Forgotten sacrifice of South Holland nurses recorded

Cheryl Arnold is ensuring that the people from South Holland  who served in war are never forgotten. Photo: SG251012-128NG
Cheryl Arnold is ensuring that the people from South Holland who served in war are never forgotten. Photo: SG251012-128NG

The people of Spalding took a nurse to their hearts in the early stages of the First World War.

She was Miss Margaret Montgomery, a nurse at the front representing the Spalding Ambulance Association.

Margaret, who was working in a hospital in France, maintained a correspondence with a Miss Laming through these newspapers after being “chosen in the town of Spalding to represent them as nurse at the Front”.

The young nurse began by promising to write “every week if at all possible and so try to keep up the interest in the work which is so much needed here at present”.

Now her work – and the work of so many other largely forgotten women from South Holland who volunteered in the war effort – will be preserved for future generations thanks to Spalding researcher Cheryl Arnold.

Cheryl, who has volunteered for the Royal British Legion for more than 20 years and is a member of Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, carries out research for the archives of Lincolnshire Family History Society.

She has undertaken research into the heroic local women who became involved in the war, many of them losing their lives as a result.

Cheryl said: “It was a big thing to do, especially those that went to Serbia, but it can’t have been easy for any of them. These ladies were all brought up genteelly and foreign travel wasn’t as easy then.

“It’s nice to know they are remembered.”

Nurse Montgomery made regular requests for comforts for the soldiers, who were of all nationalities.

In October 1914 she apologises for writing such a brief letter, explaining: “On Tuesday, at 4am, we were all roused as a train with 172 wounded was to arrive at Touran in 20 minutes from the time we received the wire. Many of the wounded had been injured three weeks ago, and had only had the temporary dressing on when they arrived here, and all had been travelling since Friday morning. Their plight was indescribable.

“We want linen now, and still more warm clothing for our dear, brave boys, who have done so much for us.”

Nurse Montgomery died of tuberculosis/consumption in 1917 while on active service.

Former schools nurse for Spalding district Rosina Wilkins went to Serbia to nurse cases of typhus, typhoid and cholera.

Conditions in one ‘hospital’ were “indescribable... raving men, dying from typhus, almost naked in many cases, practically unattended by either nurses or doctors, in a dark, insanitary factory”.

Nurse Wilkins was forced to flee for her life, she and her fellow nurses trudging with their patients over mountains in snow and blizzards for seven weeks to escape the enemy. She died in 1916.