While browsing through copies of the Black and White Budget from 1900 I came across some photographs of the nurses on the Hospital Ship Spartan. Unusually the nurses are named. One of them, Sister Mary Ridley Makepeace was a nurse in my Boer War database who was also one of the Boer War veterans to serve in WW1, retiring in 1917 because of ill-health, having served over 22 years as an Army nurse.
Mary Ridley Makepeace was born on the 7th January 1860, in Newcastle-on-Tyne. She was privately educated and entered nurse training at the London Hospital in August 1890. She completed a two-ryear certificate and then had a short spell as a staff nurse at the Throat Hospital, before moving to a post at Croydon General Hospital1.
Nursing in the Victorian Wars
Mary Ridley Makepeace joined the Army Nursing Service in October 1894. She was posted to the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley and then moved to the Shorncliffe Military Hospital in March 18971.
Nursing service in the Boer War
In October 1899 she was posted to the Hospital Ship Spartan, and then to the Hospital Ship Avoca from February 1900 to October 1901. She then had several postings in the Orange River Colony1.
Nursing service after the Boer War
In February 1903 she was accepted into the newly formed Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service as a Sister3. She came back from South Africa in 1905 and returned to the RVH Netley for a short while before being posted to the Military Hospital Cork. During her time in Cork she passed her examinations to become a Matron.
She was next posted to the Military Hospital Devonport in November 1909, where she remained until being sent to Malta as Matron in June 1914.
Nursing service in WW1
Matron Makepeace was serving in Malta at the outbreak of war and remained their until being invalided home in July 1916. She was placed on retired pay on account of her ill health on the 21st April 1917, having served over 22 years as an Army nurse1.
- The National Archives: War Office 399/ 5554
- Black and White Budget January 6th, 1900 pp. 22-23
- London Gazette May 26th, 1903 p.3365
We were recently asked about the sinking of the Hospital Ship HMHS Anglia, which was requisitioned and refitted for use as a hospital ship and put to use ferrying the injured from France to England.The HMHS Anglia was carrying 13 officers and 372 other ranks when, just after midday on the 17th November 1915 about a mile east of Folkestone Gate, it struck a mine that had been laid by the German U-boat, UC-5. The ship was holed on the port side forward of the bridge and immediately began to sink bow first.
The question we were asked was whether the 4 nurses mentioned in the accounts of the sinking were all that there were. Would this have been the normal number of nurses for this type of ship? We looked into all the accounts we could find. The contemporaneous nursing journals covered the story very well, and it was clear that indeed the 4 nurses mentioned: Staff Nurse Mary Rodwell of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service who was lost that day, and Matron Mrs Mitchell, Sister Alice Meldrum, and Miss E. A. Walton were the only nurses on board.
We will write up the story of these 4 nurses and the HMHS Anglia here on the site.