Monday, 19 July 2021

Reverend Basil Pemberton Plumptre, MC (1883 - 1917) – British Army Chaplain

During the course of my research, I have collected a list of poets, writers, artists and chaplains who were awarded medals for exceptional bravery during the First World War (See Forgotten Poets weblog).   This one I found thanks to a post by The Reverend Nicholas Pye ( @RevdPye), setting me off on a research mission to find out more about Basil Plumptre MC

Basil was born in Claypole, Lincolnshire, UK in 1883.  His parents were the Rev. Charles Pemberton Plumptre, an Anglican Church Minister, and his wife Clara, nee Macdonald.  

According to the 1891 Census, the family lived in the Vicarage in Woodham Ferris, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where The Rev. Charles Plumptre was Rector.   The census records an interesting link to a female WW1 poet -  visitors at that time were Clara’s sister – Mary E. Cornford - with her son Francis M. Cornford (who was born in Eastbourne, Sussex in 1874).  In 1909, Basil’s cousin Francis Cornford (1874 – 1943) married the poet Frances Darwin, who was a daughter of Sir Francis Darwin and Ellen Wordsworth Darwin, née Crofts, and a granddaughter of Charles Darwin.  She is featured on the Female Poets weblog : (

Educated at South Eastern Collage Hollicondane, St Lawrence Intra, Thanet, Kent, Basil went on to study Theology at Ridley Hall College, Cambridge.  He was a curate at Bermondsey Old Parish Church when war broke out and he joined the Army Chaplain’s Department.  Seconded to the London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles), he was attached to the 1st/21st Batallion.

Basil was awarded a Military Cross in 1916 for gallantry and devotion in the field. He was killed by a shell on 16th July 1917, and was buried in La Clytte Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, Arrondissement Ieper, West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium, Grave Reference: PLOT II. F. 36.

The Reverend Basil Pemberton Plumptre MC is also commemorated on Sevenoaks War Memorial, Kent, where his parents were living at No. 11 South Park, at the time of his death.

Sources:   Find my Past, Free BMD,

Friday, 11 June 2021

A Teddy Bear in WW1

 From Paul Simadas via Facebook 10.6.21 and shared with his kind permission.

“A Teddy Bear in War.”

“Tell Aileen I still have the Teddy Bear and will try to hang on to it for her. It is dirty and his hind legs are kind of loose but he is still with me.” Wrote Lawrence Rogers, 5th Canadian Mountrd Rifles (the Quebec Regiment) in a letter to his wife September 1916.
Aileen Rogers, of East Farnham Quebec in Canada, was a ten year-old Canadian girl who had contracted polio at a young age which affected her ability to walk for much of her adult life. When her father, Lawrence Browning Rogers, enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915 to fight in the Great War, she sent her beloved teddy bear overseas to help protect him.

Lawrence served initially as a medic in the 5th CMR and was awarded the Military Medal for bringing in wounded near Sanctuary Wood in Belgium. He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant and undertook regimental service in the 5th CMR as officer-in-charge Stretcher Bearer parties.
Lawrence Robers in WW1

Despite the good-luck provided by his daughter’s bear, Lawrence was killed in action at Passchendale in late 1917. When Lt. Roger’s body was recovered by his comrades, the bear was found in one of his pockets. The bear was returned to his family in Quebec and was treasured by Aileen for many years.
Aileen went on to graduate as a registered nurse from the Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing. Her distinguished nursing career culminated in her appointment as head of health services at McGill University. Aileen lived in Montreal until her death on June 20th 1998.
Several years later, Aileen’s daughter, Roberta Rogers Innes, the granddaughter of Lawrence, found an old briefcase. Inside was the beloved teddy bear, along with collected letters and other war memorabilia. Roberta subsequently donated the teddy bear to the Canadian War Museum, where it is now one of the Museum's most beloved artifacts.
A book telling this poignant story has since been published: “A Bear in War” by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat, illustrated by Brian Deines.
Pictures of the teddy bear, of Lawrence as a medic in WW1 and of Aileen as a RN in her post-war nursing career.
Lest we forget

Aileen Rogers

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

repatriation of American service personnel who were killed or died serving on the Western Front during the First World War.

An article by Michael E. Ruane in “The New York Times” of 30th May 2021, informs us about a book telling the story of the repatriation of  the bodies of American service personnel who were killed or died serving on the Western Front during the First World War.  I did not realise there were so many - in the region of 100,000 - nor that this was such a huge post-war operation. 

It must have been harrowing and arduous work to try to find, disinter and identify the bodies of those whose families chose to have their bodies taken home.  The task was undertaken by 6,000 African American soldiers in labour battalions.  Conditions for those involved must have been appaling, for we know from the words and paintings of Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton of the terrible state of the Western Front once the fighting had ended.  Mary lived for three years in that desolate landscape, in a tin hut.  Nearby were membes of the Chinese Labour Corps who undertook the task of clearing the area following hostilities. 

