Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Miss Shappere and the Royal Red Cross

While browsing through the tiny hand scribbled notes in the front of the Royal Red Cross Register, I came across one which reads:

'Miss Shappere was refused R.R.C. for service at Intombi Camp Ladysmith because her subsequent behaviour was not satisfactory'

As I'd never heard of Miss Shappere and was intrigued to know how she'd blotted her copy-book, I started with a web search which resulted in a fascinating insight into her life and work. Rose Shappere was an Australian nurse serving during the Boer War and this first newspaper item states quite clearly that she had been both mentioned in despatches (unproven) and that she had been awarded the Royal Red Cross 'which medal she now wears.'

Nurse Rose Shappere

But obviously not! This was written after her return to Australia, so I wonder if she had acquired a medal to wear that she was not entitled to, or if perhaps the newspaper just assumed on her say-so that she had received it. Other items such as this one give the impression that Miss S. was not shy of publicity:

Rose Shappere in London

There is also a good biography of Miss S. here:

Rose Shappere biography

So did mention of her 'subsequent behaviour' relate to indiscreet public comments about the conditions of the hospital at Intombi, or did she fall foul of the authorities in some other way? I shall keep my eyes open for any further references that I come across.


  1. I find your site fascinating, thank you so much. I have been readind up on the subject of nurses in the first world war in order to get the correct backgroung and authentic details for a historicalromance I am writing. i also spent my holiday reading 'The Roses of No man's lands', by lyn Macdonald, which gave a great overview of the whole war and how the strains on the nursing profession were affected by the major offensives etc during the war. Thankyou.

  2. Thanks Suzi - I just do it because I enjoy it, so if others find something useful that's an extra for me.

  3. Hi Sue,

    Rose Shappere was Mentioned in Despatches by Sir George White for services at Ladysmitn and this is gazetted, but I haven't come across an RRC yet.


  4. Hello Keiron - I've transcribed all three volumes of the RRC Register, and know beyond doubt that Miss Shappere doesn't figure in it, so little untruths, either in error or on purpose!


  5. Hello Sue - I've read that Rose Shappere was indiscreet about conditions at Intombi Camp (which were appalling with the stench from all the Typhoid victims and the fact that the camp was placed at the foot of the hill holding an enormous Creusot, so that the returning fire from Ladysmith's naval guns endangered the hospital. She apparently spoke about this and was not supposed to. But getting back to the typhoid, when General Buller relieved Ladysmith, he sacked the Sanitation Officer who was lax in his duties in allowing such an epidemic to take place.

  6. Thanks Jenny - yes, whatever the failures there was no place for whistle-blowers at that time, and probably shows her up as a strong character rather than a problem-woman.