ministers;  Oldham Chronicle and Oldham Standard;  Oldham Equitable Co-operative Society;  Oldham Industrial Society Ltd;  Charity Organisation Society; Free Breakfast Mission;  Oldham Chamber of Trade;  Representatives of the Blind;  Alderman Mrs Lees;  Miss Marjory Lees;  Mrs Higgs; Womens’ Labour League;  Mrs Jagger and Mrs Clynes.

 The beginning of the war was marked by the departure of men to the armed forces and a temporary period of unemployment. As a consequence, many women suddenly found themselves in severe financial difficulty. To address this situation a National Relief Fund was instituted of which the Prince of Wales National Distress Fund was part. The aim of the Fund was to help support wives and dependants of soldiers and sailors, and those made unemployed due to the war.

One of the main principals of the Fund was to keep dependants of soldiers and sailors in as good a position as they were before the serviceman had signed up.  Other help available included free school meals, medical and maternity aid.

The Prince of Wales National Distress Fund Civil Scale

Image 2: Letter to the Ward Secretary at Oldham regarding the scale of the relief fund. Oldham Local Studies & Archives.

Collecting boxes were distributed among mills, workshops, public houses and shops and public buildings. Donations were received from individuals and collections were taken at mills, workshops and places of worship. By the end of December 1914 the Fund had supported 6645 military cases and 8275 civilian cases.

Assistance was also welcomed from across the Atlantic when the United States of America sent over clothes and toys for distribution to children of soldiers and sailors in November 1914. In December 1914 Oldham Council began to receive gifts of food from various provinces of Australia and Canada which were passed to the Oldham War Relief Committee. By 23 June 1915 the following food-stuffs had been distributed by the Committee:

From Quebec                                    16,000 lbs of Cheese

From British Columbia                    4,800 tins of Salmon

From New South Wales                 800 lbs of Tinned Mutton

From New South Wales                 1,400 lbs of Flour

From New South Wales                 144 frozen rabbits

From New Brunswick                      72,000 lbs of Potatoes

From the People of Canada          196,000 lbs of Flour

 The committee continued to meet throughout the war granting free railway passes for relatives to visits wounded soldiers who had been sent home to distant hospitals. Arrangements were also made to enable relatives to visit Prisoners of War in Switzerland. A few were sent to Murren, one to be married to an Oldham soldier imprisoned there.

The last meeting was held on 10 June 1935, when it was unanimously agreed to close the account and dispose of the balance. Residue monies were donated to Oldham Royal Infirmary and Oldham Bluecoat School.



Image 1: HRH The Prince of Wales Edward VIII pre-1914 – Wikimedia Commons (
Image 2: Letter to the Ward Secretary at Oldham regarding the scale of the relief fund – Oldham Local Studies and Archives (ref. CBO/25/2/2)

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Marie Margaret Netherwood – Prisoner of War

Trafford Local Studies have discovered this interesting story about a young nurse from Altrincham who was captured as a Prisoner of War.

On October 2nd 1914, the Altrincham and Bowdon & Hale Guardian published an article titled “Nurses Experiences” Altrincham Lady’s Adventures at The Front”. The story related to a party of 8 nurses who had travelled to Belgium with the Duchess of Sutherland to care for injured soldiers on the front line. The nurses spent six weeks at the front before being captured by the Germans as Prisoners of War. After 4 days they were released on the condition that they would not return

One of the nurses was referred to by name as Nurse Netherwood a former resident of Ashfield Road in Altrincham. “She speaks of thrilling experiences, and some of the sights have been so horrible, that she declares, she is unable to mention them”

“For four days they were prisoners of war, but were eventually allowed to leave under American protection and returned by way of Namur, Huy, Liege and they were delighted to arrive safely at Maastricht”

Altrincham and Bowdon Guardian October 1914

Altrincham and Bowdon Guardian
October 1914

Altrincham and Bowdon Guardian October 1914

Altrincham and Bowdon Guardian
October 1914

From these brief references in the local newspaper, we became intrigued about the story of this young nurse and wanted to know more about her, so using genealogical resources we decided to look into her life in more detail.

