Sphie Hilling was born in Deptford, London, on the 21st September 18841. She trained at the Infirmary, Birmingham between 1908 and 19121.
Nursing Service in WW1
In September 1917 Sister Hilling left the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital, Whitchurch, Cardiff and joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) for service overseas. On the 15th September she was posted to France to join 72 General Hospital then based in Trouvelle1. On the 24th October 1917, whilst working in Trouvelle she was awarded the Royal Red Cross (Second Class) for her service at the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital2.
In the summer of 1918 she had an excellent confidential report from the Matron of 72 General Hospital where she had been working as Home Sister1.
On the 10th October 1918 she was admitted to 72 General Hospital with influenza pneumonia, and sadly she died at 22:30 on the 12th October1.
The Matron-in-Chief BEF, Maud McCarthy, recorded her illness and subsequent death in her war diary3:
12.10.18. Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNSR: Wired Matron-in-Chief, War Office, and reported DGMS that Sister Sophie Hilling, QAIMNSR was on the “Dangerously Ill” list with Pneumonia.
13.10.18. Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNSR: Wired Matron-in-Chief, War Office, and reported to DGMS that Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNSR reported on the “Dangerously Ill” list yesterday, died at 10.30 p.m.
Her Matron, Eva Cicely Fox, wrote a letter to Maud McCarthy a few days later1.
My dear Miss McCarthy, I did not write to you before as I thought perhaps you might come for Sister Hilling’s funeral. I think that everything possible was done for her. Sister Devenish Meares and Sister Hoare shared the night nursing on Thursday night. She became ever so much worse about 1 o’clock on Friday, after I had written to you. Colonel Pasteur saw her that afternoon and gave up all hope. When I went down soon after 1 o’clock she just recognised me and that’s all. The saddest part was that her Mother (with a man cousin) arrived early on Sunday morning. The Mother is very old and I think almost penniless. Sister Hilling seems to have supported her almost entirely, she lives in some small street in Deptford.. It was most heart-breaking at the funeral, she was much impressed with all the wreaths, and kept on saying “How they must have loved my Sophie”. The Sisters had collected a little money to give Sister Hilling a present when she gave up being Home Sister, but had not yet bought anything, they now all want to make it into a much larger thing and not buy anything but give it to Mrs Hilling in memory. She will be much more missed than anyone else could have been. I was devoted to her and so was everyone. She was awarded the A.R.R.C. on October 25th, 1917, but had never received it (at Shitchurch Military Hospital). All the other Sisters and General Service V.A.D.s at the Annexe are a little better. I do hope this epidemic is subsidiary, no new sick Officers have got it for the last week, but the third one died last evening, and there is still one very ill. I was very glad the Mortuary Chapel was nice, it took such a long time getting it done.
On the 27th September 1919, “At a special meeting of the Deptford Borough Council the Mayor, Councillor W. Wayland, unveiled in the Council Chamber an Honours Board erected to the memory of Sister Sophie Hilling, a native of Deptford, who died in France in October from pneumonia at the age of 33 while acting as nurse with the Forces”4.
In April 2019, the QARANC Association purchased her ‘death plaque’ and started to research her life and career.
- The National Archives: War Office 399/3839
- London Gazette, 24th October, 1917, p.10979
- The National Archives: War Office 95/ 3988-91, Diary of Maud McCarthy, Matron in Chief BEF
- British Journal of Nursing, September 27th, 1919 p.196