1st/Front Row Nos. 1 – 20 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. RESERVE STAFF NURSES
Queen Alexandra Imperial Medical Nursing Service Reserve (Q.A.I.M.N.S.R.)
1st Row No. 19 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. RESERVE STAFF NURSE : plus a cat
Seeing a cat within the photograph may appear strange but almost every hospital (both large and small) had dogs and/or cats.
Edith Holden, the Matron of the 3rd London General Hospital (at the Royal Victoria Patriotic School in Wandsworth) had a Pekingese dog – which became a symbol of the hospital. Even going back to the 1890’s in India, all photographs of military hospitals had dogs in – often, they were Jack Russells.
Both cats and Jack Russells would have been ideal for keeping down the rat population.
1st Row No. 21 : MYSTERY WOMAN
At the moment, we are calling this lady a “mystery woman” but she may possibly be Miss/Dr. Agnes Estcourt-Oswald. She is wearing a a ‘medallion’ of some kind – it may or may not be significant but it has not been identified. Because of her place in the front row, she must be person of some importance – and Agnes certainly was that.
Is the above lady Agnes Estcourt-Oswald, M.R.C.S.; L.R.C.P.; M.B.; D.P.H.; D.O.M.S. (Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery)?
Agnes Estcourt-Oswald was born c1874 in Peshawar, India (a region of modern-day Pakistan). She was a member of the ‘de la Estcourt’ family (Oswald formerly Estcourt, formerly of Pinkney Park) – a descendant of Walter de la Estcourt (c1275-1325, “of Salisbury, Wiltshire”).
Agnes was Medical Officer for Colchester Military Hospital and the British Red Cross Essex 2nd V.A.D. hospital ‘Goswycke’ in Cambridge Road, Colchester. ‘Gostwycke’ was the ‘2nd/Second Field Ambulance Hospital’, which was affiliated to the Colchester Military Hospital.
Prior to the Medical Officer appointment, Agnes worked under the ‘Scottish Women’s Hospital’ organization. She worked at the Abbaye de Royaumont: 22 November 1915 – 01 May 1916 and 30 September 1916 – 30 October 1916. The Abbaye de Royaumont was a 13th century Cistercian abbey, located near Asnières-sur-Oise in Val-d’Oise, approximately 30 km north of Paris, France. Agnes’ First World War Medal Card confirms she worked with the French Red Cross, under “Bactériologie”.
In 1919, Agnes began her own Ophthalmic practice in Colchester; in 1922, she was presented with the War Medal and Victory Medal at a large presentation ceremony at Colchester Town Hall; in 1925, she was elected to the Colchester Medical Society; and in 1933, she became President of the Colchester Medical Society.
Agnes died 1965 (Registered 1st Quarter, Gipping, Suffolk) “of 3 Cambridge Road”. On 27 March 1965, the British Medical Journal printed this obituary for Agnes:
“AGNES ESTCOURT-OSWALD M.B., D.O.M.S., D.P.H.
Dr. Agnes Estcourt-Oswald died on 19 February at the age of 90, after many years of practice in Colchester.
Agnes Estcourt-Oswald was born in 1874 in Peshawar. She spent her girlhood in York and then trained for medicine in London. She graduated M.B., B.S. in 1903 from the London School of Medicine for Women. She passed the D.P.H. and came to Colchester as medical inspector of school-children in the same year. During the first world war she worked as a doctor in field hospitals in France and as a medical officer at Colchester Military Hospital. She began her own ophthalmic practice in Colchester in 1919. In 1925 she obtained the D.O.M.S.
She was a most gracious person with a very lively mind and sense of humour. She was greatly loved by her patients, whom she looked after with great care and kindness. In addition to running her practice and taking a very active part in North-east Essex Division of the B.M.A., she did a tremendous amount of work for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She was for many years secretary of the Colchester branch and in 1960 was awarded the Victoria Medal. It was very distressing when in her last few years of life she became blind, but in spite of her great years she coped with this with courage and humour. J.K.S.”
