Edith Elizabeth APPLETON  O.B.E.  R.R.C.

This page last updated 4 November 2014
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June 2014 updates

12 June: Read our Edie presentation - in French!  As delivered in Strasbourg on 8 June 2014. It's here.

April 2014 updates

9 April: The Daily Telegraph published an article on Saturday 5 April which included a quote from Sarah Phelps, the writer of the BBC's The Crimson Field, confirming that Edie's diaries had been a useful source for her.  You can read the article here. In case that link expires, here's the sentence in question:

'Phelps found a vivid depiction of the nurses’ work in the diaries of Sister Edith Appleton: “She was quite a girl. She describes having to sit with men who are dying from injuries, where there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. One of the things that just made me shiver was Edith sitting next to the bed of a patient who took five days to die from an appalling head injury and her description of listening to him try to breathe through the grey matter dripping through the back of his throat.”'

February 2014 update

26 February.   BBC Radio Kent have just published a lovely 17 minute piece about Edie's family home in Deal: 9 Golden Street, known to the family as Sea Valley House.  More information here.

January 2014 updates

12 JanuaryA delightful new photo of Edie has just been unearthed in New Zealand. Our daughter, Sara, was there on holiday with her family and visited Shirley Gudex, one of Edie's nieces.  Shirley's father was Edie's brother, Guy.  They were looking through a photo album and found this sweet photo.  It is probably dated early 1918 but we aren't sure about this. Here it is below:
Click on the image to enlarge.

There's a rather special aspect to this new discovery.  Throughout the fourth volume of Edie's diaries she writes often about hoping to meet up with her youngest brother, Taff, who is serving with New Zealand forces.  I have to admit that I have long been hoping to get a better picture of Edie in her uniform and now is the time, perhaps, to come clean about the picture at the top left of the home page on this website. While the one on the right (Edie in her comfy-looking, if not very flattering, winter jacket) in entirely genuine, the one of her in uniform is actually Edie's face superimposed on the uniform of another nurse.  Apologies for that.  So, it is especially nice to have the recently discovered photo above and I do feel a bit as Edie must have on finally making contact with Taff!

3 January. First world war centenary is a year to honour the dead but not to glorify - a most impressive article by Michael Morpurgo in The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday 1 January 2014.  

In response I wrote a letter which was published later that day: 'We must not forget to honour the women of the Great War'.

Michael’s article has also provoked some lively comments.


September 2013 update

9 September; Great item on her blog by Sue Light expressing her views of the oft-quoted 'bravery' of 'hoeroic' and 'angelic' nurses who served in France and elsewhere in WW1. Of course, we admire those women - particularly if we knew them - who went to be alongside their brothers, fathers, husbands, friends in that terrible war and we want to acknowledge in full the part they played.  But I do so value the way Sue keeps our appreciation realistic; we do them no service by loading their memories with a sentimental gloss. Nor do we help our own understanding of the roles they played by using over-awed language.

I think Sue's final sentence sums it up: "When they were in dangerous and difficult situations, being bombed or shelled or retreating with the enemy at their heels, they relied on their long experience, their skill, their confidence, determination, dedication and fortitude, and on an instant learnt response to emergencies. I would still say that all these came before bravery."

Thanks, Sue.  Oh, and I do agree: "Angels don't actually exist "!


May 2013 update

7 May: Another amazing contact from the relative of one of those mentioned by Edie: her colleague, Ellen Elizabeth Baldrey.  Her page is here.

March 2013 updates

  1. 12 March: another article, this time in the Daily Mail, about our meeting.  Article here. Pte Kerr's page here.

  2. 11 March: article in the Manchester Evening News about our meeting up with Nicola Mortimer (great, great niece of Pte Charles Kerr) at the Imperial War Museum in Trafford Manchester. Article here. Pte Kerr's page here.

February 2013 updates

  1. 17 February: the paperback is at no. 10 in the Sunday Times Paperback Bestbeller list. More here.

  2. 8 February: Another brief but lovely review, this time in today's Daily Express. It's here.

  3. 1 February: Nice review of the papaerback edition in today's Daily Mail Book Reviews. More here.

January 2013 updates

  1. 28 January: Outline of illustrated talk available about Edie's diaries and how they came to be published. It's all here.

  2. 17 January: Just received some fascinating information about a (VAD?) colleague of Edie's, Olive Swanzy.  Edie mentions her on 22 November 1918 in the final volume of her diaries. The new page on Olive is here.

  3. 8 January: The paperback version is due out on 7 February 2013. More information here.

