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Sister Ellen Andrew, ARRC

Wrawby nurse killed by enemy bombs in France, March 21st, 1918.

Published : 21 March 2018


Wrawby nurse killed by enemy bombs in France, March 21st, 1918.

On the 21st March 1918, Sister Ellen Andrew, ARRC, of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, was killed by enemy bombs whilst serving her country at the 58th Casualty Clearing Station near Lillers in northern France.

Ellen Andrew was born in or near Gedney, Lincolnshire in 1886. Her father, Frederick Andrew was a Wrawby lad, as was his father before him. Ellen's mother was Hannah Drew from Tilney in Norfolk. Frederick and Hannah met and subsequently married on October 26th 1885, while Frederick was working in or near Gedney in Lincolnshire. In 1886, Frederick returned to Wrawby with his wife and new born daughter, Ellen, whom they named after Frederick's mother. (The record of the wedding has both Frederick and his father, James, being named as Andrews, instead of Andrew, a common theme throughout Ellen's life.)

Too many words, skip to the end.

Ellen Andrew.

Ellen Andrew.

Once back in Wrawby, Frederick and Hannah had their daughter christened at St. Mary's church, Wrawby on November 21st 1886. Over the next four years, she was joined by two brothers, James, 1887, named after his paternal grandfather, and Henry, 1889, named for his maternal grandfather. Then in 1891, and only 27 years old, Frederick died, leaving Hannah a widow with three small children. On 29th Feb 1904, Hannah married another Wrawby lad, Robert Francis Leeson, but in a cruel twist of fate, he too died just over a year later and Hannah remained a widow for the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, Ellen had started work. The 1901 census shows her working as a 15 year old domestic nurse, for a Mr. William French of Railway Street, Barnetby Le Wold, Lincolnshire, England. Mr. & Mrs. French had three children at that time, aged 1, 2 & 3, presumably the reason for Ellen's employment in the household. By the time of the next census in 1911, Ellen was listed as a 25 year old hospital nurse in South Leicester. The British Journal of Nursing from 1915 describes her as a Staff Nurse on the staff of the 5th Northern General Hospital, under the command of a Colonel Harrison in the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS), a forerunner to the Territorial Army Nursing Service and which was comprised solely of volunteers. The following year on October the 7th, Ellen was decorated by the King at Buckingham palace, receiving a Royal Red Cross (2nd class), in recognition of her valuable service in connection with the war. In 1917 Ellen was on active duty in France, serving under the command of Colonel J. Gowans, 59th General Hospital.

Early in 1918, Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff, devised a plan intended to ensure a German victory before the Americans arrived. For the previous 3 years, the war had been a fairly static affair, the Allies in their trenches, facing the Germans in their trenches. A lot of lead changed hands during this period, and a lot of lives were lost, but neither side had the upper hand and therefore neither side was winning. Once America decided to declare war on Germany in 1917, Ludendorff knew it was only a matter of time before the Allies became numerically superior, and his plan was to achieve victory before that could happen. So beginning at 4:40am on March 21st 1918, in the space of just 5 hours, using 10,000 artillery pieces, the Germans fired over 1.1 million shells at allied positions to 'soften them up' before the storm troopers began their assault. At the end of that first day, the British had lost more than 7,500 killed and around 10,000 wounded. One of these casualties was Ellen, killed by a bomb while returning to her billet with three colleagues at the 58th Casualty Clearing Station near Lillers, where they were stationed. (Also known as West Riding Casualty Clearing Station). Ellen's surviving companions were subsequently awarded the Military Medal for distinguished services in the Field, but the Military Medal was not awarded posthumously at that time. Ellen Andrew was interred at Lillers Communal Cemetery, 10 miles west-north-west of Bethune and 35 miles south-east of Calais, she was 32 years old. Ludendorff's plan for an ultimate victory, ended in ultimate defeat. Over 18 million lives were lost during the great war, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

For more information on British army nurses, QARANC may have the answers.

Sister Ellen Andrew's Headstone, Lillers Communal Cemetery, the bottom of which reads, <br>'THY PURPOSE LORD WE CANNOT SEE BUT ALL IS WELL THAT'S DONE BY THEE'.

Sister Ellen Andrew's Headstone, Lillers Communal Cemetery, the bottom of which reads,

TL;DR - Conclusion.

Brigg was for many years a small fishing hamlet in the corner of four parishes, Bigby, Broughton, Scawby and Wrawby. In the 19th Century this small fishing hamlet turned into an inland port and expanded greatly. When the railway arrived, Brigg became more important than any of the individual parishes it was part of, and in 1872 it became an ecclessiastical parish in it's own right.

Despite being one of the very few women actually killed in action by the enemy in WW1, being decorated by the King, and being remembered in the army chapel at Aldershot, Wrawby Church and York Minster; Brigg council has so far refused to have her name added to the Brigg war memorial, even though the memorial contains the names of other people from the surrounding districts that were not actually from Brigg. She wasn't a civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time, she was a volunteer on active duty, and as such she deserves the same recognition as the men who gave their lives for their country.
To the glorious memory of the men of Brigg might have been OK in 1919, but this is 2018...

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