The Forgotten Female Casualties of WW1

Over the coming months we will be telling the stories of some of the Cheltenham women who died as a result of their work at Voluntary Aid hospitals during WW1.

Nurse Anna Madeline Shaw, known as “Lena “ was born in 1884 in Harbourne, Staffordshire. She is one of Cheltenham’s forgotten female WW1 casualties who died of illness contracted whilst on duty as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse.

Her father John Hall Shaw (a Minister) married her Mother Georgette Tinson in 1880. This was Rev Hall Shaw’s second marriage. Rev John Hall Shaw died in 1897 when Anna was just 13. Anna had two sisters and a stepbrother Edward who also died in 1897. Edward Shaw shares a grave with his mother Fanny Shaw in the Cheltenham Cemetery.

Anna started work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment, VAD nurse in May 1915 although it is believed that she had worked as a nurse within the local community prior to this date.

New Court. No16 VAD Hospital was opened in 21st October 1914 .The first Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital in Cheltenham. Initially providing 50 beds however in 1916 an extension of a wooden room was completed. This was named The Fleming Ward. The extension increased the capacity of beds within the hospital to 102 beds (77 beds at New Court and 25 beds at Cleeve) as the demand for convalescent beds also increased. The Hospital closed on December 18th 1918. It is interesting to note that 22 members of the original staff remained until its closure .This stands as a testament of the care and devotion from the staff and the environment in which they worked.

Throughout the period that New Court was as VAD hospital it treated 1697 casualties. There were 8 reported deaths during this time however as a Class B Hospital it would have taken cases not considered to have sustained life-threatening conditions as apposed to Class A Military treatment Hospital.

The Imperial War Museum, IWM reports that Anna died from poisoning relating to influenza which she contracted whist on duty at the Hospital. She died at her family home of 17 Lypiatt Terrace, Cheltenham.

The local newspaper The Gloucestershire Echo reported:

The interment took place with military honours on Wednesday afternoon in the Cheltenham Cemetery, of Miss Anna Madeline (Lena) Shaw, one of the nursing staff at the New Court Red Cross Hospital, Cheltenham, who died at her home, 17 Lypiatt-terrace, on Friday last of complications following upon a severe attack of influenza. Miss Shaw was a daughter of the late Rev. John Hall Shaw and Mrs. Shaw, and her father will be remembered by many as a former curate of the Parish Church (1870-74) and later (1884-86) of Holy Trinity Church. Between these two curacies he was vicar of Horsley, Gloucestershire, and later he became vicar of Ventnor, Isle of Wight.

 Miss Shaw’s untimely death – she was only 33 years of age – will be greatly felt amongst a wide circle in Cheltenham.

Since May, 1915, she had been on the nursing staff of New Court Hospital; but long before the war had caused her to take up hospital duties she was a most zealous and kindly worker amongst the poor of the town. To the hospital her loss is most grievous, for by all there, both staff and patients, she was regarded with affection and admiration. Though only taking up hospital nursing since the war began, she soon showed a very special capacity. This, together with her devoted attention to duty and her gentle unassuming nature, gave her a place in the hearts of all those amongst whom she worked. She was given the honour of a military funeral in appreciation of the fact that she died while doing her duty to her country at this time of need. She was one of those who voluntarily gave her services, with no thought of temporal reward, but she leaves behind her an example and an incentive to others the value of which can scarcely be exaggerated.

The British Journal of Nursing – 17th March 1917:
Full military honours were accorded to the late Miss Anna Madeline Shaw, for two years a nurse at one of the Cheltenham hospitals for wounded soldiers. She was the daughter of the late Rev. John Hall Shaw, formerly of Cheltenham, but many years vicar of Ventnor. Fifty wounded soldiers formed a guard of honour, and the Army Service Corps provided a firing party and buglers.

Nurse Anna Shaw aka Lena is believed to be commemorated on the War Memorial at All Saints Church, All Saints Rd. Cheltenham as A Shaw however the name is no longer visible due to general deterioration of the stone work.

Nurse Anna Shaw is also listed on the Nursing Memorial which was recently unveiled by the Countess of Wessex at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 4th June 2018.


Article written by Sue Williams of the charity Wenches in Trenches 

References :-

  • IWM org Lena Shaw Memorial and Life story
  • Nursing Memorial Appeal
  • The British Journal of Nursing – 17th March 1917
  • Remembering women on the home front ww1 following a request for information




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