Wartime memories feature in WW1 Bath civic event.

Wartime memories feature in WW1 Bath civic event.

The memories of nurses who served during the two world wars is to feature in a  World War One Centenary civic event in Bath.

To commemorate one hundred years since the declaration of World War One, on Monday August 4, Bath & North East Somerset Council is holding a civic event to remember the impact this conflict had on people in our local communities.

90-year-old Heather Mackay, a retired nurse living in Lansdown in Bath, who worked during the Second World War, will be taking part. She will be reading extracts written during the First World War by a nurse at Bath War Hospital, whose account mirrors Heather’s own experience of nursing at a time of conflict.

 Heather Mackay’s aunt’s photograph album from her time as a nurse during World War One at Royaumont in France.  Courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Heather Mackay’s aunt’s photograph album from her time as a nurse during World War One at Royaumont in France.
Courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Heather said: “I remember when prisoners of war were repatriated; my job at that time was to bed-bath the ones that couldn’t do anything for themselves. I was talking to a lad asked him where he was taken prisoner. He said ‘Arnhem, nurse’. I said my cousin was at Arnhem, he got the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) in the Air Force. I went down the ward a bit further and asked another chap where he was taken prisoner and he also said ‘Arnhem, nurse’.

I told him ‘there’s a fellow up there taken prisoner at Arnhem, I’ll find out his name for you’. They were buddies and they each thought the other had been killed. As soon as we quietened down, we moved their beds next to each other and they were just so thrilled to see each other again. It was wonderful.”

Heather has many personal connections to the First World War too, with various family members having served across the war years. Her aunt, Marjorie Chapman, was an auxiliary nurse working at Royaumont, a Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit set up by pioneering surgeon, Dr Elsie Inglis. The British War Office had refused Doctor Inglis’ offer of help with the words, ‘My good lady, go home, and sit still’. Dr Elsie Inglis did not sit still. Instead she began setting up units abroad, starting with Royaumont, at an abbey north of Paris.

‘Bath War Hospital’ watercolour by E. Horton, 1918 (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

‘Bath War Hospital’ watercolour by E. Horton, 1918
(Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

Heather says of her aunt’s experience: “It was an old Abbey, and it was nothing but women; the doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers were all women. Apparently they sent them a couple of men to service the ambulances and they said ‘no thank you, no thank you, women only’. And you think of that in 1915, it was very advanced. They were amazing women, way ahead of their time. In fact, someone asked me if my aunt was a suffragette and I said no she wasn’t – she didn’t have to be because my grandfather let his daughters do what they wanted. He was ahead of his time.”

The World War One centenary civic event takes place from 6-7pm at Bath War Memorial in the Royal Victoria Park. It is free, and open to everyone to come together in a shared act of remembrance, to mark the centenary through music, readings, and poetry from people from across the district. Contributions by local young people – who have been writing about the 1914-18 War – will also feature, and it will start with a parade by local cadets.

A commemorative wreath will be laid by the Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council and The Mayor of Bath.

Councillor Martin Veal, the Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We will gather together 100 years to the day when war was declared. As the years pass it is even more important to tell the stories of the First World War so that each generation learns from history and understands about the impact the War had on everyone – young and old; female and male; those left at home, as well as those who went to the battlefields.”

Councillor Cherry Beath, The Mayor of Bath said: “This free civic event will help us understand how our local citizens were affected by, and reacted to the War. It is fascinating to hear about the work of nurses at Bath War Hospital in Combe Park, where the horrors of the trenches could be witnessed on our doorstep. At this event we honour and remember the contribution of local people during the War years.”

For further information about the World War One Centenary Civic Event please contact the event organiser Jasmine Loveys: jasmineloveys@gmail.com or 07984022426