War Poetry

Austin Threlfall Nankivell (1884-1942) was Poole’s Medical Officer of Health between 1914 – 1921.  He was called up in 1915 and became a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps until 1918, when he returned to his post in Poole.

He published articles and a book during the war, about trench fever and hygiene for soldiers.  He also penned a war poem:


SURELY the Keeper of the House of Death
Had long grown weary of letting in the old—
Of welcoming the aged, the short of breath,
Sad spirits, duller than their tales oft-told.
He must have longed to gather in the gold
Of shining youth to deck his dreary spaces—
To hear no more old wail and sorrowing.
And now he has his wish, and the young faces
Are crowding in: and laughter fills Death’s places;
And all his courts are gay with flowers of Spring.


Taken from A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919

by George Herbert Clarke, 1917

Thanks to Poole’s Health Record for the information.


International Women’s Day 2018

For International Women’s Day we are publishing a post from our friends at Poole’s Health Record.


The first woman doctor in Poole?

The people of Poole had to wait longer than many others to be able to consult a female doctor in their town. It was well into the twentieth century that the first ones crop up, although there were 495 women doctors in the whole of England and Wales by 1911. It is also far from clear just who was the first in Poole.

There are, however, two who stand out:

Dr Enid Walters was living in Broadstone in 1911, and the census that year clearly recorded her occupation as Doctor. But Broadstone was then not part of Poole; it wasn’t until 1933 that it was incorporated into the Borough. Also there is no evidence that she actually practised in Poole, or even Broadstone.

Dr Mary Jeremy was definitely a doctor, but was a resident of Bournemouth. However there are reports in the local newspapers from 1909 about her involvement in a professional capacity with the Poole School of Mothers. This was, however, probably a voluntary role.

If both of these women are discounted, then we turn to Dr Ruth Scutt, who was born in Poole in 1892, qualifying as a doctor in 1919. She certainly lived in the town for a while after qualifying, but again it’s not clear she ever practised in Poole. But perhaps she was the first woman doctor born in Poole.

Dr Laura Horne didn’t arrive in Poole until 1922, surely far too late to count as the first? But she did stay in Poole from that time on, did practice as a doctor in the town, and became well known for her contribution to healthcare in Poole.

Dr Emmie Fenwick was another later arrival, coming to Poole in 1924, and then practising from premises in Parkstone Road. She achieved much during the Second World War, and returned to Poole late in life.

History doesn’t have to provide clear answers. What stands out from each of their stories is the remarkable things they achieved as pioneering women doctors.

Enid Margaret Walters was born in Dover in 1882, daughter of a clerical schoolmaster, who took his family to the Isle of Man when he was appointed to King William’s College. He died in post there in 1899, and Enid moved to Nottingham to be Lady Dispenser at the Children’s Hospital. She enrolled at the London School of Medicine for Women, qualifying in 1908. She was briefly in Cheltenham, before moving to Broadstone, where the census records her living with her widowed mother at Foxtons, a large house. However her mother died that year and Enid took up short term medical posts in Hull, at Devon County Asylum and the New Hospital for Women in London, despite still being listed as living in Broadstone. Then in July 1916 she volunteered, along with other women doctors, to join the Royal Army Medical Corps as a civilian doctor and work at hospitals in Malta with the wounded evacuated from the Gallipoli disaster. The next year she joined the Scottish Women’s Hospital group who ran the hospital at Villers-Cotterets, an outpost of the Royamount Abbey Hospital, close to the front line in Normandy. Reports state the surrounding countryside was stripped of trees, trenches lined the roads, and shell holes up to 30 feet deep splattered the fields, villages being reduced to piles of stone. As one of only 3 doctors at the time at Villers-Cotterets, this must have been a terrifying experience. She was eventually sent home, apparently exhausted, in September 1918. Her postwar career included working again in Hull, although strangely still listed in directories as living in Broadstone,  By 1929, finally, there is clear evidence of a local medical post, as an assistant medical officer for Dorset County Council, though unclear where. By 1939 she had retired and died in 1960 living in Wimborne.