1st Row No. 22 : MYSTERY GENTLEMAN
At the moment, we don’t know who this gentleman is. Because of his place in the front row, it would appear that he must be person of some importance. He wears a lapel badge – it may or may not be significant but it has not been identified e.g. is the badge a Branch insignia of the United States Army Medical Corps? Initially, it was thought that he could be Harold Ensign Bennet Pardee of the US Medical Corps but he may have only worked at the Military Heart Hospital, next door. See my chapter on the Military Heart Hospital, for a profile on Pardee: https://greatwarhomehospitals.wordpress.com/home/colchester-the-military-heart-hospital-sobraon-barracks/
1st/Front Row No. 23 : Royal Army Medical Corps WARRANT OFFICER Class I
This officer or No. 45 or No. 47 could be the Hospital Regimental Sergeant Major
This officer could be the Hospital Regimental Sergeant Major – the most senior soldier in a Battalion and both hugely powerful and respected. They had a wide ranging role, answering directly to the Commanding Ofﬁcer. They would also act as the CO’s adviser, being his eyes and ears.
The rank of Warrant Officer was introduced into the British Army in 1879, having been a military grade from the early years of the Royal Navy. Warrant Officers rank between the Non-Commissioned and Commissioned officers. Men holding this rank were/are experienced soldiers and often had/have specialist appointments.
During WW1, there were two classes of Warrant Officer – Class I and Class II. In 1915, the Warrant Officer Class I was extended and the Class II was created. There was a requirement to introduce a suitable rank badge and the decision was made to extend the Royal Arms’ use (already in use with Sergeant Majors in the Foot Guards). The wearing of a smaller version of the badge (below elbow) was in keeping with what was the practice when the Crown was the only badge of Warrant rank. These soldiers hold a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty The Queen.
See 1st/Front Row Nos. 45 & 47 for the two other Warrant Officers. No. 23’s ‘Royal Arms’ badge is a stitched-on fabric badge (as is No. 47’s) but No. 45’s badge is a brass/removable version. The ‘Sam Brown’ belt being worn is still considered part of a Warrant Officer’s uniform today. That said, of all the belts that are visible in the front row, this type of belt is being worn by all men seated.
N.B. A Warrant Officer rank of Class III was created in 1938.
1st/Front Row No. 24 : American Harvard Surgical Unit(?) 1st LIEUTENANT
The slightly unusual cap shape/band; the absence of cuff insignia; and the bar on his epaulettes suggests this gentleman is an American 1st Lieutenant. A number of American medical staff where attached to R.A.M.C. hospitals in the UK and the Western Front.
Another clue is that he does not have a moustache. British officers usually had a moustache – the King’s Regulations * Orders for the Army (1,695) states: “The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved. Whiskers, if worn, will be of moderate length” … … (i.e. the upper lip not shaved) and disciplinary action by a commanding officer could include imprisonment!
N.B. The blurred image is a consequence of the rotating process of creating the panoramic photograph.
Once, it had been considered he was Harvard Man Harold Wentworth STEVENS M.D. but he may have only worked at the Military Heart Hospital, next door – for a profile on Stevens, see https://greatwarhomehospitals.wordpress.com/: in the Colchester Military Heart Hospital chapter.
1st/Front Row No. 25 : Royal Army Medical Corps LIEUTENANT
He would have commanded a Platoon of men of up to 70 men; may also command a Company if no Captain is available.
1st/Front Row No. 26 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
He would have commanded a Company of 227 men, consisting of 4 Riﬂe Coy’s and a HQ Company – when ‘in the field’.
1st/Front Row No. 27 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
With 2 years Overseas Service
This officer is wearing two chevrons on his right sleeve – representing 2 years Overseas’ Service.
1st/Front Row No. 28 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN or MAJOR
Cuffs with rank rings and pips on the flaps were phased out during the war – the rank badges being moved to the shoulders, as is still the case today. Because we cannot see this officer’s epaulettes, it is more difficult to identify him. However, it is believed that he is either a Captain or Major.
1st/Front Row No. 29 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN or MAJOR
Cuffs with rank rings and pips on the flaps were phased out during the war – the rank badges being moved to the shoulders, as is still the case today. Because we cannot see this officer’s epaulettes, it is more difficult to identify him. However, it is believed that he is either a Captain or a Major.
1st/Front Row No. 30 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
With 2 years Overseas’ Service
This officer is wearing two chevrons on his right sleeve – representing 2 years Overseas’ Service.
1st/Front Row No. 31 : Royal Army Medical Corps MAJOR
With 2 years Overseas’ Service
Just visible, this officer is wearing two chevrons on his right sleeve – representing 2 years Overseas’ Service. He would be Second in Command of an Infantry Battalion. If needed to, they may command a Battalion if no Lieutenant Colonel is available.
1st/Front Row No. 32 : Royal Army Medical Corps LIEUTENANT COLONEL
A Lieutenant Colonel commanded an Infantry Battalion of 800-1,000 men – ‘in the field’. This was different in non-infantry units as the equivalent was known as a Regiment.
