Nellie Spindler: WW1 nurse death centenary marked in Leeds

Related Topics
Image caption,
Nellie Spindler was killed on 21 August 1917 when a shell struck a hospital three miles from the front line

A ceremony has been held to mark the centenary of the death of one of two British women killed during World War One and buried in Belgium.

Nellie Spindler died aged 26 in a blast at a hospital three miles from the frontline near Ypres in 1917.

Ms Spindler was buried with full military honours and is the only woman buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, among 10,000 men.

The Last Post was played during the service at St James's Hospital, Leeds.

Image caption,
A service to remember Nellie Spindler was held at the chapel of St James's Hospital in Leeds

Ms Spindler, born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and in July 1917 she was transferred from France to Belgium.

Working for No 44 Casualty Clearing Station she helped treat seriously injured soldiers at a hospital based within the range of German shells at the Battle of Passchendaele.

Minnie Wood, a matron, held her as she died and wrote to Ms Spindler's parents telling them their daughter died "perfectly peacefully".

During the service, relatives of Ms Spindler, veterans and serving members of the British Army sang hymns, listened to readings and observed a silence.

Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele was fought from 31 July to 6 November 1917 in West Flanders, northern Belgium, and is recorded as one of the harshest battles of the war.

The other woman who died during World War One to be buried in Belgium is Elsie Mabel Gladstone, who also worked as a nurse, and died of pneumonia.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The battle of Passchendaele is known as one of the muddiest and bloodiest battles of World War One

Chris van D'Arque, deputy head of chaplaincy at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, who led the service, said: "Another nurse raced to be with her and care for her as she died, putting herself in danger, which shows her popularity.

"The service is based on the core values of honour, courage and continuing commitment to the same cause of care."

Image source, Other
Image caption,
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery has the graves of 10,000 men, but only one woman

Prof Christine Hallett, professor of Nursing History at the University of Manchester, said: "She was one of the surgical nurses supporting the men, taking them into theatre, assisting with the surgery and then helping them to recover, it was really vital work.

"Nellie is a particular example of somebody who was really brave and willing to fight in her own way and sacrifice her life."

More on this story

Around the BBC