Anne Fletcher, who made a heroic sacrifice in nursing injured soldiers during the First World War has been honoured. This is her story.
Anne Veronica Fletcher was born in 1891, one of 12 children of Daniel and Mary (nee Kelly). Her father worked as a miner and was employed as a nurseryman living at Spital Nurseries when war broke out.
After training at Bradford Hospital Anne joined the Territorial Free Nursing Service in 1915 as a staff nurse. She was posted to East Leeds War Hospital to care for wounded soldiers. The King is said to have complimented her on her bandaging skills.
However, Anne contracted tuberculosis and she was forced to resign due to ill health in 1917. She was admitted to Walton Sanatorium and died at home on March 14, 1918, when she was just 27 years old.
Her obituary in the Derbyshire Courier stated:
“Heroic sacrifice, the result of untiring devotion to duty in nursing sick and injured soldiers fresh from the battlefield was made by Nurse Anne Veronica Fletcher. Overwork and exposure undermined her constitution.”
Anne is buried in Spital cemetery where on the 100th anniversary of her death and International Women’s Day wreaths were laid by the British Legion, UNISON and Chesterfield Royal Hospital.
Fast forward three years and The Friends of Spital Cemetery, along with the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, will unveil a blue plaque at the house where she lived. A spokesman for the Friends said:
“It gives us pleasure that finally a casual wish made at Anne’s graveyard on International Women’s Day has become reality. And, that this happens now during the extended International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.”
The plaque was unveiled by the Col Carol Kefford RN BSc (Hons) MBA. This is the tribute she paid to Anne Fletcher and all nurses that work so tirelessly.
Army nurses have worked at the sharp end of military life formally from the beginning of the last century, but of course, it all started with Florence Nightingale and the 38 women she took with her to Crimea in 1854. Ever since, Army nurses and healthcare assistants, regular and reserve, have worked at home as Nurse Fletcher did, and overseas. We go wherever we are needed and do whatever is needed of us.
Caring for the sick and wounded in conflict of course but also through peacekeeping, natural disasters, following terrorist attacks, providing training support overseas and much more. Over recent years this has included not only the Gulf Wars, Kosovo/Bosnia, and Afghanistan but deployments to the Sudan, Poland, Canada, Kenya, Nepal, Brunei and setting up a Field Hospital in Sierra Leonne during the horrors of the Ebola crisis. But it is important to remember the contribution Army nurses and HCAs make at home as well, where regular and reserves work across the NHS. I have watched with immense pride the contribution we have made throughout the COVID crisis, shoulder to shoulder with our NHS colleagues showing exactly the same fortitude and resilience that Nurse Fletcher showed over 100 years ago.
Now let me tell you a little bit about the QA Association. Our purpose is to connect all who are serving or who have served in the Corps, both regular and reserve, irrespective of rank. Connect in friendship, and that is a very practical friendship where we support those in need through our benevolence funding, contribute to the costs of social events, sports, adventurous training and preserve our heritage. We have local branches who have very active social calendars and of course, never has this been more important than during the last eighteen months when getting together wasn’t possible but meetings via Zoom for coffee, drinks, presentations, quizzes and more have helped keep loneliness at bay for many of our retired Army nurses. Do have a look at the photographs on the Association website and you will see all this brought to life.
So, this plaque is another link in the chain of our heritage. Thank you to the Friends of Spittal Cemetery for all the work you have done in showing such respect to Nurse Fletcher and all that she represents in our military nurse comrades and colleagues over the years.
Col Carol Kefford, Lt Col Lindsay Baigent, Maj Gail Whittle, Cpl Godfrey
It is a great pleasure to unveil this plaque and I hope that it will make everyone who sees it curious and leave them wanting to find out more about the spirit and work of Army nurses today and through the years.
Col Carol Kefford RN BSc (Hons) MBA