December 2012 update

15 December: We have an update on the photo of a number of male medical staff taken in Etretat in 1915/16. Many of those named in the photo were also mentioned by Edie in her diaries and we are now almost 100% certain that the photo was taken in front of La Villa les Roses. You can see it all here.

November 2012 updates

  1. 17 November: Excellent news: English Heritage have agreed to erect a blue plaque at 47 Markham Square, London SW3. More here.

  2. 5 November: Article by local author, Judith Gaunt, in the East Kent Mercury - about Edie growing up in Deal. Click here.

September 2012 update

New page on the relationship between professional nurses and the VADs, with many extracts from Edie's diaries to illustrate the point.  Click here.

August 2012 update

We are giving a number of illustrated talks about the diaries and how they came to light. These will include extracts from the diaries.  For more information about dates and venues, click here.

July 2012 updates

  1. 26 July: new contact from great niece of Matron Jeanie Barclay Smith. More here.

  2. 8 July: Click here to see how I got on on the Island.

June 2012 update

I am off to the Isle of Wight from Monday 2 to Wednesday 4 July 2012 - to hunt for the 'missing volumes' of the diaries. More info here.

May 2012 updates

  1. 29 May: last Thursday - 24 May - we had the great pleasure of giving an illustrated talk to the Riverside Junior School class of our granddaughter, Tess, in Hebden Bridge. More info here.

  2. 24 May: visit to Bury, Manchester to meet great, great niece of Private Charles Kerr. More here.

  3. 24 May: another delightfully written article about Edie, by editor Matt Dicks, appears in the Summer edition of the Cotswold Homes magazine. Click here.

  4. 20 May: Lovely article - 'Nurses of the First World War' - by Ruth Cowen in June issue of Who Do You Think You Are magazine.  Full info here.

April 2012 updates

  1. 25 April: Talk to Parliamentary Book Club.  Go to www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/book_club.asp and scroll down to 'Update 28 April 2012'.

  2. 11 April: Full info about the Midweek programme here www.edithappleton.co.uk/audio/radio4_midweek.asp

  3. 2 April: Edie is scheduled to be back on the Beeb; this time on BBC Radio 4's Midweek programme. Great nephew Dick Robinson will be interviewed on Wednesday 11 April, alongside others, by presenter Libby Purves. The programme starts after the news at 9am. More information here.

March 2012 updates

  1. 23 March: This morning I was interviewed live on BBC Radio Gloucestershire by Anna King. Anna had played three extracts from the diaries earlier in the week. You can hear the 10 minute interview here. This may take a little time to download - be patient, it's worth the wait!

  2. 17 March: Today's 'signing' in the Cotswold Bookstore in Moreton in Marsh was a great success with more than 65 books sold in a couple of hours.  Click here to see the Bookstore's blog report and here to see some more pictures (PDF 199KB).  Thanks to everyone who turned up and bought copies!

  3. 12 March: We have been contacted by the great great niece of Private Charles Kerr who died in Edie's care on 12 March 1916 and about whom Edie wrote with great compassion.  More information here.

  4. 9 March:  BBC TV Midlands Today came and interviewed us (Dick and Lisa Robinson) in Gloucestershire on Friday 9 March and everyone seems to have seen the programme except us as we were away later that day!   Dick was interviewed and Lisa read some excerpts from the diaries. You can see the whole piece here. Be patient - it takes some time to download.

    I have also done a number of BBC radio interviews: one for Radio Kent (Edie grew up in Deal in Kent) and another for Radio Solent which covers the Isle of Wight where Edie lived from 1923 until her death in 1958. BBC Radio Hereford and Worcestershire did three items over three days and it was a delight to visit the presenters Howard Bentham and Toni McDonald in their studio.

February 2012 update

  1. 6 February: an email from Bern in Australia has included some very useful links concerning No. 10 Stationary Hospital in St Omer. Edie was based there in December 1914. He says: “the building that houses 10 S.H. (although there were also wards in the adjoining church/chapel and it's possible other buildings in that street were used too) can be seen at - http://throughtheselines.com.au/research/saint-omer#10SH. Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thrutheselines/sets/72157629165440251/detail/.
    Thanks Bern.

December 2011 updates:

  1. 29 December: At the insistence of the publishers of the forthcoming book of Edie's diaries we have had to remove the links to most of the original text of Edie's diaries.  However, you can easily gain access to the full text.  More information here: http://www.edithappleton.org.uk/Vols1to4/original_4_volumes.asp.
    The book is due out in March 2012. More information here: http://www.edithappleton.org.uk/Updates/publication.asp.

