Hospital Heroes in France – Mary and John Evans

Mary and John Evans

Title: Mary and John Evans
Description: Submitted by Judith Barton by-nc

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
Description: Submitted by Judith Barton by-nc

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.

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