Remembrance: Queenswood During the Great War
Thursday 10 November 2022
Left to right: poppy displays created by boarders in Centre, Stamp and Trew House
In Chapel on Wednesday, we reflected on the generosity and self-sacrifice of Queenswood girls and their families during the First World War. The following extracts from the school’s official history were read by members of the Senior Prefect Team.
Some Queenswood girls served as nurses but all were keen to get involved and help the war effort. In the spring of 1915, girls decided to forego their prizes and bursaries in order that some war funds might benefit from this considerable sum of money. Further money was raised by concerts and fund raising activities. Soon, enough money was raised to donate two ambulances to the war.
Miss Trew received the following letter from the War Office.
9 August 1915
With reference to your letter concerning the generous gift of the Queenswood School of two ambulances for service with the British Army in the Field, I am directed to inform you that arrangements have now been made to obtain two of a light type in fulfilment of this gift, and for an inscription as undermentioned to be painted on each side of both vehicles: --
‘Presented by the Queenswood School, Clapham Park, S.W.,
For Service with the British Army in the Field.’
I am to say that, as it is thought that you would like to have copies of a photograph of each of these vehicles; arrangements have also been made for such to be provided, and they will be forwarded to you in due course.
Your obedient servant,
C. T. Holbrook
The War Office then sent the Ambulances to Queenswood where there was a service of dedication and then they went off as the representative of Queenswood to help the sick and wounded in Europe.
One of the Queenswood ambulances tending to the wounded in Salonika, Greece.
Various reports and sightings of the Queenswood ambulances are noted.
The following very touching letter, written to Q girls from the point of view of ‘Dick’, one of the ambulances, was printed in the Queenswood Chronicle (click the image to enlarge).
Queenswood was at its original site of Clapham during much of World War I but when the air raids in 1917 increased in severity and frequency it was decided to evacuate the school to The Hayes in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
It was possible to accommodate greater number of girls in the more spacious premises; large bedrooms were adapted as classroom, the conference hall was converted into a gymnasium, and there was no lack of space for games in the surrounding fields, where the school revelled in country life.
Once Queenswood was settled in Swanwick due to the London bombings, lessons resumed and school continued. The Headmistress, Miss Trew, wrote to the Old Queenswoodians:
‘In the paper this morning, I read of the great need for V.A.D. nurses, and although I am proud of the work my Old Girls are doing I wondered if anywhere there were one who was not doing all she could and I breathed a prayer that if so she might see the call and offer herself. I cannot think that any Queenswood girl could fail to respond to the call to tend the wounded, who have fought so gloriously for the liberties we enjoy.’
Evelyn Johnson was a Queenswood girl who became a nurse in World War I. In 1915, she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, serving in France from August 1915 to January 1919.
In April 1918 she was awarded the Military Medal. This was a rare honour for a woman: this medal was only instituted by George V in April 1916 for bravery and devotion under fire by non-commissioned officers and privates, but in June 1916 the honour was also to be given to women and Evelyn Johnson was the first Military Nurse to be so decorated.
The London Gazette said:
‘For gallantry, consistent good work and devotion to duty. When no 45 Casualty Clearing Station was struck by a bomb from an aircraft she displayed great courage and coolness, and set a splendid example to all, showing absolute disregard of danger.’
Miss Trew commented that this was a perfect example of Q self-control.