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Tale of town war nurse to be told in new book

By UttoxeterPostandTimes.3522974.UttoxeterPostandTimes  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

Uttoxeter War Memorial

Uttoxeter War Memorial

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THE story of a Uttoxeter woman who volunteered as a nurse in World War One before dying at aged just 23 is set to feature in a new book.

Christine Stewart, of Market Square, is the only woman to be found on any of the town’s war memorials after giving up her position as a governess to help the soldier injured in the horrific war by volunteering to become a VAD nurse at the Southern Military Hospital, in Stourbridge, from May 1918.

The hospital had beds for hundred of sick and wounded soldiers and it was while working here that she picked up Spanish influenza which led to her death a day later on October 26, 1918, at a young age.

She was one of a few nurses that fell victim of the epidemic which was described as coming on with a ‘painful suddenness’.

According to a report in the Advertiser on November 6, 1918, Miss Stewart was afforded semi-military honours at her funeral including the Union Jack draped over her coffin with the service led by Leslie Knights-Smith, who lost both of his sons as a result of the war.

Her obituary said she was ‘imbued with that sense of patriotism which was pervaded every section of the community since the outbreak of war’ and that ‘she showed much patience and tenderness to the soldier patients under her care’.

Miss Stewart, who was born in 1895, was the daughter of George and Emma Stewart and was one of seven children living in the family home.

Her unique story was discovered by historians Jean Weston and Marlene Price while they were researching for their book Age Shall Not Weary Them: Remembering the soldiers of the Great War in the Lye & Wollescote Cemetery which is due to be published this year by the West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As well as the story of Miss Stewart, the book will feature 29 World War One soldiers, who were aged between 19 and 37.

They are connected with the Lye and Wollescote Cemetery, near Stourbridge, 15 of whom are buried in Commonwealth War Graves in the cemetery and another 14 who were killed in action on the Western Front and whose names are commemorated on family graves.

Miss Stewart will feature in a chapter highlighting the treatment of wounded soldiers in local hospitals.

Mrs Weston told the Advertiser: “We were looking on the internet for more on the VAD nurses when we came across Christine Stewart and it was like finding gold at the end of a rainbow for us.

“We thought she has got to be included in the new book and we even found her headstone in Uttoxeter Cemetery.

“She had such a good story and only a few weeks after her death another soldier died of influenza at the hospital. There was nothing on her in the local newspaper here and we scoured it for more information.”

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