This is her story ………………….

Her name was Marie Margaret Netherwood and she was born on 22nd March 1881 in Sheffield, Yorkshire the daughter of Joseph Walshaw Netherwood, a travelling railway inspector and Eliza Netherwood (nee Fenner). She had a younger sister Ethel born in 1885

Sometime between 1891 and 1901 the Netherwood family moved to the Altrincham area, to live at number 6 Ashfield Road, Altrincham. Marie became a well-known member of St. Margaret’s Church Institute, Altrincham.

1901 Census (

1901 Census (

Slater’s Street Directory 1906

Slater’s Street Directory 1906

Marie trained as a nurse at the Borough Hospital in Birkenhead working there for three years as a staff nurse between 1905 -1908. She then took up a post as a charge nurse at Ilkeston Accident hospital before moving to Broadstairs in Kent to work in the General Institution.

By 1911, she was working as a private nurse in London. The 1911 census indicates that she was living at 41 Catherine Street, Buckingham Gate, Westminster, as a boarder with Charles Fenner and his family. As Fenner was her mother’s maiden name, this was probably a close family relation.

When war broke out on August 4th 1914 Marie immediately offered her up skills to the war effort and became one of a party of only 8 nurses, who travelled with the Duchess of Sutherland to set up a hospital in the Namur. 

“The Duchess with eight English nurses was in charge of a hospital in Namur during the whole of the bombardment. They had under their charge some 150 Belgium wounded “…

Duchess of Sutherland and Nurses (Courtesy of Tony Allen

Duchess of Sutherland and Nurses
(Courtesy of Tony Allen

The Duchess of Sutherland kept a diary of the experience and wrote

“Left England on August 8th to join the branch of the French Red Cross called Secours Aux Blesses. The President is the Comtesse d’Haussonville. We steamed into Boulogne Harbour to the loud cheering of crowds on the quay and cries of Vive l’ Angleterre. A Red Cross badge on that day seemed like a Legion of Honour”

The Millicent Sutherland Ambulance as it was known travelled to the border town of Namur and set up a hospital in a local convent Les Soeurs de Notre Dame. A short while later on the 22nd August the town was heavily attacked and within 20 minutes the makeshift hospital had received 45 people.

With the fall of Namur the nurses were trapped under German occupation but still managed to care for the wounded.

After capture and her subsequent release, we know that Marie soon returned to Belgium to continue her work as a nurse despite promising the German officials never to return.

Marie is referred to by name in various official documents, some of which throw some light on her lively personality. 

The British Journal of Nursing – November 7th 1914: “The following nurses have recently been sent abroad by the St. John Ambulance Association, M. Netherwood”

WO95/3989 – War Diary: 4th May 1916 – “Staff Nurse Netherwood, for going out with NCOs and orderlies. She is a transfer from BRCS and of common extraction-has promised while serving at 18 General not to offend again”

12th May 1916 – “With reference to Nurse Netherwood recommending that she should be instructed to report at WO, having been in the habit of going out with orderlies and Sergeant”

The National Archives hold her War Service records and they record that she served as a staff nurse in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve with the British Expeditionary Force, France and Belgium. On her application form for the QAIMNSR she gave her address as the No 2 Military Red Cross Hospital, Rouen. After serving for 2 years from 13th May 1915 to 16th October 1917 she resigned her post to get married.

Her QAIMNSR service records describe her as a good nurse and capable worker

On November 10th 1917 aged 36 she married William Daniel Wesley Mills, a Canadian, at St. Clements Church, Chorlton cum Hardy and at the time of her marriage, was living at 45 Church Road, Chorlton cum Hardy in Manchester. Witnesses to the marriage were Ethel Netherwood (sister) and Joseph Walshaw Netherwood (father) 

Marriage Certificate

Marriage Certificate

 She was awarded the following medals for her service in the war

British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John – 1914 Star

British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John- British War Medal and Victory Medal

Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) – British War Medal and Victory Medal

After the war ended in 1918, she continued to work as a nurse but relocated, with her husband William, firstly to Canada in 1920 then to the United States of America, where in 1922 she petitioned for citizenship. Her Declaration of Intention to become a Citizen of the United States was made on 15th July 1927.