Mary Ethel Jeremy was living with her widowed mother in the 1911 Census, listed as a Medical Practitioner. She was born in Dublin in 1865 to an Irish mother and a Welsh father, but in 1901 was living in Surrey after the death of her father. It was in her mid-30s when Mary  took the plunge and enrolled at the London School of Medicine for Women in London, qualifying in 1905. She worked at the Evalina Children’s Hospital in Southwark before taking the huge step of travelling to take up a post at the Memorial Hospital, Ludhiana in India. She was back within a few years, however, as in October 1909  she is recorded as being at a fundraising concert for the Poole Mothers’ Association, and the next year as judging a baby contest at the Association with 2 male doctors. The Mothers’ Association became Poole School for Mothers providing antenatal and child care advice and support for the poorer townsfolk, linked to council-run services, but run as a voluntary agency. It had branches in the Poole districts of Newtown, Hamworthy and Longfleet. In 1915 Mary was still involved, giving a talk to the mothers on diphtheria, and examining the physique of babies at the School; that year she also did similar work in Bournemouth at the Free Church Babies Home. During the First World War Mary was also active in supporting the work of the British hospital at St Malo, and she spent some time working at the Southampton University War Hospital. In 1919 she was awarded the OBE, presumably for her wartime work. She was an active participant in the local branch of the British Medical Association, alongside Dr Evelyn Bond, probably Bournemouth’s first woman doctor. Mary retired to live in Colehill, and died in 1935.

Ruth Mary Scutt was born in Poole on 26th December 1892 to a well-known local family, living at Seldown Towers in Seldown Road.  Her father was a wealthy corn merchant and Ruth was educated at Bournemouth High School and went on to London University. She was a medical student there in 1914 at the London School of Medicine for Women and qualified as a doctor in 1919. She worked as House Physician and Resident Medical Officer at the Westminster Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Bethnal Green. She was listed as living in Poole up to 1923, but in 1924 she altered her life completely by travelling to India to take up a post there. She married Richard Purssell OBE, a high-ranking official in the Indian Government Telegraph Service and Director of Calcutta Tramways, and returned to England in 1928 with a husband and 2 children. Their address was then St Ann’s Court, Canford Cliffs, Poole. Ruth may not have practised again and is shown as retired in 1939. She died in 1984 living in Guildford.

Laura Katherine Maule Horne may be remembered today primarily as the wife of the town’s Medical Officer of Health, Robert Maule Horne, but should be better known as being the driving force behind the East Dorset Shilling Fund, which raised funds for Cornelia Hospital’s new maternity ward in 1930. She was Welsh, and the sister of Clement Davies, one-time leader of the Liberal Party. She had qualified in 1913, and worked at a war hospital in Edinburgh and then as an Assistant Medical Officer of Health in Burnley. Like Mary Jeremy she worked with local groups in child health, until the Second World War when she became a casualty officer in Poole. She certainly supported her husband’s public health work, and in 1927 actually took over from him for several weeks when he was injured after an accident at work. Poole never had another female Medical Officer of Health, even Acting! She died in Poole in 1967.

Emmie Dorothy Vivian Fenwick was born in 1896 in London, daughter of Dr Samuel Fenwick. She followed him into the medical profession, studying at the London School of Medicine for Women and qualifying in 1922. She held posts at St Mary’s Hospital in London. By 1924 she was living at 94 Parkstone Road, Poole, listed as surgeon and physician, which means she was in practice. By 1930 she was back in London. However in 1941 she joined the RAF Medical Branch, and by the end of the Second World War had been promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, and was awarded the MBE.  After the war she worked for London County Council, but returned later to Poole, as she died in the town in 1972.

These were the first lady doctors in Poole, very few in number. It wasn’t until the Second World War when the town’s main hospital, the Cornelia, employed female medical staff. The first was probably Miss M. Ostererreicher, a Czechoslovak citizen appointed as House Physician in 1939. The same year the hospital took on Dr Laura Horne, Dr Katherine Andrew, and Dr Hilda de Peyer as Casualty Officers.

