Female medical officers in WW1?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Quartz, May 11, 2009.

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  1. I hope I can impose upon you to help a civvie. I've lurked for some years - got clued in at Messybeast - but never posted until now.

    Family history has it that my grandmother, Dr CMC MacNeil, was an officer in WW1. One of the first female officers, allegedly. Unfortunately I find myself unable to get any details. She died when I was small, and was apparently rather traumatised by events and barely spoke of it to her children.

    She was a doctor, initially at Seafield, then later somewhere in France, where she may have practiced as a surgeon.

    She held a sketchbook for the use of her patients and I've put scans here.

    I've been in contact with the National Archive at Kew who say they destroyed these sort of records in the 1920s, and other records were destroyed during WW2. I've checked with the RAMC and FANY who have no record of her. Where should I go from here? Is it possible she was commissioned into the French or Belgian military?

    My father is most adamant about her having been an officer, as are other members of the family who knew her, and it would be nice to get complete details.
  2. From the Western Front Association site http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-on-land/78-cas-med/356-r-a-m-c.html

  3. What a magnificent sketch-book!
  4. Nothing's turned up. Is it possible she was an officer in a foreign military - French or Belgian? How would I find out?

    Edit: the GMC have outsourced their history files to a service which wants money, which I don't have at the moment.
  5. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Which one?
  6. Ancestry.co.uk
  7. When I first read this thread I looked on Ancestry for a medal card for her, and there wasn't one.

    Looking on there today, I assume she was Celia Mary Colquhoun MacNeil, of 124 The Terrace, Richmond, Surrey, registered 12 July 1913, MB ChB Uni. Edinburgh. If you want specifics let me know, and I'll have a poke around.

    I can't find anything else anywhere in the military records on the site that mentions her.
  8. Try the Museum at Keogh Bks, I'm not at work at the moment due to some family matters so can't find the contact details just now. I'm sure someone here can find them though.
  9. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    Cracking album - might she have been with the Red Cross or St Johns Ambulance? She may have had medals from them. With regard to her being an officer as a doctor she would most lickley have been referred to or even appointed as an MO - Medical Officer by whoever she was working for without being a commissioned military officer.
  10. A lot of the sketches mention "Leith War Hospital", presumably as the soldiers' posting. The CWGC identifies this as Leith Infirmary; it is very probable that it was later called Leith Hospital.

    Another sketch in the album mentions Seafield War Hospital; this site (with pictures and maps) indicates that this was a wartime conversion of the Seafield Road Poorhouse (not to be confused with Seafield Hospital in Morayshire), and in 1930 became the Eastern General Hospital (as an aside, I was sent there for an X-ray just before it closed...). These two sites are quite close together.

    This short history of Leith Hospital
    states that it was used by Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake for teaching female medical students - given that angular's helpful information tells us that Dr. MacNeil graduated from Edinburgh University in 1913, it's possible that she trained there and was a doctor there come wartime.

    The "Edinburgh in Pictures" website has an article on Leith Hospital - it contains links to the NHS records for the hospital.

    You could try talking to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; and to Edinburgh University. Otherwise, I'm all googled out...

    ...not quite - here's Leith Hospital on Streetview... and here's a link to the Lothian Health Board archives for Leith Hospital.

    ...While the panorama sketched by T.M.Scott from the 5th Durham Light Infantry (150 Bde, 50 Div) is of the battlefield at Worlencourt, with a view to Le Sars and the Butte de Worlencourt. You could attempt to date it as "no later than" the last date that the Butte was captured.
  11. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Could be the lady, married Cromwell Stephens 1st qtr 1923.

    What a great Christian name.
  12. also may be worth contacting http://www.nms.ac.uk/our_museums/war_museum.aspx

    I saw a photo of a FANY with a medal when I was there so may be worth asking them
  13. I've seen plenty of photo's of fannies wearing medals, but I think we may be talking about different fannies.
  14. Yes, and I thought it might have been a double marriage at the Church but, I reckon that the transcribers at www.freebmd.org.uk got it wrong in one instance!

    Marriages Mar 1923

    Hessey Lilian L Pye Chelsea 1a 668
    Pye George T I Hessey Chelsea 1a 668

    MacNeil Celia M C Stephens Chelsea 1a 668
    MacNeil Mary C Stephens Chelsea 1a 668
    Stephens Cromwell A MacNeil Chelsea 1a 668

    No trace of a birth for her, so it either hasn't been transcribed or she wasn't born in England and Wales.