A Nurse of the First World War

Gertrude Emily Mary Reffell (1889-1955)

Staff Nurse Territorial Force Nursing Service/Territorial Army Nursing Service

Gertrude Emily Mary Reffell was born on 24 April 1889 at Islington to parents Edward Reffell (1851-1909) and Eunice (Minnie) Mason (1851-1892). They had married at St Marylebone on 17 January 1875. She was the eldest of two sisters and also had four step-brothers and one step-sister. Her grandfather was Henry Hatch Reffell. After her mother’s death, her father married Emily Louisa Fenton (1865-1916) at St James Fulham on 23 October 1892.

Gertrude Emily trained at the Wandsworth Infirmary (later the St James Infirmary) in Balham from 1911 to 1914, and was recorded in the 1911 census as an asylum nurse at Cane Hill Lunatic Asylum in Coulsdon Surrey. She joined the Territorial Force Nursing Service (the Territorial Army Nursing Service from 1921) as a staff nurse in 1916. The records show that she officially served for 3 years and 71 days. During her service she initially was posted to Glasgow to be near her dying step-mother, and then on to Plymouth to be near her step-sister who she then became responsible for. However, this later appointment did not turn out very well for her and she quickly returned to Camberwell. The records show her to be ‘steady, quite and a very good influence’. Gertrude never married and died in Stoke-on-Trent on 3 March 1955 aged 65.

An outline of her nursing history is shown below.
23 May 1916: Enrolled HQ Reserve
25 May 1916: 3 Scottish General Hospital, Glasgow
10 October 1916: 1 London General Hospital, Camberwell
1 January 1918: 4 Southern Hospital, Plymouth
8 April 1918: 1 London General Hospital, Camberwell
12 August 1919: Demobilised
10 June 1920: Permanently attached to 1 London General Hospital, Camberwell
1 July 1922: Appointed to be a Queen’s nurse
1926: Trained as a midwife
25 April 1935: Resigned and allowed to retain her badge

Many thanks are due to Sue Light of the ScarletFinders website. Service details taken from ‘Nursing Service Records’ series WO399 held in the National Archives at Kew.