  2. 29 December: Information and an impressive portrait received of Matron Lavinia Stern.  View her page.

September 2011 update

  1. We recently heard that the Historial museum at Péronne (http://en.historial.org/) has several copies of the book about Le Tréport which includes a number of extracts from Edie's diaries. We were very sorry to learn in July that Dr Bruno Garraud, co-author of the book with Ridha Arfa, died in May this year. More here about these Le Tréport connections.

August 2011 updates

  1. 28 August: Sue Light has managed to unearth some information about Sister Kate Maxey, one of Edie’s closest friends working alongside her in France whom Edie mentions many times in her diary.  We would love to contact any descendants of Kate's. More information about Kate Maxey here.

  2. 21 August: A television company would like to trace the descendants of anyone nursed by, or who knew or worked alongside, Edie.  Sue Light has kindly posted information about this on several WW1 forums including these:
    - RootsChat.com
    - Western Front Assocation
    - Great War Forum

June 2011 updates

  1. 24 June: We are putting together a complete list of all the names of people  who are mentioned by Edie in her diaries: medical staff, VADs, soldiers, family, friends, others. This will contain several hundred names and we hope that descendants of those mentioned will get in touch with us. See the list here.

  2. 17 June: We have just heard that the 3 episodes of extracts from the diaries which were first broadcast in November 2009 are to be repeated on Radio 4 on the dates below.  More information can be seen on the BBC website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nqbl3
    - Episode 1 - Sunday 26 June at 7.45pm
    - Episode 2 - Sunday 3 July at 7.45pm
    - Episode 3 - Sunday 10 July at 7.45pm
    More information about the original recordings here: http://www.edithappleton.org.uk/audio/bbcprogs.asp.

May 2011 update

Like a great many others I was sad to hear of the untimely death, at the age of 65, of Professor Richard Holmes on 30 April 2011. He was very supportive of our efforts to publish Edie's diaries - read more here.

January 2011 update

Edie's Diaries are to be published as a hardback by major international publishers, Simon and Schuster, early in 2012.  This is as part of a series in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum. The working title is 'A Nurse on the Western Front'. Further information, as it becomes available, here.

November 2010 updates

  1. 14 November: The collection of photos of nurses which I mentioned in August (see below) is now available as a slide show on the Western Front Association's website here. It has the benefit of additional notes by Sue Light. I haven't done the research carefully yet but I'm sure the photos feature some of Edie's colleagues who she mentions in her diaries.
  2. 5 November: Extraordinary pictures of the aftermath of WW1, which have been hidden away for nearly a century, have been discovered in a vault in Paris. Have a look at a trailer for them, which shows amazing aerial films of devastated Ypres as well as Passchendaele and miles of trenches via this page on the BBC website which went live on 4 November 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11698287.
    The film is a part of a special BBC One programme that includes unique aerial photographs of the battlefield taken by British pilots. Nick Higham reports on the footage that gives an amazing insight into history.

    More of the footage can be seen on the BBC One programme 'The First World War from Above' on Sunday 7 November at 2100GMT.

August 2010 update

There is a wonderful collection of photographs of trained nurses and VADs taken by a British nurse during the war and available for browsing through. I am indebted – once again – to Sue Light for mentioning this on her blog, This Intrepid Band.  

The images come from the current owner of the album, Bob Cleary, who lives in the USA and be viewed, together with the discussion they generated on this page of the Western Front Association forum: http://frontforum.westernfrontassociation.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1465.

Alternatively, you can start scrolling through them on the forum where they were originally posted by Bob Cleary (aka Colonel Quack) here: http://www.toysoldierschat.com/showthread.php?t=1858.

See 14 November 2010 update above for info about a slide show version of the photos.

March 2010 update

In February I went to a meeting of the Heart of England branch of the Western Front Association in Warwick.  Sue Light, who has been so helpful in tracing information about Edie, gave a fascinating talk about the role of nurses in the Great War on the theme of 'Not All Angels!' and she has also written a most interesting article on 'British Military Nurses and the Great War'. Click here to read the article.  The meeting was also an opportunity for me to take along the originals of Edie's diaries which attracted some keen interest!

December 2009 update

  1. 3 December:  Piers has produced two new versions of the family tree, showing all of Edie's relations.  They are here.

November 2009 updates:

  1. 19 November:  The BBC iPlayer versions have now expired but you can still listen to the three episodes.  They are all here.

