Archivists are seeking the identity of a First World War nurse who compiled a moving pictorial record of the days when the 1st Duke of Westminster’s palatial mansion served as a hospital for wounded troops.
An album of 300-plus photographs depicting nurses and their patients amid the huge Gothic splendour of Eaton’s Waterhouse Hall, was acquired by archivists from a Chester book shop in 1979. It shows Eaton’s cavernous drawing and dining rooms – still hung with fine paintings – transformed into wards for injured servicemen – many of whom had lost limbs in the conflict.
And among the volunteer and professional nursing staff helping to run the War hospital was Lady Arthur Grosvenor, daughter-in-law to the First Duke of Westminster As his home doubled as a hospital for wounded heroes, the 2nd Duke, known as Bend’Or, was pursuing a distinguished military career with the Cheshire Yeomanry in Egypt.
He had converted his Rolls Royce into a prototype armoured car and won the DSO by leading the regiment’s armoured fleet in a 120-mile dash across the desert to rescue the captured crew of HMS Tara from Senussi tribesmen.
Whilst several of the album pictures – dating from 1914-17- show its creator in her nursing uniform, many are captioned simply with the word ‘Self’.
“The album is a wonderfully evocative record of times when the country stood together to face the horrific results of the greatest conflict the world has ever known” said archivist Liz Green.
“Whilst many of the soldiers and fellow nurses are named, it gives no clues to ‘Self’s’ identity – apart from one associated shot of her in a garden at Churton, which may or may not be her home.
“We are hoping that her photograph will be recognized by descendants who will be able to provide information to bring added meaning to the album she so painstakingly created” Liz added.
The Eaton war hospital album will play an important part in the ongoing exhibitions held by Cheshire Record Office to commemorate the centenary of the Great War. It can also be seen at the Chester Library Poetry workshop on Thursday 5 June.
Anyone who believes they may be able to help with ‘Self’s’ identity should contact the Cheshire Record Office on 01244 972574 or website.
STORY NOTE: Eaton Hall was an all-ranks hospital from 1914, run by a Voluntary Aid Detachment. In 1917, under a tenancy agreement with the War Office, it became a hospital for officers.