Women and WW1 War Memorials

Heaton Moor War Memorial outside St Paul’s Church © Adèle Emm

700,000 British men were killed in World War 1, their names inscribed on War Memorials in hamlets, villages, towns and cities all around the country.  I’ve also seen plaques in post offices, hospitals, foyers of old  buildings, outside funeral directors, on church lychgates… but the names are invariably those of men – but women did die in the First World War!  Some nurses lost their lives on torpedoed hospital ships (e.g. Miss Kate Beaufoy on HMHS Glenart Castle February1918), some from military action, many from illnesses – Spanish flu (with a higher mortality rate than the War itself) and pneumonia.

On the back of Heaton Moor’s war memorial outside St Paul’s Church, Stockport, the name Gertude M Powicke is found, the plaque clearly placed retrospectively.   Who was Gertrude? Following a degree in languages from Manchester Victoria University, Gertrude was teaching at Manchester High School for Girls  when war was declared. Her skills in languages being invaluable, she joined French Quaker nurses in France to help with refugees and her letters home are at held Manchester University.  After the war, she travelled to Poland to assist those affected by a typhus epidemic and there, on the 20th December 1919, she too succumbed; news of her death reached British newspapers by January 1920. She was 31.

Memorial to Gertrude M Powicke © Adèle Emm

I haven’t discovered the date when her name (with six others) was added to the memorial. Your suggestions appreciated… From at least 1923 until his death in 1935, her father, congregational minister Frederick Powicke, lived about a quarter of a mile away at 4 Langford Road, Heaton Chapel.

I know of no other women commemorated for their ultimate sacrifice in WW1 apart from Edith Cavell and Kitty Trevelyan.  In 1915, Cavell was shot by the Germans for harbouring allied soldiers; one monument (there are others) stands outside London’s National Portrait Gallery. Nineteen year old Kitty Trevelyan’s name was added to Meavy war memorial, Devon, in February 2017. Serving with the Army Service Corps, she died of measles and pneumonia in France. Like Gertrude, never returned home.

One thought on “Women and WW1 War Memorials

  1. Susan Pares says:

    Many thanks to Adèle for this post. She, and other readers, may like to know of the Women’s National War Memorial located in York Minster, which was dedicated on 24 June 1925 to “women of the Empire”. Around 1500 women who died during or shortly after the First World War are commemorated on twelve wooden panels set in the minster. The actual memorial is formed of the Five Sisters glass window in the north transept. The window was rededicated after the Second World War, but no new names were added. Gertrude Powicke’s name appears on one of the panels under the Friends’ War Victims Relief Committee, with which she served in France and Poland – not actually with French Quaker nurses, although some French women worked with the ‘dames anglaises’. Some of Gertrude’s letters are held in the John Rylands library of Manchester University; the bulk have been deposited at Friends’ Library in London.

    Susan Pares, Gertrude’s great-niece


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