  2. 12 November:  Hope you enjoyed the BBC readings.  We have received lots of very positive feedback from around the world so do have a look at Edie's Visitors Book to get a flavour. Each episode was available, via the BBC iPlayer, for 7 days after its original date of broadcasting.  Next project is publishing the diaries.  Various irons are in the fire but it's proving hard to get a firm commitment from anyone so far, particularly in the present economic climate.  Watch this space!

  3. 4 November: Information about the BBC Radio 4 broadcasts of Edie's diaries on Monday 10, Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 November 2009 can be found on their Afternoon Reading website. [No longer available - see 19 Nov - above]

October 2009 updates:

  1. 19 October:  Have a look at these photos, taken in Etretat in 1914 by Nurse Barrett and sent to me by her great nephew, Brian Dunlop. Click here for the page.

  2. 17 October: The recording of the diaries for the forthcoming Radio 4 serialisation in November has taken place in Brighton.  I was lucky to be allowed to sit in on the session.  Read all about the recording session here.

September 2009 update:

  1. 15 September: Can you help to identify the original location of this beautiful stained glass window which is currently in an antique shop on Vancouver Island, Canada?

August 2009 update:

  1. 6 August: The last British survivor of the World War I trenches, Harry Patch, has died at the age of 111. His funeral took place on Thursday 6 August 2009.
    Listen to the wise words of this brave, thoughtful and compassionate man.


July 2009 updates:

  1. 26 July: Exciting news: BBC Radio 4 are to broadcast three 14 minute extracts from Edie's diaries on the afternoons of 10 to 12 November 2009!  The programmes will be produced by the same company which delivers the Making History programmes: Pier Productions. See October update (above) for more recent information.

  2. 16 July: I have heard from Ridha Arfa in Le Tréport that last year's exhibition, which includes extracts from Edie's dairies when she was stationed in the Trianon Hotel (aka General Hospital No. 3), is being held again this year. It will be in the exhibition building on the cliffs near the top of the funicular railway between 10 July and 16 August 2009 each Friday to Sunday between 2pm and 6pm. See http://www.edithappleton.org.uk/Vol4/LeTreport/HotelTrianon.asp for background information.

  3. 9 July: I spent some time trawling through the diaries of Dame Maud McCarthy (see http://scarletfinders.co.uk/25.html and thanks, as ever, to Sue Light) and came across three mentions of Edie.  Full details here: www.edithappleton.org.uk/DameMaudMcCarthy/maud_mccarthy.asp.

June 2009 update:

  1. 3 June: In March Dick and Lisa visited Le Tréport.  Go to www.edithappleton.org.uk/Vol4/LeTreport/HotelTrianon.asp to read a brief report on that visit, together with information about the splendid book by M. Ridha Arfa and Dr. Bruno Garraud Le Treport: 1914-1918. Their book includes dozens of images of soldiers and nurses at the Trianon Hotel, which became No. 3 General Hospital from 1914, as well as several extracts from Edie's diary.

May 2009 updates:

  1. 18 May: On 5 May I accompanied a group from Tonbridge School which visited YpresClick here for a brief report.

  2. 17 May: Back in March I visited Bart's Hospital where Edie trained between 1900 and 1904 and we now have a copy of her page from the Matron's Register of Probationers.  Click here to view the page.

  3. 8 May: further to the item about Edie's early letters (below), in early May Dick Robinson visited Dorothy West (née Appleton) at Westall House, Horsted Keynes. Click here for a photo of Dorothy who celebrated her 101st birthday in January 2009.

  4. 2 May: following a visit to Etretat by Dick and Lisa in March 2009, we are in process of updating the 'Etretat/Alain Millet' page.  It contains lots of images (old postcards, new photos etc) and is taking a long time to complete but you can now view this work-in-progress at: http://www.edithappleton.co.uk/Etretat/Alain_Millet.asp.

April 2009 update:

  1. 23 April: In April 2009 Piers Stainforth (great nephew of Edie) was rummaging through family archives and found three early letters from Edie to her mother.  These three, which were all in one envelope, are a wonderful addition to the diaries and fill some of the gap between the time that she first set off for Belgium and France in October 1914 and Volume 1 of the diaries. Read all about those letters here.

February 2009 updates:

  1. 27 Feb: In January 2009 Alain Millet, who grew up in Etretat, contacted us via the Visitors Book with a great deal of background information about the town and a number of images which link to Edie's dairy. Edie was at General Hospital No. 1 in Etretat from November 1915 and Alain's information and images are a wonderful complement to Edie's writings and sketches.  You can see this here:  http://www.edithappleton.co.uk/Etretat/Alain_Millet.asp. We are meeting in  Etretat in mid March. NB: this page has now been updated following our visit.

