Collecting Nursing History 42
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Above: Eleanor’s surviving badges.
This amazing set of
badges were sold recently, and include both a Queen’s South Africa
Medal, and Kings South Africa, to the same nurse, along with a
Princess Christian nurses’ numbered cape badge, her GNC badge; in
her married name, and her training school badge, and an ARRC, with
accompanying letter, which confirms that Eleanor was the recipient.
Above Left: The front of
Eleanor’s Bradford Royal Infirmary Medal,
Left: Eleanor's ARRC, and (Rt) accompanying letter.
Eleanor Jasper was born in the June registration quarter in Farnley, West Riding of Yorkshire, the fourth child and third daughter, born to her parents, Enoch - a boiler plate roller, and Margaret, who had also been born in Farnley.1 Two further siblings were born after Eleanor; one of whom, Margaret died aged approximately six months, along with an older brother John who died aged about two years.1
In 1891, an older sister Tamar, was working at Bradford Royal Infirmary as a ‘ Hospital Nurse’; when Tamar married a doctor from Doncaster Infirmary 5 years later, her sister Eleanor had commenced her nurse training at Bradford Royal Infirmary. Tamar and her husband emigrated to the USA, where she was in 1918 a Superintendant of Nurses in Columbia Hospital.24
Eleanor's bronze medal, which is dated on the reverse 1896 -1899 is one of 24 donated by Mr Behrens, who was recorded at a meeting on 1st March 1895 as having donated 24 bronze medals, which were ‘to be awarded to probationers on completion of a period of training along with a certificate’4 Records do not survive to give any more detail; Burdett's for 1895 does state that there were ‘41 Nurses and Probationers’, at Bradford Royal Infirmary but does not specify how many of each grade. Eleanor also won ‘…Both the gold and the silver medals’.10 Bronze medals were awarded to those probationers with marks above 75%, gold and silver going to those with the highest and second highest marks. It is known that they were being awarded in 1913, when a Nurse Barrett won a bronze medal, having also won both gold and silver previously.17
Eleanor served in the Second Boer war, enlisting as a member of the Army Nursing Reserve in July 1900, with the service number of 702; the Princess Christian nurses’ numbered cape badge with her medals is number 649, which is attributed to Miss Agnes Winifred Britten who enlisted in June 1900, and worked at Delfonte in in South Africa. It is thought that the badge numbers correspond to individual service numbers, in this instance they do not correspond, however perhaps capes were swapped ? Eleanor worked as a member of the Army Nursing Reserve at the Herbert Hospital Woolwich and travelled to South Africa on 11th February 1901 on Hospital Ship Nubia, with 28 other nursing sisters.7 Eleanor worked in No 5 General Hospital, Wynberg.5 It is unusual for a nurse to have both Queens and Kings South Africa Medals; the Queens South Africa Medal was awarded to all those who served in the Boer War between11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902; the Kings South Africa Medal was awarded to 600 nursing sisters, who had to have served in the Boer War on or from 1st January 1902, and have served for 18 months before 1 June 1902. It was never awarded without the QSA.6 Eleanor's name is inscribed in Leeds Town Hall on a plaque to commemorate the Volunteers from Leeds who served in the Second Boer war.13 It was unusual to have names to survivors of a conflict on a memorial;
‘Yorkshire Weekly Post 18th Oct 1902
The Leeds War Memorial – Whose names Should be Put on the Tablet.
The request of the Lord Mayor of Leeds, (Alderman A.E. Butler) for the names of Leeds men who have served in South the South African campaign has brought communications from about a hundred soldiers in the regular and militia regiments.