1st/Front Row No. 33 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. RESERVE MATRON
This lady is the Matron, because of her ‘solid’ (scarlet) cuffs. Her uniform would be a grey serge or alpaca dress; scarlet cape; and white muslin cap. She wears the Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. oval silver service badge on the right lapel of her cape and a medal ribbon bar on the left.
She is MISS SARAH ANN BROWN – she acted as Matron at the Colchester General Military Hospital ‘twixt the dates 28 November 1917 and 27 August 1919 (the date on which she was demobilized).
MISS SARAH ANN BROWN Born 25 May 1875 Liverpool, Lancashire.
1881 Census: ?
1891 Census: ?
1901 Census: ?
1902-1905: Training at the West London Hospital, Hammersmith, London – Staff Nurse & Night Sister duties.
1906, Sept– Night Sister at Bradford Royal Infirmary (1½ years).
1908-1910: Assistant Matron at Bradford Royal Infirmary (2½ years).
1911 Census: Hospital Matron, West Suffolk General Hospital, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk (100 beds).
1910-1915: Matron, West Suffolk General Hospital, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk Left on 04 Sept).
1915,10.11: As Matron of Auxiliary Hospital, Nethercourt, Ramsgate: Accepted to serve for the War Department.
1915,12.11: “Joined for duty” at Colchester.
1915,28.11: Signed to serve War Department. ‘Next of Kin’ given as “The Rev. James Blackburn Brown, St. James Vicarage, (Lower) Darwen, Lancashire. Q.A.I.M.N.S. Reserve service at Colchester Military Hospital.
1915,14.12: Notification of “readiness to embark on the Hospital Ship Britannic as duty as Matron”.
1915,22.12: Transferred Hospital Ship ‘HS Britannic’
1916,16.04: Became Matron at Dartford War Hospital.
1917,23.02: Notice of the Royal Red Cross 1st Class Award.
The British Journal of Nursing. March 3, 1917. NURSING AND THE WAR. ROYAL RED CROSS.
“The following Matrons, Sisters, and Nurses had the honour of being received by the King at Buckingham Palace on Saturday last, when His Majesty conferred upon them the Royal Red Cross :- …. S. A. Brown, Matron, Q.A.I.M.N.S. Res., Dartford War Hosp. …”
1917,24.03: Decorated by the King at Buckingham Palace.
1917,13.11: Signed ‘Renewal of (Q.A.I.M.N.S.) Contract’.
1917,22.11: Wrote a letter of acceptance for the job of Matron at Colchester Military Hospital.
TRANSCRIPTION OF LETTER WRITTEN BY SARAH ANN BROWN to Ethel Becher, Matron-in-Chief, War Office from Dartford War Hospital, dated 22nd November 1917; re Colchester Military Hospital & out-going Miss Taylor:
“Dear Miss Becher,
I have thought very seriously about Colchester, and should like to take it.
It is a big undertaking and fear I shall fill Miss Taylor’s place very unperfectly (sic), she is so awfully good, but I will do my utmost to fulfill my duties creditably.
Thank you so very much for giving it to me, it is cheering to know that you and Miss Taylor think I can manage it. If we each do not step forward and do more than we think we can do, I suppose we should not win the war.
I should be glad to be a few days with Miss Taylor before she goes if you could arrange it.
It has given great joy here to those who have been here a year, to know they are to go abroad.
Again with grateful thanks, I am yours obediently S. A. Brown”
1917,28.11: Transferred as Matron to Colchester Military Hospital – succeeding Miss Dorothea Matilda Taylor.
1919,09.04: Awarded a Bar to her Royal Red Cross 1st Class.
SECOND SUPPLEMENT TO The London Gazette Of TUESDAY, the 8th of APRIL, 1919. War Office, 9th April, 1919
“His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Royal Red Cross to the undermentioned Ladies in recognition of their valuable nursing services in connection with the War — … Awarded a Bar to the Royal Red Cross … Miss Sarah Ann Brown, RRC Matron, General Mil Hospl, Colchester”
There have only been one hundred awards of a Bar in the history of the Royal Red Cross 1st Class. Sarah received the Bar to her Royal Red Cross 1st Class at an Investiture Ceremony at Colchester Town Hall. This large assembly was held on Saturday, 01 January 1921 – when many Essex men and women received “honours from the King, at the hands of His Majesty’s representative in the county, the Lord-Lieutenant, the Right Hon. Lord Lambourne, P.C., C.V.O.”
