Wednesday 25 June 2014

The Blue Plaque Has Finally Arrived

Six years ago I contacted English Heritage to propose a Blue Plaque to commemorate Dame Maud McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief in France and Flanders during the Great War. There are so few public tributes to women who served during that period and the trained nurse has fared badly compared to her untrained VAD colleague - anonymity has become her place in history. So by remembering Dame Maud, the Plaque is also a symbol of remembrance for the thousands of nurses of all grades who served under her during her five years in wartime France.

Yesterday was the final step of the journey - the unveiling ceremony at her former home, 47 Markham Square, London, S.W.3, where she lived between 1919 and 1945. As might be expected, all the arrangements were beautifully organised by the Blue Plaques team at English Heritage, and even the weather was smiling. There were a number of speakers and the proceedings started off by Professor Ronald Hutton on behalf of English Heritage. Professor Christine Hallett talked about Dame Maud's professional life and her work during the Great War, and a great-niece, Jennie Newman, related some family memories of a purposeful and unique lady. There was a very strong military presence in Chelsea yesterday evening, with many current day members of Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and the Territorial Army, the two sister services of which Dame Maud McCarthy was so influential in her time. The Plaque was unveiled by Colonel David Bates, ARRC, the current Director of Army Nursing Services and Matron-in-Chief. When I spoke to him afterwards, we both rolled our eyes at the thought of how Dame Maud would have regarded the prospect of a man ever doing her job - presumably inconceivable in her time.

After the ceremony we were all invited to join the residents of Markham Square at their annual summer gathering, and I must extend grateful thanks to Penelope Russell, who has allowed her home to become subject to a round of upheavals in the long and arduous Plaque process, and also for her hospitality to a raggle-taggle group of guests and visitors - except of course for members of the British Army, who were definitely not 'raggle-taggle'.

Professor Ronald Hutton starts the proceedings

Colonel David Bates before the unveiling

Colonel Bates pulls the string ...

The Photo-Sergeant - didn't look a man to mess with

Thanks from the Chairman of the Markham Square Residents Association

Me and my daughter Hannah with Colonel Bates on her head!



  1. Many congratulations to you, Sue; you must have felt very proud. Well done!

  2. Great stuff Sue. Wish we had had a word from you, too, as part of the speeches. A very happy day - at last!

  3. Thanks Paul, thanks Dick - it all seemed a bit surreal to me, but an occasion that almost certainly only comes once in a lifetime.

  4. Sue, thanks for commemorating an Australian born nurse!