Today of course the gender composition of doctors in the country is near parity, and female medical students have outnumbered males. The early decades of the twentieth century saw women only very slowly enter Poole’s medical profession. However, if the identity of the first lady doctor is unclear, perhaps it is better just to contemplate their stories.


Written to coincide with Poole Museum’s exhibition Her Story: Tales of Poole Women Past and Present.

Military Service Tribunals


Poole and Dorset Herald, 9th March 1916

Local military service tribunals were originally set up in October 1915. Their original aim was to co-ordinate ‘military service requirements with those of civil departments and vital industries’, and as such they considered the postponement of calling up voluntarily attested men for military service. The central tribunal was set up in November. Local tribunals often forwarded cases to them for a final decision, and they also heard appeals against the decisions made in local tribunals.

In 1916 the Military Service Act introduced conscription, meaning that military service was now compulsory. Continue reading

Rescued and Rescuer


Poole Quay has long had a prominent space in the history of Poole as a whole, a history marked with trading, D- Day landing involvement, marriages and more. However, smaller events are also dotted along the long line of Poole Quays history, such as this one:

On December 27th 1917, almost one hundred years ago, it was reported in a local newspaper “Rescued and Rescuer.” The short article tells of the heroics of Albert Edmunds when he saved 3 year old Ronald Medland after the child was accidently pushed into the harbour. Ronald Medland was on the quay with his mother and two other children when one of the children accidently pushed Medland off the quay into the water, Edmands, who was walking along the quay at the time, heard a woman call that there was a child floating down the harbour and “decided to heed her call.” Edmands grabbed a rope attached to a nearby vessel, then grasped the child and held him suspended  between his legs until a Mr Morrison , who was overseer at the Base, came and took the boy to safety.

Robert Medland was born in Poole in 1914, to Mr and Mrs Medland. The family lived on Cinnamon Lane-which still exists today, and is very close to the quay around old town Poole. The hero of the story, Albert Edmunds, was born in Benhall, in Suffolk, to William Edmunds and Eliza Edmunds where he had 3 siblings: Victor, Edward and Hilton. Albert was stationed at the Poole Naval Base with the General Service Infantry that he was involved in during the war, having signed up to the army with a short service attestation. This short service attestation was introduced and used from 1914-1917. The short service attestation was also called the “Derby Scheme” and was during this time there was a change in the way that men were organised during conscription, in an effort to raise the number of men signing up to fight during the war.

This story is just one of many that have defined the history of Poole and the quay, whether it be war related, society of the time or just general interest stories, and its stories like this that will be the concept for the new Poole Museum WW1 website. A website that will make the stories of people, from WW1, like Ronald Medland and Albert Edmunds accessible to everyone and show how these individual stories all characterised Poole during the war and the way we know it today.

Poole WW1  Website

Pondering the Past

blog picture

Before I began volunteering here at Poole Museum, the history centre was simply the room I walked into and walked back out of again. Now, every Saturday, I come to the museum and the history centre is where I can delve into articles from 100 years ago, or find out about the miraculous story of one single soldier from WW1.

Before I came down to Poole Museum to volunteer, the subject of volunteering somewhere was actually approached quite hastily, after it was made clear to me that I needed to find somewhere to volunteer quickly for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. However, when my Dad suggested Poole museum, and when I came in initially to enquire about volunteering, it became clear to me very quickly that this was something I would enjoy very much. I am doing History GCSE at school and find it very interesting- so having the chance to every Saturday, come down and find out more about the history of my local area, is something I have come to look forward to.

Reading through files stuffed with newspaper articles from WW1, I’ve discovered so much more about Poole people’s part in the war and events happening from 1913 onwards. Whether it’s marriages, deaths, stories of heroic acts or gatherings in the local parish church, it’s always fascinating finding out these events- especially when I can recognise some of the street names and areas the articles are referring to.

I have found that reading these articles has also given me more of an idea of the sheer scale of deaths that occurred during the war. When I’ve heard the statistics before of the estimated number of deaths during these wars, it’s been hard to comprehend, therefore the 700,000 soldiers that died during WW1, stay as just a statistic. By being able to see that 70% of the news reported in the papers was deaths, it has made these statistics much more real.

