Friday 19 November 2021

Richard Bell-Davies, VA (1886 - 1966) Royal Naval Air Service aviator who later became Vice Admiral Richard Bell Davies, VC, CB, DSO, AFC

Found on Twitter from Revd Nicholas Pye @RevdPye

Born in Kensington, London, UK in 1886, Richard enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1901, took flying lessons in 1910 and in 1913 joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a pilot.

On 19th November 1915, during a raid in Bulgaria, Richard Bell-Davies rescued pilot Fl SLt Gilbert Smylie, who had been shot down near Ferrijik Junction.

Richard swooped down in his plane, landed, grabbed hold of Symlie and hauled him on board his plane to safety, as the Ottomans attacked again.

That was the first ever combat search and rescue operation and Richard Bell-Davies was awarded a Victoria Cross (V.C.) for his action.

Artwork: "Richard Bell-Davies, VC, Rescues Gilbert Formby Smylie at Ferrijik Junction, Bulgaria, 19 November 1915" painted by Kenneth A. McDonough (1921–2002)

Credit: Fleet Air Arm Museum

Sunday 14 November 2021

Book Review: “Royal Flying Corps Kitbag: Aircrew Uniforms & Equipment from the War over the Western Front in WW1” by Mark Hillier (Frontline Books – an imprint of Pen and Sword Books Ltd., Yorkshire, 2020)

Having read several books about First World War aviators and researched aviator poets for my commemorative exhibitions, I was very keen to find out more about the equipment needed in those early days of flight.  In this book, Mark Hillier has collected the most wonderful information about the uniforms and equipment that aircrew required to stay safely in the skies over the Western Front.

After admiring the front cover photograph, the first thing I discovered was on one of the first inside pages that the Latin motto of Britain’s Royal Air Force – “Per ardua ad astra” (Translation By hard work we reach the stars), which was the motto used by my primary school when I was there – was approved as the motto of the Royal Flying Corps, as the RAF was initially known, by King George V on 15th March 1913, and confirmed by Army Order No. 111”.

As an aside, due to my interest in the role of women in WW1, I was interested to note on page vi that the book is dedicated to the author’s family members, among them Nurse Memie Gwendolin Stephenson, who was a volunteer ambulance driver with the Red Cross.

Although Mark goes into great detail about equipment, he also explains the history of Britain’s military aviators and the background to the formation of the Royal Flying Cops.  

In the Introduction I noticed that “keeping warm was not just about creature comforts, but maintaining alertness which meant the odds of surviving increased on long or high-altitude sorties.”  Mark explains that “The focus was on the art of flying, and it was an art form at this time rather than a science.” (pp. viii and ix).

I found the chapters on flying clothing, flying equiment, unforms, rank, badges, insignia and buttons utterly fascinating.  They are chock full of the most wonderful photographs – many of them from Mark’s private collection - information, explanations and contemporary advertisements. “It seems that by August 1917 the RFC had started to adopt some electrically heated clothing.” (p. 93).   It is a real eye-opener to read about the trials and tribulations involved in finding out which clothes, goggles, gloves, helmets and boots, etc. were the best in those early days of flight, which were difficult enough without being shot at, and the research and testing necessary to manufacture them.

There are also chapters on paperwork and documents and on the transition from the Royal Flying Corps to the Royal Air Force.   With appendices, notes and an extensive bibliography, this is a book you will want to refer to again and again.

For further information about this and other wonderful books from Pen & Sword please see their website:

Lucy  London

Saturday 6 November 2021

"Twelve Secret Voices" A Hand-made mystery bedspread from World War One

In November 2018, Anne Schuermans was in a charity shop in Wales, UK, rummaging through a bag of white goods, looking for a tablecloth for Christmas Day, when she came across a rather unusual embroidered double bedspread. Anne tells us:  "The bedspread was unusual because the embroidery was not of baskets, seasons, flowers or bonneted ladies. There wasn’t even a bird or bow!  The embroidery was of REGIMENTAL BADGES!   Twelve in total, representing assorted units from seven commonwealth countries!

When my husband Damian and I identified them, another unique fact came to light - they were all active in World War One! Now we were REALLY intrigued!

This amazing bedspread helped us through 2020 by taking us on an international and often time- travelling adventure, including 1914 Ypres, a British actor in Hollywood, an Irish Convent, Chequers (yes - THAT one) and to numerous historic professional organisations.

And all because there is NO clue on it of WHO, WHERE, WHY, WHEN etc. it was made! NOTHING AT ALL!

These questions inspired us to write a book about our adventure and we are pleased that this beautiful article is now in a public collection for all to enjoy.  We have called the book .

"TWELVE SECRET VOICES:  A true World War One mystery" 


£10 plus p&p worldwide from

Anne and Damian"

Wow! I will definitely have to get a copy of this! 

