Saturday, January 09, 2010

The story of a hut - a photo dated

Yesterday, I posted a photo of Japanese nurses as Netley in 1914, and thanks to the backdrop in that photo I've been able to date another photograph in my collection (above). Click on it for a clearer picture.

For some reason known only to myself, I'd always assumed that this photo dated to later in the war. The background in this photo though, is almost identical (if not, actually, identical) to the Japanese nurses' photo. This means that it can only date to 1915. See the extract below, from the Tornoto Star of 13th January 1915.

The lady standing second from left on the back row is Frances Isabel Blencowe, a leading light with, and later commandant of, Sussex 54 VAD. The woman sitting third right on the front row is Emily Morris Marshall who would later take up the position of matron at Hickwells and Beechland House.

I'd be delighted if anybody can tell me anything about the ranks (for want of a better term) of any of the ladies pictured, and also what the ribbons on some of their tunics represent. In the meantime I need to update Frances Blencowe's page.

My thanks to Marika for the Toronto Star clipping which appears on the Great War Forum thread I mentioned yesterday.


Oh well, it was a good theory whilst it lasted - about eight hours. My thanks to Sue Light for insightful comments as ever - see comments below.


Sue Light said...

Hallo Paul

I don't think I ever saw that original thread on GWF, so I'll have to catch up with that one later. But as far as this latest picture goes, I have a feeling that I'm going to cause you more problems! There's no doubt whatsoever that it dates to quite late in the war. The stripes denote length of service and came in from 1917 onwards. The first one was awarded AFTER thirteen months continuous service, the second after another year, and the third a year after that - as far as I know three was the maximum. Now although they were awarded retrospectively, I'm not sure how far that went back, but even if they could be applied right back to the beginning of the war, the earliest date that a woman could possibly have three stripes was about September 1917. The woman in the darker uniform in the middle is a trained nurse - all the others VADs of varying lengths of experience. Some even seem to have medal ribbons up for overseas service - I'm not sure when these were awarded, but again a sign of the late date of the image. I'll have a further look later and see if anything else jumps out. Sorry for any headaches caused!

Sue Light said...

Paul - I've just had a check around, and even the discussion about stripes didn't take place until May/June 1917, and so well after that when they first appeared. It seems that the scarlet stripes for VADs in military hospitals (WO control) were not 'very' retrospective, but the white ones for length of service must have been backdated to the start of continuous service I think. Only complete years of service counted, and part years which came about from breaks in service were discounted and not added together.

Paul Nixon said...


Thanks very much for that. So much for my Sherlock Holmes approach to photographic dating!

OK, back to the drawing board on this one. Maybe my original hunch was in fact correct.