Through volunteering here I have also found out how many different ways there are to extend out to the public the facts and stories found here at the museum. Twitter, blogs and more are used in order to raise awareness of the findings here. I confess, I’d barely used Twitter before volunteering here, but now I can use Twitter in order to update people on events or stories from 100 years ago. I can honestly say that there isn’t anything about my time at the museum that I find particularly negative, I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend at the Museum every week.

Annabel Iyengar

Poole jeweller worked a “miracle” in the mosque

Hansford picture

Soldiers in the First World War confronted death every day on the Front Line from bursting shells, bayonets and gun fire. Private Will Hansford, from Poole, however, once faced danger of a different kind. He risked his life… mending a mosque clock.

This quirky story was unearthed by local history researcher Bryan Gambier, delving into the archives of the Poole and Dorset Herald. History, they say, can teach us lessons that resonate today.

The Hansford family were well known in Poole. They had a jeweller’s shop on the High Street and were also skilled at making watches and clocks.

Private Hansford’s grandfather had been a jeweller in Poole and his father, John William Hansford, followed in the family business. In 1882, John William married Mary Elizabeth Hooper Legg, a policeman’s daughter from Sherborne, and their first-born, Will, came along two years later. Mary would soon give birth to three other children, Florence, Alfred Frank and Bert.

Will was 30 when the First World War broke out and, asked to do his bit for his country, enlisted with the 2nd Dorsets.

The conflict, of course, was not limited to the Western Front. Many soldiers went to fight in Mesopotamia, in the Middle East, where Britain sought to protect the valuable oil fields. The Royal Navy relied heavily on oil.

Private Hansford was among the men posted to Mesopotamia to fight the Turkish Army. It wasn’t an easy billet. Casualty rates, through battle and sickness, ran high.

The 2nd Dorsets soon found themselves camped near Samarra on the bank of the River Tigris, in today’s Iraq.

Inside the city stands a mosque, famous for its beautiful golden dome. Years before the war, its striking clock had had marked time so accurately that, together with the Muezzin, it helped call the Muslim faithful to prayer.

But, one day, 40 years before the conflict, the worn timepiece stopped. Though a masterpiece of engineering, it had rusted and ceased to boom the hours. It stayed silent.

Keen to make friends with the local community, the 2nd Dorsets’ local commanding officer hit on an idea. They would mend the clock. And Poole’s Private Will Hansford, the clockmaker, volunteered to have a go.

Hansford had only Army tools. It was no easy task. Once, hearing scraping sounds above him, he levered a trapdoor and, to his dismay, found himself staring at storks, regarded as sacred birds. He swiftly lowered the door and went back to work.

After three weeks, though, he got it working and the clock chimed out the hours once more.

Overjoyed, the local community hailed Hansford as a ‘messenger from Allah’, sent to help them.

When the war was over, Will Hansford re-joined his father and brother Bert at the family jeweller’s and watchmaker’s business. It had once been at 16 High Street but had long since moved to 143.

It was certainly there in 1901 and, 10 years later, Will and Bert were still living with their father at the shop, the three working as jewellers, watchmakers and clockmakers. The other children, grown up, had moved away. Florence, we know, had once worked as a post office assistant. Their mother, too, it seems, had gone, though her husband still marked himself down as ‘married’.

Come the war, their other brother, Alfred, would also enlist, serving as a Gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Bert may well have served, too.

Their dad, John William, died in 1926, leaving estate to the value of £2,051 (with a purchasing power of about £109,000 today).

Will and Bert would carry on working together at their jewellers’ shop near the old Post Office until 1952 when it would finally close… and the Herald carried its story under the headline, ‘Poole jeweller worked a “miracle” in the mosque’

But what of Private Will Hansford? Like brother Bert, he never married. And, despite the wartime danger he had encountered repairing the mosque, he was to survive for nearly 50 more years to reach the age of 79.

Working on that mosque clock in the midst of a bloody war in which so many died, he was one of the lucky ones. A soldier with time on his hands… in more ways than one.