Tuesday 19 October 2021

John B. McDowell, MC, BEM (1877 – 1954) – British film maker, director and cameraman during WW1

John Benjamin McDowell was born in Plumstead, London, UK on 22nd December 1877.  His parents were George McDowell and his wife Susan, nee Franklin. He had a brother, George, who was born in 1882.

When he was fifteen, John began an apprenticeship as an engineer at Woolwich Arsenal, who manufactured armaments, munitions and explosives.  By 1898 he was working as a cameraman, projectionist and electrician for ‘The  British Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate’, often showing  Biograph films of the Boer War at the Palace Theatre in London. 

John married Emily Ada White in 1900 and the couple lived in Deptford before moving to Willesden. On the 1901 Census, John described  himself a Biograph operator at the Palace Theatre, London.

In early 1908, John went into partnership with a former colleague and formed the ‘British and Colonial Kinematograph Company’ (B & C) producing news, documentaries and short comedies.

When the First World War broke out, John joined the voluntary home defence militia The Volunteer Training Corps. He negotiated for the rights to film the war – he was the signatory for ‘B & C’. In June 1916 after one of the two ‘Official War Office Kinematographers’ who had been authorised to film the allied armies in action in France was invalided home, John volunteered to replace him. While still a civilian, he travelled to the Western Front and worke with the other official cameraman, Geoffrey H. Malins, in the battlefields of the Somme. The officer in charge noted that, during the filming, “Mr McDowell ran considerable risks. I have seen him have very narrow escapes, notably from machine gun-bullets…when trying to cross no man’s land…and several times from shells….he has also been gassed”.

John then worked on several more film productions for the War Office including newsreels and the major films - ‘The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks’ and ‘The German Retreat and The Battle of Arras’.  In April 1918, although still a civilian, he was put in charge of the movements of all the cameramen on the Western Front. In June 1918, both he and Geoffrey Malins were awarded the ‘Medal of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ (known as the ‘BEM’ from 1922) for ‘courage and devotion to duty’. John was then commissioned as a Lieutenant in July 1918 when he was also awarded the ‘Military Cross’ for ‘courage under fire’. 

Filming King George V during his
visit to the Western Front, 1916

Note:  The Volunteer Training Corps was a voluntary home defence militia in the United Kingdom during the First World War, formed following a demand for a means of service for those men who were over military age or those with business or family commitments which made it difficult for them to volunteer for the armed services. At that stage of the war, Britain had on a voluntary system of enlistment and many men still held to the Victorian principle that it was the task of professional troops to fight a war, while voluntary militias provided for home defence.  Consequently, civilian local defence groups began to spring up spontaneously as soon as war was declared.

The volunteer movement gained publicity from letters and articles in newspapers advocating civilian participation in home defence, with notable proponents being Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells.  Harold Tennant, Under-Secretary of State for War, realising that the government could do little to prevent them, decided in September 1914 to allow the Central Committee of the London Volunteer Defence Force to continue. Lord Desborough became the President of the Association and General Sir O'Moore Creagh VC was appointed the Military Advisor. In November, the association was officially recognised as the administrative body of the VTC and formally subjected to conditions which prevented interference with recruitment into the regular army, barred members from holding military rank or wearing uniforms other than an armband and denied any state funding. The Volunteer Training Corps was suspended in December 1918, and officially disbanded in January 1920, with the exception of the Volunteer Motor Corps, which was retained until April 1921 in case of civil disorder.

Photographs: John McDowell on the Western Front and

John McDowell filimg King George V during his visit to British forces on the Western Front, 8-15 August 1916.

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD and

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Frank Maurice Jephson, ARCO (1886 - 1917) – British composer and organist

With thanks to Ciaran Conlan for telling us about Frank who was the only composer/musician in the list Ciaran sent me who was not on my list.  If anyone has a photograph of Frank please get in touch 

Frank Maurice Jephson was born into a musical family in Derby, Derbyshire, UK, the birth being registered in the first quarter of 1886.  His parents were Thomas Jephson, a coal merchant, and his wife, Emma H. Jephson, nee Raynolds and the family lived in Handel House, Curzon Street, St. Werburgh, Derby, which was built by Frank’s grandfather, John Jephson. Frank’s great grandfather was a music teacher and his great great grandfather was the organist at Alfreton Parish Church in Derbyshire.

Frank initially studied music with Mr S. Neville Cox.  On the 1901 Census - when he was fifteen - Frank is recorded as boarding in Kensington, London, along with John H. Williams, a professor of music from Lincolnshire, with whom Frank also studied music.  Frank’s music teacher, John Williams, was organist and choirmaster of Westbourne Park Baptist Church. In 1902, Frank became Assistant organist of the Westbourne Park Church and at the age of eighteen, Frank obtained his Associateship Diploma (ARCO) from the Royal College of Music – which demonstrates high achievement in organ playing and supporting theoretical work.

In 1904, Frank became the organist of Richmond-upon-Thames Presbyterian Church and in 1910 he married Margaret Kathleen Davis.  The couple lived in Acton, London, before moving to Richmond.   

