Wednesday 13 March 2019

Project Wrap-up

In November 2018, Global War Graves Leicester and the other Century of Stories funded projects officially came to a close. For Global War Graves, there were two final products: a presentation given at the Century of Stories community conference, and a new self-guided trail leaflet for Welford Road Cemetery visitors. 

Enshia Li (Global War Graves research assistant intern) flew to the UK to co-present with Hanna at the conference. Above is the banner featuring our project at the conference; it was a delight to learn more about the other six projects and meet so many interested members of the Leicester community. 

The day after the conference, we attended the Remembrance Service at Welford Road Cemetery, where our new "Global First World War Graves" self-guided trail leaflet also debuted:

The leaflet features the graves or commemoration sites in Welford Road of 21 different First World War dead who had international connections in some way (full list above). Six were also chosen (below) for more detailed features on the fold-out map:

This marks the end of the Global War Graves project; Enshia continues with her undergraduate degree at Stanford, and Hanna is soon to submit her PhD in History at Oxford. For further information or queries relating to this project, please contact Hanna on twitter: @hannamsmyth.

Monday 16 July 2018

Kathleen Adele Brennan and the Australian Army Nursing Service

Honouring the Nursing Sisters

Big document
Kathleen Adele Brennan, photograph from The National Archives of Australia

When I first started compiling the data for Global War Graves Leicester, I was surprised to find an Australian nursing sister buried in the Leicester cemetery. What was more intriguing was how she was buried with “full military honours”. This sparked some questions: Was this any special designation for nurses? What was their experience in the war, and what commemorations did they receive?

Of the twenty-five nursing sisters who died while serving with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), all were honoured postmortem on the Australian War Memorial Commemorative Roll, standard practice for any Australian who died for the war effort. While it was unclear whether all nurses were “buried with full military honours”, this designation was awarded to a number of nurses who perished under various conditions: Nellie Spindler, a Yorkshire nurse, died by shellfire at Passchendaele; Audrey Heritage was reported to have “remained on duty when so many were stricken” before contracting disease herself; Louisa Bicknell, like Kathleen Adele Brennan and Audrey Heritage, died from illness incurred during her service. Such commemoration reflects the committed service of the nursing sisters, which is sometimes relegated to the background in narratives of the war. 

AANS: International Operations and Challenges

1934 picture of a group of Australian nurses who served in the Gallipoli campaign, photograph from the Australian War Memorial
However, similar means of commemoration for nurses and soldiers does not reveal the whole story, in particular nurses’ varied experiences. For instance, the AANS went through unique challenges that stemmed not only from their inexperience but also from new conditions brought on by the war, such as trench fever (transmitted by lice in the trenches), previously unseen wounds from new developments in artillery, and severe psychological trauma.

Additionally, the AANS--truly global in their deployment--faced challenging climatic conditions in the different geographic regions in which they operated. In Gallipoli, for instance, there were shortages of food, little protection from the cold and frequent gales. Often, there were not enough nurses; at the No. 2 Australian Stationary, there were 25 nurses for 840 patients days after the arrival of the AANS. As a member of the AANS dispatched to Gallipoli, Sister Nellie Morrice further suggested that officers deemed the AANS inexperienced and their presence unnecessary in spite of the obvious demand for medical aid. Furthermore, in India, where there was a sizable population of 320 AANS members by 1918, climate conditions proved to be near fatal as nurses treated foreign diseases in temperatures that peaked at 51 degrees Celsius.

The Australian Army Nursing Service truly had a global reach, engaged in almost every theatre of the First World War. Nursing was a challenging, sometimes fatal endeavour. Today, the sacrifices of the AANS are honoured in cemeteries all over the world; cemeteries like Leicester’s at Welford Road.

