The women, children and internees caught up through no fault of their own in war situations are often not included on war memorials. They are a silent number that runs into many thousands worldwide. Here are two stories of Norfolk women, Ida Marguerite Walker and Alice Marian Strange.
ALICE MARIAN STRANGE (1900-1921)
Sadly, although Alice Strange is remembered in The Diocese of Norwich and the Great War 1914-1918 Book of Remembrance and on the Women’s National Memorial Screen in York Minster, her name is absent on her village war memorial.
Alice was born in 1900 to wheelwright and builder Frederick and Alice Strange at Crow Hall in Brockdish. Alice was one of 12 children. All of the children had nicknames; Alice’s was Moo-Cow.
Alice joined the Red Cross on 3 June 1918 as a VAD Nurse. After a year at the Military Hospital in Weymouth she transferred to the Military Hospital at Tidworth on 21 June 1919. While the war may have ended months before, the need for nurses to help military casualties continued for years afterwards.
It was while Alice was at Tidworth that she contracted tuberculosis and was sent home to be nursed. Such was the concern of the family that they fitted out a little wooden hut in the garden where Alice could be nursed by her mother without risk of infecting the rest of the family. Alice died on 8 December 1921 and was buried in Brockdish Churchyard.
Ironically, despite other members of her family serving in the armed services, all of Alice’s siblings survived the war.
IDA MARGUERITE WALKER NÉE AMES (1883-1916)
Ida was born in 1883 to well-to-do silk mercer Josiah and Emily Ames and grew up in a substantial house on Newmarket Road, Norwich. She married Patrick Walker in Christ Church, Eaton in 1911.
Patrick and Ida travelled extensively in the early days of their marriage and their son Raymond Neville was born in Kenya in July 1913. In September 1914 Ida and Raymond sailed from London to Basrah on the Persian Gulf to join Patrick who was already in Mesopotamia, probably in Baghdad.
War had been declared in Europe, and Britain moved quickly to secure oil interests in the Persian Gulf and then pushed northwards intending to capture Baghdad. Patrick, Ida and Raymond were interned by the Turks shortly afterwards. After two years in captivity they were moved across the Syrian Desert and through Turkey to Constantinople, where Ida died soon afterwards on 12 October 1916.
Patrick survived four years internment in Turkey and returned to England with young Raymond who was cared for by his extended family. Ida lies in an unmarked grave in the Protestant Cemetery at Feriköy, Constantinople. She is remembered on a memorial inscription on the choir stalls of Christ Church, Eaton.
Edith Cavell was born in 1865 in Swardeston to Reverend Frederick and Louisa Sophia Cavell. Edith was the eldest of four children: Florence (1867), Mary (1870) and John (1872).
Edith attended Norwich High School for Girls and boarding schools in Clevedon, Somerset and Peterborough. After leaving school she worked as a Governess in Brussels for five years before returning home to nurse her ill father. It was this experience that encouraged her to train to become a nurse and help those in need.
Under Matron Eva Lückes, a friend of Florence Nightingale, Edith began her training at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, East London. In 1897 she was awarded the Maidstone Medal for her work during the typhoid epidemic in Kent.
In 1907, Cavell was asked to become a matron at the newly established L’Ecole Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées in Brussels, which she accepted. In 1910 she became the Matron for the new secular hospital at St Gilles where nurses gained medical experience. Belgium at the time of Edith’s appointment had no established nursing profession. Her pioneering work during this period led to her being considered the founder of modern nursing education in Belgium.
Edith was visiting her mother in Norfolk when the First World War broke out and she decided to return to Brussels to continue her role as matron of L’Ecole Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées. In the first few months of the war, when her nurses refused to care for hospitalised Germans, Edith nursed soldiers from all nationalities, telling her nurses ‘each man is a father, husband or son.’
After the German occupation of Brussels in November 1914 Edith began to help British, French, and Belgian soldiers to reach safety in the Netherlands, a neutral country. Between November 1914 and August 1915, she helped at least 200 allied soldiers escape across the Belgium border to safety.
In August 1915 Edith Cavell was betrayed and arrested. She was accused of being ‘a chief organiser in the movement of troops’ and was charged with ‘conducting soldiers to the enemy.’ She spent 10 weeks in prison before she was executed in Brussels on 12 October 1915. She was 49 years old.
Edith Cavell became a symbol for propaganda and shortly after her death recruitment numbers increased to around 12,000 a week. Wartime propaganda presented her as a martyr of the war effort and a modern nursing heroine who should be remembered for her bravery and sacrifice. She was laid to rest at Norwich Cathedral on 19 May 1919 after two splendid memorial services in Brussels and London.