By Ed Perkins


A Volunteer’s View

Edby Ed Perkins, Culture Volunteer

I’ve been intrigued by the First World War since watching Captain Edmund Blackadder wriggling with dismay at the predicament he found himself in on the Front Line on the Western Front.  Well, long before, to be honest. Since being told by my dad about my grandfather’s injury. Wounded at the Battle of Arras, a piece of shrapnel stayed lodged by his heart for the rest of his life. It was too dangerous to remove. He never spoke a word about what he had been through. They didn’t, did they?

But knowing that he must have been through hell, like millions of others, made me wonder: How would I have fared? How would I have felt? With shells, grenades, snipers’ bullets and machine gun fire bursting around me and, perhaps, the threat of gas, would I have held my nerve? Or would the coward in me have crept out?

And so much of the war on the Western Front was a stalemate. ‘We’ve been sitting here since Christmas 1914, during which time millions of men have died, and we’ve advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping,’ said Blackadder, in the classic TV comedy. But we all knew that the comedy masked a grim period in the world’s history. It took a brave person to volunteer to fight in Kitchener’s Army.

Luckily, it didn’t need courage for me to become a volunteer in Poole Museum’s fascinating First World War project that is looking into how the conflict affected the town and the legacy it left behind. It has been an education, giving me a small insight into what those men, and their families left behind, went through. And what might have befallen you and me if born at a different time.

My assignment is to look at the stories of the survivors. They were the lucky ones. But, even so, a great many of them were damaged by the experience. Each has a unique tale that they could have told, though so many couldn’t bear burden their loved ones what they had been through.

One of those Poole soldiers was William Barfoot. And, on top of the horrors he endured on active service in France, he was to receive bombshell news from back home. On April 20 1916, his nine-year-old son, Jesse, was killed by a train on the railway line by Poole Park.

We don’t know how the news was broken to him but we do know that a few days after the tragedy happened, the Registry of Births and Deaths in Poole sent a request saying payment was due. They wanted the half-crown (12.5p) for the cost of registering the boy’s death. And a penny extra for Stamp Duty.

William lived with his wife, Bessie, with their youngest children in Market Street, Poole. Bessie Amey and William had married in Wimborne in 1901. A labourer by occupation, he must have been out of work in August 1915 for he was sent by the Labour Exchange in Bournemouth to a recruiting sergeant. He was 40 years old and 5ft 4ins, not unusual for the times. The next day he was in the Royal Engineers and less than three weeks later was serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

We don’t know how Pioneer Barfoot reacted at first to the awful news of his son’s death. Little Jesse was partially deaf, an inquest would be told. He had always been told to keep off the railway line and Jesse had promised his mum he was going to the Ladies Walking Field. But, on that fateful day, he had climbed over the railings and onto the line with two friends to get a piece of wood. They stayed on the line to collect fir cones and pick up sticks. When one heard a train coming he shouted to warn the others… but Jess did not hear. He was knocked down by the train at the bridge at what local people called ‘the bunny’.

The train stopped as soon as it could. The driver, no doubt traumatised himself, was later praised for the speed of his reactions. But poor Jesse had had no chance. He had died instantaneously.

Across the Channel, though death was a daily fact of life for soldiers on active service, the loss of his third youngest son must have hit Pioneer Barfoot hard. The following year, a little over a year after the anniversary of his son’s death, he was up on a disciplinary charge. On May 29 1917 he ‘absented himself from work from 3pm to 5pm’. He had gone to an ‘estaminet’ – a French café bar. He was given fourteen days’ field punishment under ‘close arrest’. William Barfoot, who would be transferred to the Labour Company before returning to the Royal Engineers to serve with the Water Boring section, was not granted leave until the following October. He would have to wait until the January of 1919 before being demobbed and able to return home for good.

There is something especially poignant in the ordeal of William Barfoot but every soldier’s life revealed in the Poole Museum First World War project can uncover a compelling story. For my starting point in looking at their wartime history I’m using the Poole Absent Voters List, comprehensively drawn up by a fellow volunteer. It lists the servicemen from the town who were registered to vote in the 1918 election, when still in the Armed Forces. Many having them would be voting for the first time.