American citizenship

American citizenship

Sometime between 1922 and 1927 she was divorced from her husband William and settled permanently in Los Angeles, California. There were no children from the marriage. She is listed on the 1940 American National Census aged 59 living on her own means at Plenty Street, Long Beach, Los Angeles California. She died on 7th November 1956.

During her career as nurse in the First World War, Marie Margaret Netherwood kept a diary of her experiences. The Margaret Netherwood Mills Papers 1914-1918 were deposited with the Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, California in 1961. They contain correspondence, diaries and clippings relating to the nursing work of the British Red Cross during World War 1.



Altrincham Bowdon and Hale Guardian Newspaper
National Census
Slater’s Street Directory
British Journal of Nursing
National Archives
Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, California
Six Weeks at the War by Millicent Sutherland (Duchess of)
Tony Allen

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Former Oldham Nurse’s Death

Many people in the Oldham district, particularly those connected with hospital work, will hear with deep regret the death of Nurse Donovan, formerly connected with the Oldham Poor Law Institution. Her death occurred under tragic circumstances. On Sunday she had prepared the little Catholic Chapel for service, and at night was observed to be in a fainting condition. She was put to bed, but passed away on Monday morning 3rd April 1916 about ten o’clock, having contracted Cerebo-Spinal Fever. This was her 38th birthday.

Bridget Donovan was born on 3rd April 1878 at Curragh Lane, Tullogher, Ireland. Her father was a Gentleman’s Tutor and she was educated at Tullogher National School. She started her three-year nurse’s training at the Oldham Union Infirmary on 6th March 1910 after which she studied Midwifery and District Nursing for three months, was a staff nurse for 9 months, and then became a sister. Whilst nursing she lived in the Nurse’s Home on Rochdale Road.

She applied for war service in 1915 and was accepted into the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve on 12th November 1915. From Oldham she went to work at the Alexandra Military Hospital, Cosham, near Portsmouth having had no experience of enteric or typhoid fever. Here she treated some of the most serious army cases and her devotion to duty made her very popular. It was at Cosham that she died from cerebo-spinal fever on 3rd April 1916.

A telegram was sent to her sister and brother-in-law Joanna and Hugh Barratt of Rochdale Road, Middleton:

It is with deep regret that a report has been received from the Military Hospital that Nurse B. Donovan, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, died on the 3rd inst. I beg you will express this expression of sincere sympathy.

The funeral was held at Christchurch Cemetery, Portsdown, Hampshire:

The coffin was covered with a Union Jack and conveyed on a gun carriage drawn by six horses. There was a firing party, band and bugles. There was a large gathering of nurses and among others present were Colonel Jennings, Colonel Caldwell and Major Colman, while the pall bearers were Captain Culpin and five lieutenants. Father Walton conducted the last rites, and after the coffin was lowered into the grave the firing party fired three volleys, fixed bayonets and presented arms, whilst the buglers sounded the “Last Post.”

The only relative present was her sister Johanna Barratt.

Christchurch Cemetery, Portsdown

Christchurch Cemetery, Portsdown – Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Bridget Donovan’s grave is cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and is located at 54C, row A.

Written by Sandra Ratcliffe, Oldham Local Studies and Archives.



Oldham Evening Chronicle, 8 April 1916
National Archives: WO/399/2299
Commonwealth War Graves Commission –

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The Bravest Little Street in England

Chapel Street: The Bravest Little Street in England 

Chapel Street in Altrincham, so called because of the Wesleyan Chapel on the corner of the road, was a road mainly occupied by labourers and lodging house keepers. It gained public recognition after the First World War for the extraordinary sacrifice of the residents. From just 60 houses, 161 men volunteered for active service, 29 men were killed. The street was honoured on the 5th April 1919 when the Earl of Stamford unveiled a memorial to the men in front of a vast crowd. King George V sent a telegram of support which was read out at the unveiling and Chapel Street became known as ‘’The Bravest Little Street in England’’. Chapel Street was demolished in the middle of the 20th Century.