  2. 5 Feb: I have put together a page about the Appleton family home at 9 Golden Street, Deal in Kent, including a sketch drawn by one of the children in 1879, some fairly recent photos of the house and information about the grandfather clock which would have been a familiar sound in that house and which is still going strong.  Click here to see the page.

January 2009 updates:

  1. 25 Jan: Karen Hrabec has provided more information about Patrick Gerald Mulrooney who married May Partlin in 1919, after her first husband, Sgt James Partlin died in 1918, and about his son by a previous marriage, Patrick James Mulrooney, who had a relationship with Mary Partlin (Karen's grandma) and produced her mother. For information about the Mulrooneys, click here.

  2. Anyone interested in the role of Canadian nurses in particular should see the website covering the diaries of Great War nurse, Alice Isaacson, set up by Library and Archives Canada.  They have much in common with Edie's diaries but the real treasure is her wonderful and comprehensive photograph album.
    Start here: http://www.lac-bac.gc.ca/nursing-sisters/025013-2301-e.html but be sure to look through her photograph album here: http://www.lac-bac.gc.ca/nursing-sisters/025013-2303.03-e.php.

December 2008 updates:

  1. The item on Edie's diaries was repeated in the BBC's Making History's Pick of the Year - their round up of the best items of their 2008 series, broadcast on Tuesday 30 December. Click here for more information.

  2. I have been contacted by Karen Hrabec, the great grandaughter of Sgt James Partlin, who was suffering from a fractured spine and who died in Edie's care on 21 August 1918. Click here to read more.

November 2008 updates:

  1. The website was featured in the BBC Radio 4 Making History programme on Tuesday 11 November 2008. Click here to listen.

  2. Click here for an Appleton family tree.

  3. A page has been added about Dame Maud McCarthy whose team Edie joined in 1919: http://www.edithappleton.org.uk/DameMaudMcCarthy/maud_mccarthy.asp.

  4. Letter published in The Guardian on Monday 10 November 2008: www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2008/nov/10/1

  5. I've just noticed (11 Nov) that there is an exhibition at Le Tréport (between Dieppe and Abbeville), where Edie worked in the huge converted Hotel Trianon in 1918. Copies of Edie's diaries are on display.  Further information about the exhibition here: http://www.linformateur.com/actualite/Le-Treport-:-Commemoration-exceptionnelle-du-11-novembre--2225.html and about the Hotel Trianon hospital here: http://www.edithappleton.org.uk/Vol4/LeTeport/HotelTrianon.asp.
    Click here for a picture of a one of the posters for the exhibition (added 8 December 2008).

  6. We have made a number of changes to the layout of the site; in particular moving a lot of information from the home page to separate sub pages.  We hope this makes for easier navigation.  A Visitor's book has been added so please leave your comments, feedback, corrections, etc there.

October 2008 updates:

  1. Several photos of the Appleton family in their home, Buddlebrook, at Brighstone in the Isle of Wight have been added here. Buddlebrook was bought in 1923.

  2. Jean-Luc Dron has provided a number of excellent photos of the Trianon Hotel above Le Tréport. This was where General Hospital No. 3 was located and to which Edie transferred in June 1918. You can see the images here.

  3. Philippe Drouin lives in Achiet-le-Grand and is looking for photos of CCS 45 and CCS 49 to add to his website.  Click here for more information.

  4. A number of newspaper cuttings and handwritten poems were found loose in the pages of the diaries.  They are shown together here. Jayne Hyslop has provided some information relating to two of the cuttings.

  5. Rifleman James Lennox was in Edie's care for several weeks in July and August 1916 and died on 22 August. Click here for an example of how the internet is helping to draw together information in a most poignant way.

September 2008 update:

Sue Light has unearthed a letter from Miss K.M.Latham, a nurse on active service from the beginning of the war; the letter was sent back to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and published in the newsletter of the League of St. Bartholomew Nurses.  It was written in 1916, but describes her experiences earlier in the war. She mentions that "Miss Appleton and I had adjoining cells, tiny white rooms, with texts in black printed on the walls " and her account runs parallel to Edie's diaries for the same period for 1915 (see Volume 1 and Volume 2). Sure enough, Edie mentions Miss Latham on five occasions (8 April, 8 May, 8 September, 13 and 14 October 1915). Click here for a pdf version of Miss Latham's letter.

Dick Robinson



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