When Captain Edmund Blackadder, in Blackadder Goes Forth, hears that his batman Baldrick may get the vote, his reaction is predictable. ‘Give the likes of Baldrick the vote and we’ll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner,’ he observed.

He was wrong. If anyone deserved the vote to decide on the country’s future it was the men who had served on the Western (and other) Fronts. Their often bleak stories are our heritage. And, perhaps, lessons to be learnt.




Poole and the Army Veterinary Corp


Image Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Whilst compiling a database of Poole servicemen from the Absentee Voters Register of 1918, it soon became apparent that there were a number of soldiers in the Army Veterinary Corps (A.V.C) who all lived in the same area of Lower Parkstone. Seven of these men lived in Courthill Park Road, Florence Road, and King’s Road. Three of them were NCOs and four were privates.

Continue reading

Cornelia Hospital and how it became the first local hospital to receive World War One casualties

This is a guest blog post taken from Poole’s Health Record – a blog by one of our project volunteers and a Local Health Historian.

Visit the blog to find out more about the history of health in Poole.

Cornelia Hospital and how it became the first local hospital to receive World War One casualties


September 1914 – Britain had been at war for a month. The military authorities were still assuring the Red Cross that there was enough accommodation to deal with the wounded of the British Expeditionary Force, and that the “temporary hospitals” which the Red Cross were offering were not likely to be needed short of the country being invaded. The Red Cross and its VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) were getting frustrated. The British Red Cross Society was formed in 1870, but the Dorset Red Cross had only been operating since 1911. It was the War Office that had launched the idea of using VADs, in 1909,  inspired by events in the far-off Russo-Japanese war of 1904/5.

During September 1914 the Poole detachment of the Red Cross was busy setting up the Bournemouth and Branksome Voluntary Relief Hospital as one of the temporary hospitals, even though it was sited in neighbouring Bournemouth. This was renamed Crag Head Military Hospital, receiving its first patients in October. The nearest official military hospital was also in Bournemouth, but no patients were admitted there until November.

Cornelia Hospital was Poole’s general hospital, a voluntary hospital only established in 1889 and set up on its Longfleet site only 7 years before the war started. This was a small hospital of only 17 beds, but it was to play a big part in Poole’s  war.  In September 1914 there were no plans in place for any military patients to be admitted to the Cornelia Hospital – the major worry was probably whether their local doctors would leave to join up. All this changed in a few days, whether plans were ready for war casualties or not. The exigencies of war did not wait for plans. Cornelia suddenly became the first local hospital with wounded soldiers from the Front.BEAMISH COLLECTION The Cornelia Hospital, Poole. 1907. File A42.

The story of how the Cornelia Hospital dealt with a sudden and unexpected influx of war casualties is told, albeit succinctly, in the hospital’s Annual Report for 1914:

In the month of September your Committee received a most urgent appeal on behalf of sick and wounded Belgian soldiers, and at short notice, the out-patients waiting room was furnished as a ward, and accommodation offered to ten patients. Beds were provided by friends, and certain structural additions of a temporary nature were made to that part of the Hospital. Subscriptions were received for the special purpose of meeting the expenditure on this account, but the total cost has not been provided for, yet the Committee believe that they would have failed to anticipate the wishes of the subscribers if they had refused what treatment and comfort the Hospital could afford to these brave soldiers, whose patient courage under their sufferings have won for them so much affection and respect.

1912 Plan of the Hospital with Outpatients on the right

The Belgian soldiers had been brought into Poole by sea, and the Cornelia was the only possible place available for them to be taken. Suddenly a hospital of only 17 beds managed to set up another 10 beds in its outpatients department, sending out to benefactors to supply the beds and presumably bedding. There were rarely beds to spare in its two wards – average daily occupancy of its 17 beds was 16.46 in 1912 and strangely 18.01 in 1913. The largest space in the small building for extra beds was the busy outpatients room. How it dealt with outpatients for the next few weeks is not known. This was a hospital with no resident medical staff and normally only 5 nurses under a Matron. There were 23 Belgian soldiers admitted in all. No arrangements could be made beforehand as to how what was a very financially shaky voluntary hospital would pay for their care and maintenance.

