Hospital Heroes in France – Mary and John Evans

Story submitted by Judith Barton.

My grandparents Mary Evans (nee Shearman) and John Davey Evans both served in France in WW1.

My grandmother was born, raised and lived in Doncaster all her life. She was a member of the Shearman family who were valuers and auctioneers. She married my grandfather in 1920 and had one son John Brian Davey Evans.

In 1915 my grandmother volunteered her services as a nursing orderly with the Scottish Womens Hospital. The British authorities would not accept her as she was under 25 years of age. A newspaper clipping stated that she had volunteered as a nursing orderly in Doncaster hospital prior to joining the SWH.

She was sent to France to the Abbaye de Royaumont, near Asnieres sur Oise, where a hospital was set up by women doctors. They provided medical care to French soldiers injured at the Front. Conditions were very tough but the soldiers received excellent care. I remember my grandmother mentioning the extreme cold in winter and keeping the milk churns in the pulpit!

A ward at Abbaye de Royaumont

Title: A ward at Abbaye de Royaumont
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The hospital was staffed and run entirely by women, with two exceptions: a chef who stayed on at the hospital after being nursed there; and a mechanic who serviced the ambulances that the women drove to collect their patients.

My grandmother served from May to August 1915. It is believed, although no longer possible to confirm, that she was invalided out as she later received a war injuries pension and my father remembered her spending considerable time in bed with respiratory difficulties.

She received a medal from the French government and the Victory Medal from the British government.

My grandfather served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France as a doctor. Unfortunately the family has no information as to exactly where he was stationed or for how many years.

Presentation case of Mary and John's medals

Title: Presentation case of Mary and John's medals
Description: Submitted by Judith Barton by-nc

When he was demobbed he came to Doncaster (he was born in Wales) and formed a medical partnership with a colleague. This was dissolved when the NHS started. He set up practice in what is now known as the St Vincent’s Medical Practice. He was joined by my father after he finished his National Service in 1949.

The family do not know how my grandparents met, or why my grandfather came to Doncaster, but they married in 1920.

Neither of them ever really talked about their war service as was common at the time.

My grandmother could not settle to a life of leisure and gave her time to the Women’s Voluntary Service, later known as the WRVS and now the RVS. I believe she was responsible also for setting up the Hospital Comforts League. She received an MBE for her voluntary work and was recognised as Citizen of the Year 1971 by The Doncaster Free Press. She was also affectionately known as ‘Lord Nelson’ due to the black eye patch she wore, having had an eye removed due to an eye condition.

The Injured and The Wounded

Sydney Jolly was born in Blackpool, but signed up for the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in Doncaster. He served as a private in the 1/5th battalion territorial force. His service number was 241558. He was awarded the British War Medal and 1914-15 Star, which meant he saw combat on the Western Front sometime between August 1914 and December 1915.

The modern and new weapons of warfare used in the First World War caused new injuries and enormous amounts of casualties for both sides. Many soldiers had limbs amputated to prevent death and infection. In France, one way doctors would amputate an injured soldier was to use a modified guillotine. As unorthodox as that sounds, it saved a lot of lives. But bullets and the constant shelling were not the only way soldiers were wounded or injured. They also suffered from the use of harmful gases; trench foot, which occurred when soldiers stood in mud for too long and lost blood circulation; as well as trench fever, which was brought on by body lice and became a recurring disease for some.

While sources do not say what injuries Sydney Jolly suffered from, he was not able to survive them. Eventually, he died from his wounds on 16 August 1917. His next of kin would have received a memorial plaque after his passing. These plaques were made of bronze and were similar in appearance to the penny coin, which is why they were commonly called the “Dead Man’s Penny.” Sydney is buried in the Southport (Duke Street) cemetery in Lancashire. His grave marking is  XIII C.E. 467. There are 96 other soldiers buried in that cemetery who served in the First World War.

