Eleanor Davies, Royal Red Cross and Bar
My great aunt Eleanor Davies was born 24 Dec 1875 in Glasgow (the daughter of Warren Davies and Eleanor (formerly Sewell). Warren Davies, an iron puddler from Newport, Monmouthshire, and Eleanor Sewell, from Newcastle upon Tyne, were married by Primitive Methodist Minister John Davison on 14 Jun 1872 at the home of the couple’s uncle, Edward Binney, at 109 Stirling Street, Cowcaddens, Glasgow. Eleanor’s siblings were William Davies (a Methodist Minister), Robert Sewell Davies, Warren Davies, Sarah Phillips Davies (later Nutter) and Joseph Davies. Warren Davies senior later became an insurance agent in Tranent, East Lothian, and was a Methodist Lay Preacher for most of his life, latterly in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Eleanor helped to nurse her mother, who had an operation to remove a kidney tumour in 1892 and who died of secondary abdominal tumours in 1894 aged 47. This sad experience led to Eleanor’s later decisions to train as both nurse and midwife.
In the 1901 census Eleanor was one of two foster mothers looking after 29 children at a home in Benfieldside, County Durham.
Eleanor then undertook Midwifery training in Ireland (at The Rotunda, Dublin) and, after a period working in Belfast, she then trained to be a Registered Nurse at The General Infirmary at Leeds from 1909 to 1912, and served an additional year there as a Staff Nurse.
After a period of private nursing in London, Eleanor served with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve from 9 Feb 1915 to 19 Apr 1919 at home and abroad. In 1915 she was with Lady Cornelia Wimborne’s Serbian Relief Fund (British Journal of Nursing 13 Feb 1915). In 1916 she was awarded the Royal Red Cross (London Gazette 3 Jun 1916) and also awarded the King Peter of Serbia Medal for services in Serbia.
After the British nursing withdrawal from Serbia, Eleanor served in Malta, Bombay and Mesopotamia (Amara and Baghdad). Brief records of her service following her Serbian experience are at the National Archives reference WO/399/2060, with the exception of records of her Bombay experience, which are in India.
Eleanor’s service in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) was a memorable experience for her. On 14 Jun 1917 she joined the medical and nursing support of the Tigris Corps commanded by General Frederick Maude. Maude had been ordered to re-take Kut al Amara following the 1916 humiliation of the Siege of Kut when General Charles Townsend surrendered approximately 10,000 men to the Turkish forces. With 150,000 troops, Maude was commanded to advance slowly along the banks of the Tigris northwards from Basra and to avoid casualties as much as possible. He re-took Kut al Amara on 27 Feb 1917 and then advanced to Baghdad. Maude was a highly respected General and renowned for organising the transport of medical supplies as the army advanced. We have a photograph of Eleanor and a colleague standing outside a tented ward from this period of her experience.
On 15 Apr 1918 Eleanor was mentioned in Dispatches from Baghdad by Lt Col W R Marshall (London Gazette Supplement 27 Aug 1918). Also in 1918 she was awarded Royal Red Cross (Bar) (London Gazette 26 Aug 1918). This latter award was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 15 Nov 1919, following which the nurses were received at Marlborough House by Queen Alexandra, the widow of King Edward VII, who had given her name to the Army Nursing Service.
In the Second World War Eleanor was Matron of the Haifa Military Hospital and later Superintendent of Midwifery and Child Care in Jerusalem. She retired to Deal in Kent, and died 7 Jan 1963 in Ealing, London aged 87.
The Army Medical Services Museum at Aldershot also holds information about Eleanor Davies, Royal Red Cross and Bar.
I have Eleanor’s writing slope which went with her on all her overseas travels.
Eleanor has an indirect link to the BOWHAY family of Cornwall.