Fiona Hall, Communications and Retail Manager at the Green Howards Museum submitted this story about one of the most important women of the First World War (in fact of any) era.
I’m intrigued by this local hero – a complex character.
There’s not enough space here to describe the many achievements of Gertrude Bell, and that’s not the point of this entry. Although I do recommend you take some time to acquaint yourself with her if you are not already familiar with this fascinating woman – archaeologist, mountaineer, one of the first women to gain a degree at Oxford (a First in History) but an anti-suffrage campaigner, the first to work for British military intelligence, colleague of TE Lawrence, and also the first to write a government white paper.
She was born in 1868 into the sixth richest family in England, the granddaughter of the industrialist Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, and lived in Redcar.
When war broke out her request for a government posting to the Middle East was denied. Instead she volunteered with the Red Cross, taking charge of the missing and wounded office in Boulogne. Meanwhile her brother, Maurice, a career soldier and Boer War veteran was commanding the 4th Bn The Yorkshire Regiment on the western front. Imagine working in the environment Gertrude was working in- with the very possible chance she may have to ‘process’ information about the fate of her own brother. Maurice was in fact invalided home in 1916 and died in 1944.
In 1915 she hears of the death of the man she loves as part of casual conversation at a dinner party. A married man, Dick Doughty-Wylie was killed in the Gallipoli campaign.
Despite all this, she goes on to be a key player in the political administration of the time, writing a masterful report ‘self determination in Mesopotamia’ and is pictured in a publicity line up photo on board a camel with the pyramids in the background in an image featuring both Lawrence and Churchill at the 1921 Cairo Conference.
This resident of Redcar died from an overdose of sleeping pills in July 1926 and is buried in Baghdad. There is a stunning stained glass window in her memory in St Lawrence Church East Rounton. The family’s arts and crafts country home, Rounton Grange, wasdemolished in 1950. It was hoped at one stage her childhood home, Red Barns in Redcar might be converted into a museum but appears to be earmarked for redevelopment for housing.
Explore more memories from the ribbon
Submitted by Wendy Patch I am the granddaughter of the much celebrated Harry Patch, who is famous, for the most part because he survived the First World War. But I often think of my other grandfather, or great grandfather to be precise, who didn’t survive and of his wife, who was left a widow with five young children, my grandmother amongst them. His name was Warwick McCartney and he was a deserter. Who knows why, fear, no doubt but surely just as much a reluctance to leave his wife and young family. He was caught, taken to Scotland to be as far from his family as possible (he was a Londoner) to discourage absconding. I know my great grandmother travelled up to Scotland by train to see him and that she knew when he was passing through London on his way to the front, so she went to the station hoping to see him as he passed through. Needless to say she was unsuccessful. He was put in the front lines, as I understand deserters often were and was killed, leaving his wife to manage on her own as best she could. [Warwick’s] wife was called Caroline (maiden name Farmer) and she actually had seven children when he died, my grandmother Annie, Warwick (known as Wally), Nell, Carrie, Harry boy, Bobby and Georgie. The two little boys were in hospital, we think with diphtheria and when the policeman came to the door to tell her that her husband had been…
Marion Moverley, a Richmond resident, provided us with information about her grandmother, Evelyn Fletcher. My grandmother was called Evelyn Fletcher and born in 1898 in Halifax. She met my grandfather Tom Stocks who was born in 1897 in Bradford, and they married in 1920. They both played a part in the War. Tom joined up, Evelyn worked in munition factories. The photograph shows a munitions factory in the Bradford/Halifax district, with two figures picked out by ‘x’ marks in biro. The girl marked on the left appears to be Evelyn and the one on the right is probably her sister, Lizzie Fletcher.
Mary Burn visited the Green Howards Museum to tell us about her father’s cousin, Thomas Holmes. Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Thomas Holmes worked for Mr Gaffanney, a coal dealer in Leeds. As a reservist, he was called up on the outbreak of War to the 9th Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment while his brother served with the 1st Scots Guards. At only 19 years of age, Private Holmes was sent to Gallipoli. One of the thousands to die at Suvla Bay, he was killed on 29th October 1915 and is buried at Hill 10 cemetery along with 548 other casualties.