Skipton Camp, German Prisoners of War and the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

In March 1919 546 German officers and 137 German orderlies were imprisoned at Skipton Camp in North Yorkshire. 47 of these prisoners were to die in the influenza pandemic which would sweep the world in the wake of World War One. The officers had been guarded by members of the Royal Defence Corps (RDC) when the camp opened in January 1918. Following the armistice in November 1918 the RDC was replaced by a guard which was formed from units of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI), Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment and the Stafford Regiment. The German officers decided to write their memoirs in the months between the end of the influenza outbreak (March 1919) and their eventual repatriation in October 1919. Unusually the German officers’ book, Kriegsgefangen in Skipton was published when they returned home. This very same book is currently being translated by quite a large team of translators including staff and students at the University of Leeds. Page 20 of this book represents our only reference to KOYLI. We know from cross-checking other stories against local newspapers, for example, that this book was remarkably accurate. The book does however state that these British guards were young and straight from the front, or else had been former prisoners of war in Germany. The book continues to suggest that these guards may have had some good memories of being prisoners in Germany, because they often attempted to engage the Germans in conversation in more or less fluent German!

The staff at the museum in Doncaster have checked their archives for references to Skipton Camp, but to no avail. It may be that someone, perhaps still living in the area, remembers that great-grandfather or grandfather was not demobilised immediately after the end of the war, but rather was moved to a prisoner-of-war camp to guard some of the thousands of German prisoners still left in Britain. If that is the case we would love to hear from you. We currently have two websites which is focussing on an archaeological dig being conducted on part of the Skipton Camp site and which concentrates more on the translation of the book. Contact details can be found on this second website.

It would be wonderful to finish with a photograph of KOYLI troops at work at Skipton. Unfortunately the nearest we can come to this is a photograph of a detachment of guards from the camp attending the funeral of a number of German officers at Morton Bank Cemetery in Keighley. The German officers are on the right of the photograph. The enlisted men, possibly from the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment but equally possibly from one of the other units, are in the background resting on their rifles. Colonel Ronaldson, the British commandant of the camp and a British army chaplain are standing in front of them. Ten or more funerals took place over several weeks in February and March 1919. The Keighley News mentions that a guard from the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment fired three volleys over the open graves of the deceased. A British bugler also played the ‘Last Post’. Unfortunately there is no record of the KOYLI. However…

Alan Roberts

German funerals Morton Bank 4

Title: German funerals Morton Bank 4
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Doncaster Doctor’s Farflung Holiday

Harold Ferdinand Renton was born on the 22nd of August 1884 near Harrogate. It was almost a full year before he was baptised on the 21st of June 1885 at Christ Church, Harrogate. His parents were George and Rose Bertha Renton, George was a successful auctioneer. Harold grew up at 2 Grove Villas, Harrogate with 5 siblings: Marie B Renton, Claude C L Renton, Theodore Rolande Victor Renton, Elwyn George Renton and Gerald Renton. Harold studied at Rossall School, a boarding school in Lancashire. He studied medicine and, after a stint as an assistant surgeon at Royal Surrey County Hospital, he qualified as a doctor in 1912 in London. His first paper on an ‘Unusual Case of Cerebral Abcess’, published to the Lancet in 1913, was probably written during his studies.

On the 15th of April 1914 Harold married Bertha Amelia Phillips in Bradford. She was a nurse, and everyone called her Millie. There daughter, Mollie, was born on the 4th of January 1915, she was baptised on the 30th and the family settled into their home at 63 Union Street, Bradford. Harold was the medical officer for the nearby St Luke’s Hospital. In 1915 they moved again to Grove Villa, Queens Parade, Harrogate. Harold wrote two more articles for the Lancet: ‘Case of Double Cervical Rib’ in 1916, and ‘Case of Strangulated Inguinal Hernia with External Rupture of Sac’ in 1918. He also got his first article in the British Medical Journal, ‘Case of Tetanus Neonatorum’ in 1918.

By 1920 Harold and family had moved to Doncaster where they first lived at 27 South Parade, by 1925 they had found a more permanent home at 3 Regent Square. As well as a doctor he was a registered public vaccinator. In 1923 he wrote his last article for the Lancet, ‘Case of Mediastinal Syphilis’, hopefully this doesn’t reflect the illnesses he had started dealing with in Doncaster! In 1935 he took ‘Millie’ and Mollie on holiday with his brother Theodore, now a surveyor, and his family. They went to Argentina, sailing from Buenos Aires.