A painting by Mary Riter Hamilton

“Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919-1933” by Lisa M. Budreau Published by: NYU Press, New York, 2009

For further information on Mary Riter Hamilton: 

Monday, 10 May 2021

A photograph of patients in Coulter Hospital London in 1915 from Philippe Clerbout, prompted a discussion about toy bears in WW1.

During WW1 J.K. Farnell (known as the 'English Steiff' by collectors) produced tiny 3.5in high bears which they called 'Mascot Bears'. They were given as gifts and taken to the Front by soldiers, as mementos of home and loved ones. Farnell began producing the bears in 1906. 

The origin of 'teddy' bears - When US president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was asked to arbitrate a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana in 1902, the governor of Mississippi Andrew H. Longino, hoping to curry favour, also invited him to take part in a bear hunt. Logino knew that Roosevelt was a fan of big-game hunting and had evenwritten a book on his hunting adventures in the wild west.

But when Roosevelt turned up for the hunt he was unable to bag any quarry, so Longino ordered the president’s men to capture a bear. They found a cub, ran it to exhaustion with their hunting dogs, clubbed it, then tied it up so the president would be unable to miss. But Roosevelt refused to take a shot, asking that the bear be put down humanely.

In 1902, Washington Post cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted the incident showing a little bear with a rope around its neck and Roosevelt in the foreground refusing to kill it. The caption read “Drawing the line in Mississippi”.  

The 1902 cartoon showed US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt refusing to shoot a small bear.

The cartoon inspired Brooklyn sweetship owner, Russian Jewish immigrant Morris Michtom, to create a toy bear to decorate his shop window. He called it “Teddy’s bear”. Michtom and his wife Rose made stuffed animal toys as a sideline to their sweets business and were soon inundated with requests from customers to buy the bear.

Photo credit: Army Museum of Western Australia.

The Coulter Hospital opened in September 1915 in a house in Grosvenor Square lent by Sir Walpole Greenwell (1847-1919). Accepted by the War Office as a primary hospital affiliated to Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital at Millbank, it had 100 beds for officers.  The rooms were large and lofty.  One of these was an 'Australian Room' and some of the beds were funded by Australian donors.  The medical staff were mostly consultants from Guy's Hospital and the Middlesex Hospital, but also included an Australian resident surgeon.  The nursing staff comprised 11 nurses, 6 of whom were Australian, and 10 members of a local Voluntary Aid Detachment, whose Commandant was Lady Juliet Duff (1881-1965).

The Hospital was founded by Mrs Charlotte Herbine, an American psychic from Indianapolis, who raised money to fund the hospital while visiting the Exposition in San Francisco.  The Hospital was named after Dr Coulter, the spirit of a family physician with whom Mrs Herbine had communicated with since she was a child.  Dr Coulter had directed her to go to England as he wanted to contact certain Englishmen.

Photo credit: Army Museum of Western Australia. 

Monday, 8 February 2021

Lawrence Bruce Robertson (1885 – 1923) and Oswald Hope Robertson (1886 – 1966) – pioneers of blood transfusions in WW1

I was fascinated to discover that the two pioneers of blood transfusion had the same surname

Lawrence Bruce Robertson was born on 6th September 1885 in Toronto, Canada. He was the third son of Alexander James Robertson, a manufacturer’s agent, and hi wife, Julia Dalmage, nee Carry. Educated at the Toronto Model School, Upper Canada College, University College (BA 1907), and the faculty of medicine of the University of Toronto (MB 1909), Lawrence became an intern in surgery at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, of which his uncle John Ross Robertson was board chairman. Lawrence then trained for a year and a half in paediatric and orthopaedic surgery at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, then spent six months as house surgeon at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. In 1913 he returned to Toronto as an assistant in both clinical surgery and pathology at Sick Children’s as well as a demonstrator in clinical surgery at the university.

When war broke out, Lawrence enlisted in November 1914 in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was commissioned a lieutenant.  He was posted to the hospital at the training camp on the Toronto exhibition grounds. The Canadian Army Medical Corps’s No.2 Casualty Clearing Station was being organized with area officers and medical students from the university so Lawrence enrolled for overseas service and embarked from Halifax with the Unit on 18 April 1915.

Indirect blood transfusion, which Lawrence had learned in New York and applied in Toronto, helped save thousands of patients in military hospitals at the front. Lawrence was the pioneer who introduced the technique to the British army’s medical personnel, and through former colleagues also on military service, to other Canadian hospitals overseas. 

