Sunday 14 February 2010

Mea Culpa - Godewaersvelde!

I was in Warwick last week at the Heart of England branch of the Western Front Association, and while there was asked about nurses killed during the shelling of casualty clearing stations. By that time my brain had turned to mush, and I expressed some doubt that the one nurse buried at Godewaersvelde had died as a result of enemy action. As it's unlikely in the extreme that a nurse would die at a CCS as a result of anything other than enemy action, I was on to a loser from the start! But to put the record straight, the nurse who died was Elise Kemp, the victim of a German bombing raid. So a mention for Miss Kemp now:

Elise Kemp was born in 1882 in Wellington, New Zealand, the daughter of William Kemp a surgeon, and his wife Charlotte. By 1901 the family were living in London at 38 Alleyn Road, West Dulwich, and Elise trained as a nurse at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill.
At the time of her death she was on temporary duty at No.37 Casualty Clearing Station, and the unit war diary of the Matron-in-Chief describes the incident:

October 21st, 1917
Went on to Godwaersvelde to 37 C.C.S. where I saw the O.C. and learnt the particulars of the very trying incident of the night before. Fortunately they had only just evacuated and they had only 30 patients in hospital, or the casualties would have been very great. There had been no warning at all beforehand and the bombs landed close to a marquee where the sister, 3 orderlies and 3 patients were killled and others were wounded, two of whom lost their arms. In another marquee the Sister in charge, Miss Devenish Meares, received multiple wounds, fortunately of not a very serious nature. She had an anaesthetic during the night and peices of shell were removed from her thigh, ankle and fore-arm, and arrangements were being made to send her to the Sick Sisters' Hospital, St. Omer. I visited her and found her wonderfully plucky. Arranged for Miss Luard, Q.A.I.M.N.S.R., to join 37 C.C.S. as Sister in charge as soon as possible. Arranged for 4 of the nurses who were very upset to be sent down to the Base.

I'll try harder next time!