In 1916, Frank joined the 1st/5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) as Rifleman No. 303040.  He was posted to France, where, according to a newspaper report, he was apparently commissioned, although I cannot find anything to back that up.  Frank was badly wounded fighting in France on 19th April 1917 and died of his wounds on 20th April 1917.  He was buried in Etaples Military Cemetary, France, Grave reference XIX. E. 5 and is also remembered on St Mary Magdalene Church - WW1 Roll Of Honour (WMR 12510) - in Richmond, now in Greater London, UK.

List of works by F. Maurice Jephson held by the British Library, which (except where noted) are for piano and were published by the London firm Joseph Williams:

Arabesque (1913)

Autumn "romance for piano" (1912)

Brownies: two short pieces for the piano (1924)

A Country Dance/A Woodland Dance (1927)

Danse Humoresque (1913)

"Dear golden Days" a song with words by P. J. O'Reilly (London: Novello & Co, 1918)

Five Pieces for Piano (1911)

Gaudeamus, for organ (London: The Organ Loft, 1911)

Hunting Song (1911)

Idyll (1912)

Impromptu (1911),

Marionettes "A Characteristic Sketch for the Piano" (1912)

Melody (1911)

"My Scotch Lassie" song with words by F. G. Bowles (J. Williams, 1914)

On the Hill-side (1917)

Postlude in C minor for Organ (reprinted by Bardic Music, 2002)

"Send back my long stray'd eyes to me" for male voice choir (TTBB) words by John Donne (Joseph Williams, c1930.)

Six Easy Pieces (On the Hillside, The Tin Soldier, Minuet, The Irish Piper, A Country Dance, Harlequin) (1914)

Two Little Waltzes (Joseph Williams, c1924)

Waltz in C (1911)

Sources:  Find my Past

Derby Daily Telegraph, 12th July 1935 and

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Charles Dennis Fisher (1877 – 1916) - British Academic

Charles in WW1
Charles Dennis Fisher was born on 19th June 1877 in Blatchington Court, Blatchington, Sussex, UK. He was baptised in East Blatchington on 4th August 1877.  Charles was the ninth of eleven children born to Herbert William Fisher (1826–1903) and his wife Mary Louisa (née Jackson) (1841–1916). 

Some of his siblings were: H. A. L. Fisher, historian and Minister of Education; Admiral Sir William Wordsworth Fisher, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet; Florence Henrietta, Lady Darwin, playwright and wife of Sir Francis Darwin (son of Charles Darwin); and Adeline Vaughan Williams, wife of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was also the brother of Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), who was the wife of the author, critic and journalist Richard Curle and the mother of the academic Adam Curle. 

Educated at Westminster School, Charles went on to Christ Church, Oxford in 1896, where he gained his B.A. in 1900 and his M.A. in 1903.  He then Senior Censor at Christ Church from 1910 to 1914.

NOTE The Senior Censor is responsible for academic matters, including requests for course changes or suspension of studies, general concerns and complaints about academic work which cannot be resolved by your Tutor, and academic discipline.

When war broke out in 1914, Charles learnt to drive a vehicle before joining the Royal Army Medical Corps Motor Ambulance.  He served on the Western Front as an orderly and interpreter, distinguishing himself for bravery under fire.

Following a training period, Charles joined the Royal Navy in August 1915 becoming a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was serving aboard HMS "Invincible", the flagship of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron during the Battle of Jutland, when she was sunk on 31st May 1916 with the loss of 1,026 lives.

HMS "Invincible" explosion
Naval History. United States Naval Institute. 

Charles is remembered on the Roll of Honour at Christ Church College, Oxford.

Robert Bridges, Britain's Poet Laureate during WW1, dedicated the following verse to Fisher following his death:

Over the warring waters, beneath the wandering skies

The heart of Britain roameth, the Chivalry of the sea,

Where Spring never bringeth a flower, nor bird singeth in a tree;

Far, afar, O beloved, beyond the sight of our eyes,

Over the warring waters, beneath the stormy skies.

Staunch and valiant-hearted, to whom our toil were play,

Ye man with armour’d patience the bulwarks night and day,

Or on your iron coursers plough shuddering through the Bay,

Or neath the deluge drive the skirmishing sharks of war:

Venturous boys who leapt on the pinnace and row’d from shore,

A mother’s tear in the eye, a swift farewell to say.

And a great glory at heart that none can take away.

Seldom is your home-coming; for aye your pennon flies

In unrecorded exploits on the tumultuous wave;

Till, in the storm of battle, fast-thundering upon the foe,

Ye add your kindred names to the heroes of long-ago,

And mid the blasting wrack, in the glad sudden death of the brave,

Ye are gone to return no more.-Idly our tears arise;

Too proud for praise as ye lie in your unvisited grave,

The wide-warring water, under the starry skies.

By Robert Bridges.

Sources:  Article from "The Westminster Gazette" 3rd November 1916 - sent to me by Historian Debbie Cameron.

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.