Collecting Nursing History 43
Helen Waddell 1878-1949
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Helen Waddell, also known as Helena or Helene on various records, was born in the June Quarter of 1878, in Sunderland and was the fourth of at least six children, of William Waddell, a Foreman for an Engineering Company and his wife Elizabeth.1
Helen trained at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle from 1909-1912, gaining a certificate of training, and was registered as a State Registered Nurse, number 20876 in July 1923; her name was spelt ‘Helene’ and she was living at 686 Fulham road, London SW6. 2
probationer nurse Helen was one of approximately 126 RVI nurses who
received a silver cross which were presented to each nurse ‘…Through
the kindness of a very generous friend of the Institution’ to
commemorate the coronation of George V and Queen Mary on June 23rd
presented to Helene Waddell.
Below is an
example of one presented to RVI nurses in 1902, to commemorate the
coronation of King Edward V11 and Queen Alexandra on 9th
presented to Maud Frances Telford- copyright Peter Atkinson.4
The crosses were donated by Mr Watson-Armstrong, who built and owned Cragside, the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and in 1901 he had donated £100, 000 for the building of the new RVI.5
Coronation Celebration at the Infirmary
At a meeting of the House Committee of the Royal Infirmary, held on May 1st, 1902 Mr C Irwin proposed and Prof Oliver seconded that a Sub Committee be appointed to take into consideration the question of celebrating the King’s Coronation at the Infirmary.
This was unanimously agreed to, and on August 11th, 1902, entertainments were held with marked success.
The Chairman of the House Committee, Mr W. A. Watson-Armstrong, presented a silver St Cuthbert’s Cross with suitable inscription to each of the Infirmary Nurses, and the Sheriff, Councillor W. J. Sanderson, presented a commemorative beaker to each of the patients. Many friends of the Institution subscribed towards the cost £127 6s 1d, and on finally closing the accounts there was found a surplus of £4 13s which the Committee decided should be held available for the children patients at some future date.’ 6
First World War
Medals awarded to Sister H. Waddell, also a home-made ID tag, and her RVI cross, with ‘lucky charms attached’.
Helen signed up to Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service on 15th July 1915; she had transferred from 1st Northern General Hospital a Territorial Force Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne to the 2nd Western Hospital Manchester where she was working at the time, and her contract is witnessed by one of her sisters, Caroline.7
Helen started in the Territorial Force Nursing Service as a Staff Nurse and was sent to 16 General Hospital on 29th February 1916, and was appointed as acting sister on 17th March. In common with other nurses she was moved many times, from hospital to hospital.8
In September she was sent to 34 General Hospital until the end of November, where she stayed until April 1917, when she went to 20 General Hospital, where she spent the next five months, apart from two periods of leave; it is not specified if she went back to England, as was customary during this time.9 From Abbeville she was sent to Etaples along with 14 other Nursing Sisters to 44 Casualty Clearing station; in a summary written by the Doctor in charge, in a ten day period from 16th to 26th September the Casualty Clearing Station had 383 Admissions, 221 Evacuations to a base hospital, had 122 deaths, performed 252 operations and had 56 post-operative deaths, indicating how busy the unit was; on 27th September the unit was closed to admissions.10
Helen worked here for one month before she became sick and was invalided home from France in November 1917, where on November 5th she was admitted to the Royal Free, where she had an appendectomy, which ‘Shew’d signs of chronic inflammation’, her convalescence was ‘Complicated by Bacilluria but she is now much improved’, it is not known whether appendicitis was more prevalent during the war due to a poor diet, lacking in fibre; there are other records of prisoners being operated on at the casualty Clearing stations for this condition, being considered equal to an officer in rank, Helen was possibly judged to require a safer environ in England, but still had to endure a risky journey home.11 At a Medical Board, held at Millbank in early December 1917 she was granted a further month’s leave to January 1918. In January at another Medical board Helen is found to be ‘Quite well’, and moved to 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville on 22nd January 1918.12 During her time there the Medical Officer wrote that the Nurses Home was a risk of being shelled; ‘15 Sisters, were being subjected to grave risks’, 13 The hospital had constant patients transfers, including prisoners of war, and had up to 2000 patients at any one time.14
However in May 1919 Helen is admitted to the hospital, from where two weeks later she is transferred to Chateau Maurien, also known as 14 Stationary Hospital, a week later returned to 2 Stationary hospital, although it is not stated in what capacity, but thought to continue nursing.15 Two months later Helen is admitted again to hospital, on 7th August 1918 ‘Matron and I interviewed Sister Waddell’, and on 18th August 1919 she is ‘Evacuated to UK sick’, no details with what are given.16
It is not known where Helen worked after the war, her address appears to be in London and she is removed from the nurses’ register after her fee is unpaid in January 1948; at this time she would have been 70 years.17 Helen died in London on 30th December 1949, probate was granted to her brother in law Cyril, who also served in WW1.
1. FreeBMD. England & Wales, Birth Index, 1837-1915, accessed 21st July 2014; The National Archives, 1881 England and Wales Census, RG11/4996/90/10, accessed 21st July 2014.
2. TNA, DT10/61, The General Register of Nurses no 5, p330.
3. Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle 1911 Annual Report; it is hard to be precise, as in the census there are 126 nurses at the RVI, but by the end of 1911 there are 136 nursing staff, oral history from Jane Craft.
4. Maud Frances Telford is the grandmother of Peter Atkinson, oral history Catherine Atkinson.
5. Personal knowledge; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WilliamWatsonArmstrong, accessed 21st July 2014.
6. Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle 1911 Annual Report.
7. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell.
8. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell
9. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell
10. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell; TNA WO 95/345, First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, Part 1: France, Belgium and Germany, Second Army, 44 Casualty Clearing Station, September 1917.
11. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell.
12. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell; TNA WO 95/4097, First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, Part 1: France, Belgium and Germany, Lines of Communication, 2 Stationary Hospital, January 1918- .
13. TNA WO 95/4097, First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, Part 1: France, Belgium and Germany, Lines of Communication, 2 Stationary Hospital, 31st May 1918.
14. TNA WO 95/4097, First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, Part 1: France, Belgium and Germany, Lines of Communication, 2 Stationary Hospital, January 1918- July 1919.
15. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell; TNA WO 95/4097, First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, Part 1: France, Belgium and Germany, Lines of Communication, 2 Stationary Hospital, January 1918- July 1919
16. TNA, WO/399/8580, Helen Waddell; TNA WO 95/4097, First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, Part 1: France, Belgium and Germany, Lines of Communication, 2 Stationary Hospital, 7th August 1918.
17. TNA, DT10/61, The General Register of Nurses no 5, p330; Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966.
Many thanks to all those who have helped in this research, Anne Craft, Helen Lamont, Catherine Atkinson, the RCN Archivists, and Will for uploading to SON.
Copyright, Sarah Rogers, 6th August 2014.
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