these will find a place on the memorial tablet which is to be placed
in the Victoria Hall is at present uncertain, as the original
intention was only to include in that Roll of Honour, Leeds men who
actually left situations in order to fight for their country, viz.,
the Yeomanry, Engineers, Rifles, and ambulance men. It is intended
now, however, to add the names of the Leeds nurses who answered
their country’s call, and the Lord mayor will be pleased to receive
the names of all such ladies who did duty in the South African
hospitals during the war. One of them, Miss West, died at the
Pretoria Hospital from enteric fever on the 29th October 1900, and
her name, it is suggested, should have a prominent place in the
At a meeting of the Matrons Council of Great Britain and Ireland, held at Leicester Infirmary on April 23rd 1911, Eleanor was one of four new members elected. 11
Eleanor continued to work at the Cottage Hospital Oswestry as Matron, and on 2nd February 1918 she married Sergeant Henry George Mason, a Canadian Infantryman who had previously been a Mountie until he joined up in March 1917.19 The wedding was reported on in the Daily Mail;
‘ Much interest was taken in the wedding at Oswestry on Saturday…. The wedding was the result of a romantic attachment when Sergeant Mason was a wounded patient at the hospital, and he spent the first day of his next leave from the front leading his bride to the altar.’20
Henry had been a patient of hers, who tragically died six months later on 13th December 1918, just after the Armistice. It appears that Henry shot himself, apparently due to the effects of gassing, his unit history states ‘Our casualties have been comparatively light and were largely caused by gas shells…’16 The war graves register entry for Henry states:
Whilst at Aulnoy he committed suicide while temporarily insane by shooting himself though the head with a service revolver, and was admitted dead to No. 32 Casualty Clearing Station.’25
He is buried at Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery.12
Eleanor received her Royal Red Cross, second class from the King at Buckingham Palace on Saturday 2nd August 1919.18 It is thought that Eleanor continued to work at the Cottage hospital, until her retirement, when she appears to have moved to Ulverston to be nearer some of her family. Her sister Tamar who had married a doctor, appears to have died in the United States of America. Eleanor’s will which was written in 1932, had an unusual phrase ‘…Nothing of mine must go to the U.S.A.’, possibly suggesting a rift between the sisters.21 Eleanor showed forethought and compassion for her dog; ‘ If my dog Mike is still alive and misses me please have him put away painlessly’. 22 Eleanor died in 1938 aged 63 in Ulverston.23
1. Ancestry.co.uk; http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl; Census Returns of England 1881, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey, England.
3. Ancestry.co.uk, Census Returns of England 1891, The National Archives of the UK , Kew, Surrey, England.
4. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford Royal Infirmary, Board of Management minute book, 1890 – 1900, ref. C501/2/7, p 248.
5. http://www.boerwarnurses.com, accessed 30th August 2014.
6. https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/medals/queens-south-africa-medal, accessed 30th August 2014.
7. http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk, The British Journal of Nursing,
Feb. 26, 1910, p 171 and The Nursing Record and Hospital World,
Feb.23, 1901, p 149,
8. http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk, The British Journal of Nursing, Feb. 26, 1910, p 171, and The BNJ March 12th 1910, p210, accessed 30th August 2014.
9. http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk, The British Journal of Nursing, Feb. 26, 1910, p 171, accessed 30th August 2014.
10. http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk, The BNJ March 12th 1910, p210, accessed 30th August 2014.
11. http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk, The BNJ May 6th 1911, p 350, accessed 30th August 2014.
12. www.cwgc.org, accessed 30th August 2014.
13. http://www.yorkshireindexers.info/wiki/index,LeedsTownHallBoerWarMemorial, accessed 9th September 2014.
14. http://www.yorkshireindexers.info/wiki/index,LeedsTownHallBoerWarMemorial, accessed 9th September 2014.
15. http://www.102ndbattalioncef.ca/warpages/102CHAP12.htm, accessed 9th September 2014.
16. www.ancestry.com, accessed 13th May 2014.
17. Peter Backman.
18. www.findmypast.co.uk, accessed 9th September 2014.
18. www..ancestry.com, accessed 13th May 2014; Certified copy of a marriage 2nd February 1918.
19.www.britishnewspaperlibrary, The Daily Mail, Monday February 4th 1918, accessed 14th May 2014.
21. Will of Eleanor Mason., proved 1st October 1938.
22. Will of Eleanor Mason.
23. Certified Copy of a death Certificate of Eleanor Mason.
34. www.ancestry.com, US City Directories, accessed 11th May 2014.
25. www.ancestry.com, accessed 11th May 2014.
Many thanks to the staff in Wakefield Archives and the RCN Archives, Suzanne, and Will - firstname.lastname@example.org.
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