- Enshia


Butler, Janet. “Nursing Gallipoli: Identity and the Challenge of Experience.” Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 27, no. 78, 2003, pp. 47–57., doi:10.1080/14443050309387870. 
Hamilton, Robyn. “First Death of an Australian Nurse.” Queenslands World War 1 Centenary, 
Wadman, Ashleigh. “Nursing for the British Raj.” Australian War Memorial, 28 Oct. 2014, 
Williams, Shirley. “World War One: The Many Battles Faced by WW1's Nurses.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Apr. 2014, 
Wynn, Stephen, and Tanya Wynn. Women in the Great War. Pen & Sword Military, an Imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2017.

Monday 16 April 2018

What we're working on: April

The only required outcome of this project, as mandated by its funder A Century of Stories, is a 20-minute conference paper at the Century of Stories conference at the University of Leicester (9 November 2018). However, from the beginning we've always been clear that we wanted to create some kind of additional output that was more durable and more accessible to the public. 

The Friends of Welford Road Cemetery have produced five self-guided themed cemetery trails over the years, and we are excited to be working with them to create a new one highlighting international connections of its First World War graves!

Monday 9 April 2018

Research Visit to Welford Road Cemetery

A few months ago Hanna travelled from Oxford to Leicester to revisit Welford Road Cemetery- the focus of this project- to meet with the Friends of the cemetery, visit the graves we're researching in person, and get a sense of what outputs for this research would be most feasible. 

The cemetery has a designated Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot, but also has individual CWGC headstones scattered throughout the cemetery.

scattered CWGC grave

CWGC plot

CWGC Cross of Sacrifice

'Their name liveth for evermore', standard phrase used at CWGC sites- usually
on the Stone of Remembrance

grave of Samuel Paynter Musson, born in Jamaica and served
with the Indian forces

cemetery's visitor centre

The Friends of Welford Road Cemetery have a small visitor centre that handles visitor queries and stores research related to the cemetery's graves. It was great to meet with some of the Friends and hear about their work. 

Next week we'll have a post up on the outcomes of this meeting: what we decided to create as a more public-facing output for our research, and how the work on that is progressing!

Tuesday 31 October 2017

International Epitaph: Sergeant Frank Nicholls Knight

Today's blog post is not by us and is not hosted on this site- instead it's by the fantastic Sarah Wearne of the 'Great War Epitaphs' daily research project!

Sarah kindly agreed to feature another one (see her first one here) of the international First World War burials at Leicester, Sergeant Frank Nicholls Knight, as her daily epitaph for today. She researched the personal history and social context behind his epitaph, "An O.L. / He became a profitable member of the King and Commonwealth". Click here to read the full post!

Tuesday 10 October 2017

What we're working on: October

Here's a quick update about what the Global War Graves team is working on this month!

Enshia is working on compiling a series of spreadsheets: info on international burials and commemorations of First World War participants in Welford Road Cemetery; international burial or commemoration places of British soldiers who are also commemorated on non-CWGC headstones at Welford; and other international connections. (Working from info drawn from the CWGC database and a PDF created by the Friends of Welford Road Cemetery). 

Hanna is working with the Friends of Welford Road Cemetery to plan and define the public-facing deliverables for the project, and planning next steps for research in the CWGC archives in Maidenhead and a research trip to Leicester. The only mandated outcome for this project is a conference paper to be given in Leicester next November, but we are very excited to announce that we will also be putting on an exhibition of our findings at the cemetery's visitor centre, and creating a First World War edition of the cemetery's popular self-guided walking trails. 

Monday 25 September 2017

International Epitaph: Private Albert Wellington Jarman

Today's blog post is not by us and is not hosted on this site- instead it's by the fantastic Sarah Wearne of the 'Great War Epitaphs' daily research project!

Sarah kindly agreed to feature one of the international First World War burials at Leicester, Private Albert Wellington Jarman, as her daily epitaph for today. She researched the personal history and social context behind his epitaph, "He gave his life that we should live", and traced his journey from Leicester to Canada to Leicester again over thirty years. Click here to read the full post!