Chapel Street Commemoration – Trafford Local Studies.

 Chapel Street War Memorial 1919

Volunteers at Trafford Local Studies have been researching how the First World War  affected the lives of the people who lived in Chapel Street both on the front line and the home front. Using archives and information from surviving family members we have been able discover more about how they lived their lives through such a difficult period.

One of our volunteers Liz has been researching the Wyatt brothers Joseph, Thomas and Frank of Chapel Street. This is their story…

All three brothers joined up and survived the War. The eldest brother Joseph was born in Chapel Street in 1890 to parents Frank Wyatt, a builder’s labourer and his wife Ann nee Glavey. At the age of 11 he was employed as an ‘’Evening News Boy’’ and then as a jobbing gardener. In 1912 he married Florence Naylor and the couple had one son Joseph born in 1913. A family member informed me that at this time Joseph was employed as a train carriage cleaner.

Joseph enlisted on 15th November 1915 and joined the Cheshire Regiment, serving with the rank of Corporal. His regimental number was 32605.Unfortunately his attestation and military records have not survived. What is known is that Joseph was injured on 25th August 1916 possibly during the Battle of the Somme. He lost fingers on his left hand from a gunshot wound. He was evacuated to England and nursed at the Military Hospital, Edmonton, London. This was reported in the Manchester Evening News on Monday 8th October 1916. This photo of Joseph provided by his granddaughter was taken whilst he was in hospital and shows the disability to his hand. The red armband appears to signify that he was a patient undergoing treatment at this time.

Joseph Wyatt

Joseph Wyatt.

Joseph was discharged from the army because of his wounds on 19th January 1917.He was awarded the Silver War Badge and also received the Victory Medal and the British War   Medal. Sadly Joseph’s wife Florence died in the summer of 1917 shortly after his return home. His family report that he moved back to Edmonton where had been nursed and in 1918 he married Sarah Agnes Chapman, a Queen Alexandra’s Nurse who had nursed him at the Military Hospital. Agnes was a widow with three young daughters. The couple eventually moved back to Altrincham with his son Joseph, Agnes’ three daughters and the three daughters they had together, settling in Oldfield Brow.

Joseph worked a jobbing gardener after the war and may have struggled to find work. This later picture of him with Agnes kindly provided by Joseph’s granddaughter shows him in   military uniform. He appears to have a prosthetic glove on his left hand. Joseph died on 22nd November 1937 aged 47 years. Sadly he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Hale Cemetery.

Joseph and Sarah Wyatt

Joseph and Agnes Wyatt.

Thomas Wyatt, born in 1893 was a jobbing gardener. He enlisted in the army at some point during 1915. His Medal Index Card indicates that he joined the Royal Field Artillery as a driver and entered France on 20th November 1915.His Regimental number was 35246. He was awarded the 15 Star Medal, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal .As the records have not survived it is not known when Thomas was discharged from the army, but it may have been before the end of the war as his death certificate describes him as a military pensioner and a jobbing gardener. He died in Altrincham General Hospital aged 27 years and was buried in April 1921 at the Blessed Virgin Mary Anglican Church in Bowdon. At the time of his death he was living with his father at 46 Chapel Street. The cause of his death was given as malignant cardiomyopathy.

Frank Wyatt, born in 1891, joined the Cheshire Regiment in 1914 Regimental number 10293, although he was later transferred to the Devon Regiment, Regimental number   34061. This information came from the Medal Index Cards as like his two brothers, his  attestation papers have been destroyed. Frank was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. It is not known where Frank went after the war. Research has been unable to identify any marriage or death records.

Frank Wyatt

Frank Wyatt.



Chapel Street Commemoration Image – Trafford Local Studies
Wyatt Family Photographs – Courtesy of Jane Southern.


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