Lawrence first applied the technique during the Autumn of 1915, while working at No.14 Canadian General Hospital, on soldiers who had received severe shrapnel wounds. The results were published in the British Medical Journal (London) some months later. His work in 1916 and 1917, most of it with his original unit, No.2 CCS, was reported in other papers. One, in 1917, included an appreciative note by the consulting surgeon to the British Expeditionary Force, Colonel Charles Gordon Watson, who, confident that the methods of transfusion would improve even more “under the stimulus of war,” urged “other surgeons to increased activity in the practice of this life-saving device.” Robertson’s major paper, “A contribution on blood transfusion in war surgery,” was published in Lancet (London) in June 1918.

In October 1917, due to a shortage of surgeons at the Hospital for Sick Children back in Canada, President Sir Robert Alexander Falconer* of the University of Toronto requested that Robertson, who by then was a Major in the CAMC, be sent home. Following his return in February 1918, he resumed his work at Sick Children’s and the university and accepted a posting to the CAMC’s Dominion Orthopaedic Hospital in Toronto. At Sick Children’s, where he was part of a group of brilliant young surgeons which included William Edward Gallie and David Edwin Robertson, he continued his clinical research, using blood transfusion as a treatment for toxemias in children caused, in many instances, by severe burns. In addition, he followed up on two cases of heavy carbon monoxide poisoning in soldiers he had treated at the front in 1916. 

Lawrence married Enid Finley, who served with the Volunteer Aid Detachment on 17th April 1920 at Hart House at the university. In early February 1923 he contracted influenza and was hospitalized. Apparently recovered, he returned to his home and family on Foxbar Road, but on 17th he developed pneumonia. A week later, at age 37, Bruce Robertson, soldier and surgeon, died.

WW1 Blood Transfusion set

 Oswald Hope Robertson (1886 – 1966

Oswald Hope Robertson was born on 2nd June 1886 in Woolwich in south-east London, UK. When he was a baby, his parents went to live in California, settling in the San Joaquin Valley. Oswald attended local schools in Dinuba and the Polytechnic High School in San Francisco.

His plan to study basic biology was changed by a meeting with an American medical student while on holiday in Germany. After attending some lectures on anatomy, he decided to study medicine and enrolled at the University of California in 1906, going on to study at Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.  His studies were curtailed during the First World War when he was called up to join medical teams in France. While working in France,Oswald experimented with preserving human blood cells for use in blood transfusions, and became recognised as the inventor of the blood bank.

When the war ended, Oswald accepted an associate professorship at the Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, China. He became a Full Professor at the institution in 1923. In 1927 he returned to USA, and accepted a position as head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Oswald remained at Chicago until retiring to Emeritus status in 1951. Lawrence then went back to California where he died in Santa Cruz on 23rd March 1966.  His work is commemorated with the Robertson Blood Center, Fort Hood TX. 


Sunday, 20 December 2020

Robert Julian Yeatman MC (15 July 1897 – 13 July 1968) - a British humorist

Have you read the book “1066 and all that”? It was written by Robert Julian Yeatman MC (15 July 1897 – 13 July 1968) - a British humorist who wrote for “Punch” magazine. 

Robert was born in Oporto, the principal city and port of northern Portugal, where his father was a wine merchant in the family business connected with Taylor's Port.  His parents were Harry Oswall Yeatman and his wife, Benedicta Katherine, nee Page.  Educated at Fonthill Lodge School, East Grinstead, Robert was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in 1914, the rank being confirmed in January 1916. He was awarded the Military Cross and m ust have been wounded for he spent time at Polsden Lacey Convalescent Hospital.  After the war, Robert went up to Oriel College, Oxford University.  He went on to work in the advertising industry, advertising manager for Kodak Ltd.

With thanks to Janet Durbin for her research into Polesden Lacey, an Edwardian house and estate, located on the North Downs at Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey, UK, which became a Convalescent Hospital for Officers during WW1. In 1915 Mrs Greville was asked to take in wounded officers at Polesden Lacey. Large parts of the house became a convalescence home, staffed by military and volunteer nurses and Mrs Greville’s domestic servants.

Sources: Wikipedia, Find my Past and

Friday, 23 October 2020

Fascinating WW1 facts in this book "An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War 1" by Chris Dubbs

One of the most amazing things I learnt from Chris Dubbs fascinating book "An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War 1" (Potomac Books, Nebraska, 2020) concerns the Italian electrical engineer Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi FRSA (1874 – 1937).

Marconi pioneered research into long-distance radio but that nearly didn’t take place.   Find out what happened to him during WW1 on pages 168 – 171.

"An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War 1" by Chris Dubbs (Potomac Books, Nebraska, 2020).

For a full review of the book, please see Inspirational Women of WW1 weblog.