By 1939 ‘Millie’ had retired from nursing, but the Second World War meant she served as an Air Raid Precautions Nurse. Harold was a surgeon in charge of a first aid party. Mollie had moved out of 3 Regent Square. They still lived at 3 Regent Square on the 26th of July 1951, when Harold died in St Georges Square, Huddersfield. He left more than £17,000 to ‘Millie’, a former patient of his oversaw the will. Harold was buried in Harlow Hill Cemetery, Harrogate, the same as his parents. ‘Millie’ joined him there after dying on the 14th of September 1956. The barrister who oversaw her will was George Anthony Dunkels, Mollie’s husband.

20 Years Partnership

Frank Allen was born on the 6th of February 1873 in Thorne. He grew up as the son of a wealthy farmer in Belton, Lincolnshire. Frank’s later business partner, William Hooton Carlile, wasn’t born until the 12th of November 1891. William grew up in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire where he first worked as a solicitor’s clerk.

By 1901 Frank had moved to Doncaster and found work as a self-employed solicitor. He boarded at 9 Christ Church Terrace with Jane Sprott, a widow. On the 10th of March 1905 Frank was initiated into the local Freemasons at the St George’s Lodge. Around this time he must have entered into his first marriage too, but by 1911 he had been widowed. He lived with a young housekeeper on 7 Town Moor Avenue.

William Hooton Carlile must have started working with Frank Allen by 1914. In 1916 William was certainly living at 30 Christ Church Road and working as a solicitor in Frank’s employ. For over 2 years William had been suffering painful ulcers in his intestine, Frank assisted him in seeking exemption from military service for this despite trenchant opposition from the recruiting officer.

Frank’s duties at this time including county coroner, solicitors commonly doubled as coroner’s at this time. In May 1917 Frank prosecuted a 14 year old pit pony driver from Bentley under the Mines Act. Supposedly charged for disobeying orders it was probably more for bad language towards management, he was fined 20 shillings. This sort of behaviour had become more common with many of the parents and miners at war. Frank said ‘it brought into question whether the management and officials were going to run the pit, or the boys.’

By 1923 William had gotten married to an Isabel. The couple lived for about a year at 33 Balmoral Road, before moving to 14 Auckland Road around 1925. On the 19th of September 1928 Frank died leaving £16,000 and his home at 7 Town Moor Avenue to his widow Mary Eleanor Allen. William carried on Frank’s business in prominent offices at 1 High Street, Bank Chambers. The business kept Allen’s name until at least 1957. On the 21st of February 1932 Mary passed away too. Frank and Mary are buried together at St Wilfrid Churchyard, Cantley. Their grave reads ‘He hath done what he could’.

Mary left her home to William and Isabel who lived their for many more years, at least until 1939. By 1939 they probably also had two children, they are not visible on the census so are probably still alive. In 1952 William witnessed the will of Dr Harold Ferdinand Renton who had treated his ulcers years earlier, he also witnessed the will of a sub-postmaster in 1961. In 1962 William chaired the Doncaster Local Employment Committee. He passed away in 1970.

Did you know William’s medical exemption started a major row between local government and the military?

40 Years at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Alexander Christy Wilson was born to a Quaker family on the Scottish Borders. He studied to be a doctor in Edinburgh and Paris before moving to Doncaster. He married, Emma Bewley, a Quaker daughter of a Dublin based tea importer. All of their sons became doctors, the second died young, but the eldest worked with his father. Alexander was published in the British Medical Journal and the Lancet. He served as president of both the Yorkshire branch of the BMA and Leeds and West Riding Medico-Chirurgical Society.

Alexander Christy Wilson was born in Cavers, Roxburgshire on the Scottish Borders in 1845. His father was Walter Wilson of nearby Hawick, the family were Quakers so Alexander probably wasn’t baptised. He studied medicine first at Edinburgh, then Paris. In 1868 his paper ‘Acute Yellow Atrophy of the Liver’ was published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal. Upon qualifying as a doctor in 1870 he served a short residency at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, before moving to Doncaster where he would spend the rest of his life.

Alexander found work at Doncaster Royal Infirmary in 1870 as a GP. He and his younger sister Lucy A Wilson, found lodgings in Hall Gate, Doncaster by 1871. Many fellow doctors were close neighbours. Their landlady was Mary A Christopher, an elderly widow.