1919,27.08: Demobilised from duty as Matron at Colchester Military Hospital.
1st/Front Row No. 34 : Royal Army Medical Corps LIEUTENANT COLONEL
With 2 years Overseas’ Service
This officer is wearing two chevrons on his right sleeve – for 2 years Overseas’ Service.
Is this officer Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Stockley Taylor, as profiled below?
OFFICER IN CHARGE : COLCHESTER GENERAL MILITARY HOSPITAL
Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Stockley Taylor
Born 21 July 1869 City of London. Baptised on 15 August 1869, at Church of St Antholin Budge Row, City of London. Family home address: 46 Watling Street, City of London. Son of Stepney-born G.P/Surgeon Alfred Augustus Taylor and his wife Elizabeth Ann Shelbourne.
1881 Census: 70 Highbury New Park, London. With (G.P) father, mother, 3 sisters and 3 brothers. Plus 2 servants.
1891 Census: Trinity College, Cambridge University. Student in Theology. “21” years old.
1899, 21.02: Promoted to Lieutenant. London Gazette entry:-
THE LONDON GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 21, 1899. “The Royal Army Medical Corps, The under-mentioned Surgeons on probation to be Lieutenants. Dated 28th January 1899:- … Herbert Stockley Taylor. …”
1899, 05.10: Married Emma Bond at St. Cuthbert’s, Lytham, Lancashire.
1901 Census: ?
1911, 28.01: Promoted from Captain to Major. London Gazette entry:-
THE LONDON GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 10, 1911. “ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS. The undermentioned Captains to be Majors. Dated 28th January, 1911: — … Herbert S. Taylor …”
1911 Census: With the Royal Army Medical Corps in India.
1914: Officer in Charge at General Military Hospital, Colchester. (45 years old).
1915, 01.03: Promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel. London Gazette entry:-
THE LONDON GAZETTE, 2 MARCH, 1915. “… … Herbert S. Taylor … …”
1922, 17.11: Died in Kamptee Central Provinces, India.
1st/Front Row No. 35 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. RESERVE SISTER : ?ASSISTANT MATRON?
There are three (scarlet) stripes on this lady’s lower arm – they indicate she is a Sister but, because of her seating position in the front row line-up, she probably holds the rank of Assistant Matron. She wears her Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. oval silver service badge on the right lapel of her cape and a medal ribbon bar on the left.
1st/Front Row No. 36 : Royal Army Medical Corps MAJOR
possibly the SECOND-IN-COMMAND or, at least, one of the most senior doctors
1st/Front Row No. 37 : Royal Army Medical Corps MAJOR
1st/Front Row No. 38 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
1st/Front Row No. 39 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
1st/Front Row No. 40 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
With 2 years Overseas’ Service
Initially, it was thought that this was Captain John Vincent “Jack” Bates M.C. because, within a 2014 newspaper article, it was noted [sic]: “… Due to a hand injury, John returned to England in August 1917. He became assistant anaesthetist at the Military Hospital in Colchester. …” However, Captain Bates has been definitely discovered at the Military Heart Hospital – which was located on the Sobraon Barracks site, next door to the General Military Hospital site.
See my chapter on the Military Heart Hospital, for a profile on Captain Bates: https://greatwarhomehospitals.wordpress.com/home/colchester-the-military-heart-hospital-sobraon-barracks/
1st/Front Row No. 41 : Royal Army Medical Corps CAPTAIN
1st/Front Row No. 42: DR. EGBERT GUERNSEY RANKIN
Egbert Guernsey Rankin was born 19 July 1856, Astoria, Queens County, New York, USA – the son of New York-born Fire Insurer James Murdoch Rankin and his wife Anna Evelina Schenck.
1910 U.S. Census: Living at 7th Avenue, New York, U.S.A. Occupation: Physician in General Practice, plus 2 servants.
1918: Civil Medical Practitioner, General Military Hospital, Colchester, England (http://homeoint.org/books2/ww1/personaldata.htm). Egbert had landed at Liverpool, England, on 24 June 1918 – the ship’s passenger noted that he was a “Physician”, with a “U.S. Red Cross Party”, “c/o War Office, London”.
After the First World War ended, Dr. Rankin took up the post of Ship’s Doctor on the ‘S.S. Belgic’ – this is as stated in a 1919 passport application.