One person affected by the sudden arrival of the Belgian soldiers was the much-decorated nurse Charlotte Paterson. She was due to leave for France from her post at the Cornelia Hospital, but the arrival of the wounded men at 11pm the night beforehand meant she changed her plans. She carried on at the Cornelia and it wasn’t until October 1915 she finally reached France.

The hospital had plenty of space in its grounds. It had been built on a site with a specific purpose of having enough space for future expansion. The result was that the Red Cross were able to create 2 new wards from scratch and opened them in the November of that year. Later extra tented wards were used in Summer months. The original plan had been to use local schools as hospitals, but the Council would not allow that. The way Cornelia rose to the occasion for the Belgian soldiers may have influenced the decision to build military wards on the Cornelia site. The hospital was jointly run for the rest of the war, albeit remaining under the Cornelia Matron, Helen Milne. Cornelia Hospital went on to have 140 beds and admit a total of 2583 military patients in the war, whilst still caring for  its local patients.

By 1918  11 auxiliary military hospitals had been opened in Poole, with the Poole Red Cross detachment still staffing Crag Head Hospital in Bournemouth. Some had been originally established as private convalescent units, but by 1918 they were all run by detachments of the British Red Cross. They employed some trained nurses and cooks, but were mostly staffed by VADs in both nursing and support roles. The majority were convalescent units, but others, like Cornelia, offered full medical and surgical treatments.

Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson

Charlotte Paterson 1938

It is International Women’s Day today and the theme of the 2017 campaign is ‘Be Bold For Change’.  To celebrate this I want to write about Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson who was born in Scotland but lived in Poole for over 50 years.

Miss Paterson came to Poole in 1903 at the age of 29 and lived at Corfe Lodge, Osborne Road, Parkstone until her death in December 1955.  On the 1911 census she is listed, living with her siblings.  Her brother, Archibald Richard Paterson, a doctor of medicine is head of the household and under the heading ‘Employer, Worker or Working on own account’ he has filled in that Charlotte is part of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Societies.  Her sister is also recorded as part of the Women’s Suffrage Societies.


On 7th January 1938 the Wessex Gazette reported that Miss Paterson received an M.B.E in the New Years honours.  Her award was for “political and public services in East Dorset” however the newspaper records:

She had already deserved well of her country before her public career in Dorset commenced by reason of her remarkable services to the British and French Armies during the Great War.  She entered Germany before the Armies of Occupation and her most cherished possession is one of the French tricolours which was hoisted in celebration of the Peace Treaty. 

The newspaper goes on to state that Nurse Paterson joined the Cornelia Hospital staff in Poole on 8th August 1914 after nursing in London.  As she was an expert at speaking French in October 1915 she went to France and spent the war on the front line fighting area.

For a few months she was at a large hospital east of Paris and she was then sent to the Queen of the Belgians Hospital, at Lapanne, close to the villa of the gallant Belgian Royal family.  She was among the very first to receive the Queen Elizabeth Medal with Red Cross from the Belgian Queen.  It was only given to those nursing within range of the enemy guns.  At that time her hospital suffered the ordeal of an enemy bombardment, lasting twelve days and nights, during which she had several remarkable escapes from death.  She was in charge of the reception pavilion where the wounded- they could be brought in twenty minutes from the firing line- were taken and received their first operations.

As she was the only British nurse she was recalled for her proximity to the fighting, she rebelled and ended up joining the French Army who had a shortage of nurses.  Straight after the war she entered Germany with a French nurse and they reported their findings to the British Commander at Metz who asked her to carry out similar work there.  She was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre.

After the war Miss Paterson served on Poole Town Council 1924-1934 and represented Poole on the County Council.  She campaigned to get the first female police officer appointed in Poole and also established an Occupational Centre for Mental Welfare in Poole.  In 1924 she was made a Justice of the Peace.

After Charlotte’s death in 1955 the Poole and Dorset Herald published an obituary:


A fitting tribute to a woman who was definitely courageous and ‘Bold for Change’.