In 1873 Alexander was in Ireland, where he married Quaker Dublin girl Emma Bewley. They were married in August at a Quaker meeting house in Monkstown, South Dublin. Emma’s father, Joshua, had founded The China Tea Company. This family business went back to 1835 when Emma’s grandfather and uncle, Samuel and Charles, were one of the first people to import tea directly from China after the East India Company was stripped of its monopoly. 1894 her brother, Ernest, would found the first Bewley’s cafe in London. The Bewley family business has gone on to become a global brand of tea and coffee. Understandably, Emma kept her family name, becoming Emma Bewley Wilson.

In the first 5 years of marriage Alexander and Christy had 3 sons, all of which went on to become doctors. On the 14th of June 1874 Walter Reginald Wilson was born, followed by Angus Bewley Wilson in 1876, and Norman Wilson in 1878. In 1876 Alexander got his first paper, ‘Three Cases of Vesical Calculus’ , into the British Medical Journal. In 1881 the family lived at 21 South Parade, Doncaster. Emma’s mother and younger sister, Margaret and Ada, had moved in with them. They also had 3 servants including a cook and a nursemaid. In April 1882 they had a daughter, Emma Beatrice Wilson.

By 1891 the family had moved to 39 Hall Gate, Doncaster, where Alexander and Emma would live the rest of their lives. At the time the census was taken a Scottish evangelical preacher, John M Scroggie, was staying with them. As an Honorary Surgeon at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Alexander increasingly published papers about cases he had encountered. In 1895 he published ‘Case of Abdominal Hysterectomy’ to the Lancet, followed by ‘Four Cases of Perforation, treated successfully by Operation’ in 1901, and ‘Case of Pylorectomy with Gastro-Jejunostomy’ in 1904.

Around this time Angus Bewley Wilson was finishing a degree in medicine at Cambridge, where he had regularly played football. He found work as a physician at London hospital. On the 31st of March 1909 he died of blood poisoning in Whitechapel, He was treating a patient who had attempted suicide by a laudanum overdose, she bit him when he tried to administer an emetic. Within a few years of Angus’ death, after more than 40 years of service, Alexander retired from Doncaster Royal Infirmary, although he was made a Consulting Surgeon for his experience.

In 1913 a Dr Alfred Edward Huckett, the son of missionaries in Madagascar, came to Doncaster and set up practice with Alexander and his eldest son Walter. During the First World War, Alexander was very involved with writing medical notes for patients unfit for military service. In August 1923 Alexander and Emma celebrated there golden wedding anniversary. Subsequently, Wilson, Wilson and Huckett was dissolved on the 6th September.

On the 27th of April 1925, Alexander passed away leaving just over £18,000 to Emma, Walter and Eleanor. In his life he had served as the President of the Leeds and West Riding Medico-Chirurgical Society, devoted to medical teaching and discussion, as well as the Yorkshire Branch of the British Medical Association. Emma lived 3 years longer, until the 12th of November 1828

He is buried in Hyde Park Cemetery in Doncaster. His gravestone is carved with bible verse Daniel 12:3, reflecting his lifelong Quaker faith

‘And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever’


Leeds born Gwendolen Mary Piercy spent the war in Birmingham and Doncaster working as a V.A.D. nurse.

The eldest daughter of 3, Gwendolen first joined the Red Cross in March 1917. She worked as a nurse at 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham. It was one of the many large military hospitals developed to treat casualties from the front. She stayed there for a month.

In September 1917 she started working at Hooton Pagnell Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster. She was working as a nurse responsible for ‘general nursing’ according to her Red Cross record. She worked full time there and was still working there in 1919.

After the war ended it is not clear what Gwendolen did; records cannot fill in the gaps between her Red Cross career and her death in 1976. She did not marry; neither did her two younger sisters, Beryl and Marguerite.

Rallied Round the Flag

Like many other families during the First World War, the Gaisford family rallied together to do their part.

The head of the family Richard Boileau Gaisford was a military man with a distinguished career before the outbreak of the First World War. Early records have him as a Gentlemen Cadet in line to succeed as Second Lieutenant of the Indian Staff Corp in 1878. He was at Haileybury College between 1867 and 1873, and then went on to get a BA from St John’s College, Oxford, and more importantly he played rugby against Cambridge!

His wife, Ellen Elsy Lindsay was no less extraordinary. It is likely that she was a trained nurse as she was a member of the Committee of Barrow & North Lonsdale V.A.Ds and made Commandant of 34 West Lancs in 1914 as recorded in her Red Cross record.

