Nellie Spindler

Timelines: Ribbon of Remembrance Nellie Spindler

Nellie Spindler was born in Wakefield in September 1891. Nellie was her actual Christian name, being baptised on the 11th November 1891.

In 1911 Nellie was a hospital nurse at the City Fever Hospital in Wakefield and from 1912 to 1915 was working at the Township Infirmary, Leeds. From November 1915 until May 1917 she was a staff nurse at Whittington Military Hospital in Litchfield. Nellie then worked as a Staff Nurse with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, which had been formed in 1902 from the Army Nursing Service of 1881. From May 1917 she was a staff nurse at Stationary Hospital in Abbeville, France.

Neillie also worked as a staff nurse in No. 44 Casualty Clearing Station, a British evacuation hospital located at Brandhoek, a small hamlet near Poperinghe in Belgium. It had a high mortality rate as No 44 CCS was closer to the front line than most and also close to a railway line and munitions dump. It was shelled often as the enemy tried to destroy the rail network thus preventing more munitions reaching the front line.

On the 31st July 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres began. On that day alone a total of 6869 casualties were registered in the four Casualty Clearing Stations and surgeons carried out 582 operations.

On Tuesday, 21st August, 1917 the hospital was shelled and at 11 o’clock in the morning Nellie was hit by shrapnel. She became unconscious immediately and although tended by her fellow nurses she died just twenty minutes later. Nellie’s body was taken to Lijssenthoek and she was buried, with full military honors the next day, Wednesday 18th August 1917. The ‘Last Post’ was sounded and it is thought that over one hundred officers, four generals and the Surgeon-General attended the funeral.

Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler is the only woman amongst 10,000 men in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, the second largest Commonwealth cemetery in Belgium (the largest being Tyne Cot).  9,901 British and 883 Commonwealth casualties rest there. She is also one of only two women members of the QAIMNS to be buried in Belgium, the other being Sister Elsie Mabel Gladstone who died on 24th March 1919 aged 32, and is buried in Belgrade Cemetery, near Namur, Belgium.

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