Mary Ellen DAVIS was born in Dublin in 1878. Her father was a Clerk in the Civil Service. She was educated at a private school in Dublin1. From February 1901 to November 1902 she trained as a nurse at the City of Dublin Nursing Institution1, which was associated with the City of Dublin Hospital2. After qualifying as a nurse she worked as a Ward Sister at the Infection Hospital, Skipton, Yorkshire1, which was part of the Skipton Union Workhouse3. From 1905 to 1909 she worked at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and in 1909 she applied to join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS)1.

She was appointed to the QAIMNS in the rank of Staff Nurse (provisionally) on the 28th December 19101, which was later notified in the London Gazette4. She was posted to the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot1, and appears there on the Census returns for 19115

Nursing Service in WW1

She was posted to the British Expeditionary Force on the 8th August 19141. Her initial posting was to the Isolation Hospital at Le Havre. She is mentioned in Staff Nurse Lilian Robinson’s diary, sharing a berth as they crossed to France on the SS Comrie Castle.

She was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ in June 19151, and then followed postings to 7 General Hospital, 2 Stationary Hospital, and 12 Stationary Hospital. She was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ again on the 4th January 19171 6.

Promoted to Sister 18th May 19171, she then served at 26 General Hospital. On the 3rd June 1918 she was awarded the Royal Red Cross (Associate)7.

In the summer of 1918, German air raids on Allied bases increased in both frequency and severity. The worst of these, as far as the nursing services were concerned, took place on 19 May at Staples, 29 May at Doullens, and 31 May – again at Staples. In fact the Étaples nurses were having a particularly rough time. The raid on the 19th lasted three hours and caused damage to several hospitals. Maud McCarthy reported that, ‘at No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, 1 sister was killed, and 2 so severely wounded that they died shortly after, and 5 were also wounded. At 26 General Hospital there were 2 minor casualties amongst the Nursing Staff, and their quarters were partly wrecked …8.

Sister Davis was awarded the Military Medal on the 30th July 19181 9. Her citation read,

For gallantry and devotion to duty during an enemy air raid. When the Sisters’ quarters were wrecked and bombs were falling, she showed a fine example and assisted materially in controlling the situation and attending to the Sisters who were wounded.

Nursing Service after WW1

During 1919 she also served at 57 General Hospital and at 3 General Hospital1. She was posted as Acting Matron to the Rhine on the 15th April 19191. She served as a Sister for another 7 years with postings at the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital London, the Cambridge Military Hospital Aldershot, Egypt, Shorncliffe and Hong Kong1. In 1930 she retuned to the Cambridge Military Hospital as a Sister but including Matron’s duties. In 1931 she went as Matron to Litchfield. At a promotion board in 1932 she was considered not qualified for promotion to Matron. She resigned from the service on the 15th March 1933 after 22 years service, and went to live in Johannesburg, South Africa where she died on the 15th August 19331.


  1. The National Archves: War Office 399/2099
  2. Fealy, G.M. (2006) A History of Apprenticeship Nurse Training in Ireland. Abingdon: Routledge
  3. The Skipton Workhouse [www]
  4. The London Gazette, 13 January 1911, p321
  5. The National Archives: England Census 1911 RG14 Piece:3123 McGregor Barracks, Aldershot
  6. The London Gazette, 4 January 1917, p250
  7. The London Gazette, 3 June 1918, p6475
  8. Hallett, C. (2014) Veiled Warriors: Allied Nurses of the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  9. The London Gazette, 30 July 1918, p9000