1920 U.S. Census: Living at 58th Street, Manhattan, New York, U.S.A. “Physician, Own Account”.
Dr. Egbert Guernsey Rankin was named after pioneering “Uncle”, Homœopathist Dr. Egbert Guernsey – although it is reported that they were not related. That said, it is also quoted that Dr. Egbert G. Rankin was a “nephew”. Egbert became a well respected physician, homeopathist but he also saw his share of controversy within the homeopathic community – as newspaper articles of the day reported.
Dr. Rankin was a patron of the arts and he wrote several text books … “A digest of external therapeutics”, 1899; “A digest of external therapeutics : with numerous formulae arranged for reference”, 1900; and “A text-book of diseases of the chest: pericardium, heart, aorta, bronchi, lungs, mediastinum and pleura”, 1905.
Egbert was a frequent visitor to the UK – his brother Henry had lived in England since the 1880s. Henry had made his home in North London – some of his children were US-born, others British-born.
Egbert died 25 November 1922 Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA – from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried in a private Manhattan cemetery.
“Egbert Guernsey Rankin was named after pioneering “Uncle”, Homœopathist Egbert Guernsey”
Egbert Guernsey (born 08 July 1823 1823), who settled in New York in 1851: “Soon after his settlement there, he published a valuable work, entitled, “Domestic Practice,” and shortly after gave to the public a little treatise which he named, “Gentleman’s Handbook of Homœopathy.” Both of these works, valuable in the amount and kind of instruction they give, have had a large and deserved popularity. He received at this date the appointment of Physician to The Home of the Friendless, which office he filled with great fidelity, and with acceptance to the directors and the patients, for fourteen years, when he resigned it to younger hands. Dr. Guernsey was for one year President of the County Medical Society ; one year Professor of Materia Medica, and three years Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine in the Homœopathic Medical College of New York.” http://www.homeoint.org/history/bio/g/guernseye.htm acknowledged for the above paragraph.
1st/Front Row No. 43 : A BRITISH RED CROSS OFFICER?
Presumed ‘high-ranking’ … OR … is this lady a Medical Officer?
At the moment, we have no idea who this lady is. Because of her place in the front row, she must be person of some importance though.
1st/Front Row No. 44 : A JOINT WAR COMMITTEE COMMANDANT
Probably a member of the British Red Cross
This lady could either be in charge of the nursing VADs in the area or ‘General Service’ VADs … or both – but she is a Commandant of some sort.
1st/Front Row No. 45 : Royal Army Medical Corps WARRANT OFFICER Class I
This officer or No. 23 or No. 47 could be the Hospital Regimental Sergeant Major
A Warrant Officer is the most senior soldier in a Battalion and both hugely powerful and respected. See 1st/Front Row No. 23 & No. 47 for the two other Warrant Officers – No. 23 has a more detailed description of the rank.
No. 45’s ‘Royal Arms’ badge is a brass/removable version, whereas Nos. 23 & 47 wear a stitched-on fabric badge.
1st/Front Row No. 46 : Mystery Lady
We don’t have any idea who this lady, in a prominent position, might be. Her uniform (if that’s what it is) is quite different to anything identifiable. In particular, her striped blouse; style of her suit; and tie pin do not fit in with British Red Cross Society/St. John Ambulance Association. However, because of her place in the front row, it would appear that she must be somebody of importance.
1st/Front Row No. 47 : Royal Army Medical Corps WARRANT OFFICER Class I
This officer or No. 23 or No. 45 could be the Hospital Regimental Sergeant Major
A Warrant Officer is the most senior soldier in a Battalion and both hugely powerful and respected. See 1st/Front Row No. 23 & No. 45 for the two other Warrant Officers – No. 23 has a more detailed description of the rank.
No. 27’s ‘Royal Arms’ badge is a stitched-on fabric badge (as is No. 23’s) but No. 45’s badge is a brass/removable version.
1st/Front Row No. 46 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. REGULAR SISTER
This lady is identified as a Sister, from the two bands (scarlet) displayed on her sleeves – she is the only Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service ‘Regular’ in the Colchester Military Hospital photograph … other Q.A.I.M.N.S. Sisters and Staff Nurses are ‘Reserves’ – wearing ‘R’ badges. As a ‘Regular’, this lady is wearing the silver Danish Cross badge – designed by the Danish Queen Alexandra herself. The cross sits within a laurel wreath and is inscribed with the Corps motto – Sub Cruce Candida (Under the White Cross) surmounted by a crown. On the lower portion of the wreath a scroll inscribed “QARANC”.
1st/Front Row Nos. 49 – 64 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. RESERVE SISTERS