An Essex Heroine, nurse Kate Luard

Our guest blog is written by Caroline Stevens, Great Niece of Kate Evelyn Luard. If you came to our event back in November you may recall Archivist Allyson Lewis showing us a sketch that Kate, or Evelyn/Evie to her family & friends, had drawn of her tent in the field. There will soon be a book released about her life, entitled Unknown Warriors and Caroline will share more nearer the time. Watch this space…

Katherine Evelyn Luard was born in 1872, the 10th of thirteen children born to Rev. Bixby Garnham Luard and Clara (nee Bramston). Her childhood was spent at Avely Vicarage, Essex, and Birch Rectory, near Colchester in Essex.

The Luard family on Birch Rectory Steps

The Luard family on Birch Rectory Steps

After training as a nurse at the prestigious nurse-training school of King’s College Hospital, London, she offered her skills to the Army Nursing Service and served for two years in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

On August 6, 1914, two days after the British Government declared war against Germany, Kate enlisted in the QAIMNSR (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve). She served in France and Belgium until 1918, first on the ambulance trains and then in casualty clearing stations ,and was awarded the RRC medal (Royal Red Cross) and Bar (a rare distinction) and was mentioned in Despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the field.

During this time she exchanged numerous letters with her family at home. Many of those she wrote were published in two books: ‘Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915’, published anonymously in 1915; and ‘Unknown Warriors: the Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918’, first published in 1930. A new edition of Unknown Warriors will be published by The History Press in August 2014.

The majority of these letters are held in the Luard archives at the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford (Search Seax for D/DLu).

Unknown Warriors, due for release in August 2014

Unknown Warriors, due for release in August 2014

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Beginning to carry out your research

Time is ticking onwards and research for the Last Poppy project should be underway. Some of our volunteers attended the Essex Record Office on the morning of Wednesday 18th December to find out how to use the county archive.

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Archivist, Allyson Lewis and Audience Development Officer, Hannah Salisbury gave volunteers a tour of the ERO including a visit to one of the store rooms, helpful advice on how to use the online cataloge ‘Seax‘ and an introduction to original documents.

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Hannah has created some really useful guidance notes which can be found here and will be placed on the Helpful Resources page too:

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An interesting set of documents, that Allyson produced for the volunteers, was some letters written to and from nursing sister Katherine Luard, daughter of Bixby Garnham Luard. She was born in 1872, and served in the Boer War and First World War. She was awarded the RRC, the Royal Red Cross for her military nursing service. Katherine included a hand-drawn sketch of her living quarters, a tent she was staying in at the time. The Luard family documents can be found by searching on Seax, reference D/DLu.

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Seax reference D/DLu

We welcome blog post submissions from anyone with stories from Essex during the Great War. See the guidance above for further information.