Story submitted by Mrs Drury, a resident of Richmond.
Nancy Bainbridge was born in Weardale, County Durham in May 1894. She was one of eight children whose parents were hardy hill farmers. Nancy was a very practical person and joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1914.
Nancy served at a military hospital in East Anglia where the nurses received casualties straight from the Somme. Her upbringing on a farm had afforded her some preparation for the ensuing, distressing sights and sounds. She described how the men arrived with mud and tufts of grass in their wounds. The nurses found out the hard way that soldiers’ skin, subjected to the mustard gas attacks in the trenches, could not be washed with water as that inflicted pain. Nancy received many deathbed requests.
After the war Nancy worked as a private nurse in families with disabled soldiers and patients with other conditions. She married Captain Jack (John Adam) Bell.
Nancy had a brother William, also a hill farmer and ten years older. He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, but saw little service because, when detailed to chop an officer some sticks, a splinter blinded him in one eye.
Another sibling, Violet, worked in Barnard Castle’s recruiting office. Her soldier husband Harry Raine was awarded the Military Cross. The medal was presented to the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
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Robert Henry Murray lived with his family lived at West Cottage, Richmond. He was educated at Richmond Grammar School, and attended Selwyn College, Cambridge – rowing in the college boat at the Henley Regatta immediately before the outbreak of war. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Regiment on 8th October 1914, but was quickly promoted to Captain on the 3rd of December 1914. Attached to the Royal Munster Fusiliers, he was Mentioned in Despatches while at Gallipoli. Captain Murray was killed while attending to a wounded man of his Company on the fire-step of his trench. Captain Murray fell in action on 7th July 1916 and is buried at Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Departement du Pas-de-Calais.
Edmund was born around 1885. Little is known of Edmund’s early life. In 1901 the sixteen year old Edmund was living at Park House, the Gayle home of a local solicitor called Simon Willan. Edmund worked there as an office boy. By the beginning of the war Edmund was married to Agnes Waggett and had a son, William, and a daughter, Nora. By then Edmund was employed in helping to run Strands Farm at Simonstone near Hardraw. Edmund enlisted at Leyburn joining the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Private Edmund Staveley was killed on the 9th June 1917 during The Battle of Messines. He was 32 years old. He is buried in the Military Cemetery at Poperinge. Edmund’s brother, Lister, had already been killed the previous year during the Somme offensive.
Sgt. Ernest Brooke was born in Brighthouse, Yorkshire in 1886. In civilian life Ernest worked a railway signalman. Ernest’s medal records show he was entitled to the 1914 Star indicating that he was an ‘Old Contemptible’, part of the original British Expeditionary Force that fought in France and Belgium from August 1914. Ernest served with the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment until his death on 4th January 1918. The New Year 1918 that at 11pm (German midnight) on the 31st December 1917, ‘…all guns of artillery fired one round each, whilst machine guns fired two belts of ammunition each ‘to usher in the new year’. The following day, the 2nd Battalion were relieved from the front line and relocated to ‘Hedge Street Tunnels’. On the night of the 4th of January, a fire broke out in the area of the tunnel being occupied by the Battalion, resulting the loss of a further 20 lives from the 2nd Battalion – one of those lives being Ernest Brookes’. In accordance with his wishes, Ernest’s outstanding pay and War Gratuity, totalling £29, 7shillings and 19d to his mother, Hannah.