In August 1914, after the outbreak of war, she helped to equip the Fairview Auxiliary Hospital in Ulveston, Lancashire. She took no part in hospital administration and it is not clear if she provided financial aid to the hospital or whether she worked there as a nurse. She resigned in February 1916.

She was not the only Gaisford involved in Fariview; her daughter Margaret Elspeth also worked there in 1915. Margaret joined the Red Cross in November 1915 as a Voluntary Aid Detachment. She left in October 1916 having worked 558 hours nursing. She worked in several different hospitals, she started at Fairview Auxiliary Hospital in Ulveston, and then spent 2 months at Hooton Pagnell Hall Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster, a year and a half at The Welsh Hospital Netley doing X-Ray work, and then her last 6 weeks were spent at Bethnal Green Military Hospital.

Though too young to enlist during the First World War, Richard and Ellen’s son Richard Lindsay Stephen Gaisford joined the Royal Navy and saw combat during the Second World War.

From Wales to the World

Though Mary was born Machynlleth, the family moved all around Wales; from Machynlleth to Scubory Coed to Llwynon before finally settling in Glandyfi by 1917.

Her father, Charles Richard Kenyon, was originally from Doncaster, born in Hooton Pagnell in 1848. By 1881 aged 33, he and a good chunk of his family had relocated to Wales and become a farmer of 175 acres of land and employing 4 men and a boy.

It wasn’t until he was 44 that he married. In 1892 he married Kent born Lillian Ann Beresford who was 33. In 1894 they had their only son, Charles Henry Beresford, and in 1896 they had their only daughter, Mary Patricia Grace.

In 1915 Mary joined the Red Cross and worked at Gledhow Hall V.A.D. Hospital in Leeds for 3 weeks and then a further 3 weeks in 1916. In September 1917 she started work at Hooton Pagnell Hall in Doncaster where her particular duties were surgery, wards, night duty and pantry work. She remained there until December 1918 having worked 909 hours in total.

After her service for the Red Cross ended she returned to her parent’s home Ranger Lodge in Glandyfi.

In 1923 she married George Gregory Hills. He had also been born in Machynlleth and it is possible that they knew each other as children. He moved into her family home of Ranger Lodge where they lived until his death in 1955. It appears that George made his living as a trader and that involved travelling internationally, travelling to and from Africa. Sometimes he did this alone and sometimes Mary joined him.

After his death Mary remarried in 1956 to William Hubert Mappin. William was a plant nursery owner who spent a lot of time travelling. After they were married Grace went with him and together they went to places such as Québec in Canada, Las Palmas in Spain, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

William died in 1966 leaving everything to his widow. She stayed in Wales and died in 1978 aged 82.

To The Manor Born

In 1893 Charles Howard Taylor and his wife Gertrude Mary had their first and only daughter – Phyllis Thelma Howard Taylor. Phyllis was the middle child sandwiched between her older brother Eric and her two younger brothers Ronald and Harold.

Her father was Lord of the Manor of New Hall in Darfield which was where Phyllis was born. He was also the Justice of Peace for the West Riding and a well-known polo pony breeder!

The family lived between two estates during Phyllis life; New Hall and Middlewood Hall, both in Darfield. It is not clear whether the family purchased or built New Hall, or at what date. Middlewood Hall was bought by Phyllis’ Grandfather, Thomas Taylor in 1845 and kept in the family until 1970 when it was sold to a Mr and Mrs Wainwright who were professional photographers.

The boys were sent away to boarding school at a young age whereas Phyllis was kept at home. Not much is known about her childhood and where it was spent. At the 1911 census taking the family were living at Hampole Priory in Doncaster, a former nunnery.

Sometime after the start of the war Middlewood Hall was turned into an auxiliary hospital for wounded troops. When she was 23 she joined the British Red Cross and worked at her converted home from April 1916 until 1919. In November 1916 she worked for 4 hours a day at Hooton Pagnell Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster until February 1917 working as a nurse.

Shortly after joining the Red Cross Phyllis’ elder brother Eric was killed in action at the Somme. He would not be the only brother she outlived. In 1959 her younger brother Ronald died and left his estate to be shared between her and their brother, Harold.

In 1960 she inherited Middlewood Hall. She stayed there until her death in 1967. She was buried in All Saint’s Church cemetery in Darfield along with the rest of her family except for Eric who had been lost at the Somme.