First World War

Artifact W1-06: First World War Real Photo Postcard (RPPC)

Submitted and Researched by Gordon McDermid

w1 06 01

This photograph was taken outside the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Royal Red Cross Hospital at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, England. The group includes Matron Edith Campbell, Major, the Viscount Waldorf Astor, General G. Carlton-Jones, young Willie Astor, the Prime Minister of Canada Sir Robert Borden, and Lt Colonel Charles Gorrell, Officer Commanding the hospital.

Matron Edith Campbell was a nursing sister who served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War. She was born in 1871 in Montreal and enlisted on   24 September 1914 in Quebec.  She left Canada onboard H.M.T. Franconia and arrived in the United Kingdom on 24 October 1914.  Through her active duty in England and France, she was mentioned in despatches on 22 June 1915, and received the Royal Red Cross 1st Class on that same date.  Nursing Sister Campbell served as Matron at the Duchess of Connaught Hospital for approximately two years (1915-1916), and then, in February 1917 she was posted back to France.  She was mentioned in despatches a second time in 1917 for her courageous action to save others when the Germans bombed the hospital in which she was serving in France.  Edith Campbell is reputed to have the most interesting medals group for a Canadian woman from the First World War.  She was awarded the Military Medal, Royal Red Cross 1st Class, 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1935 Jubilee Medal.  Her medals and other personal artefacts, including letters from the war are held by the Canadian War Museum.

Robert Borden was the Prime Minister of Canada from 1911-1920.

General Jones was the Canadian Director General of Medical Services.  He had been a long time medical officer with the Canadian Army Medical Corps having served in the Boer War and then working to advance the Army Medical Corps during the years prior to WWI.

Major, the Viscount Waldorf Astor was the owner of the Cliveden country estate and he and his wife, Lady Nancy Astor, gave up their Tennis Pavilion and Bowling Alley and surrounding grounds for the establishment of the Duchess of Connaught hospital during the Great War.  The hospital was named in honour of the wife of the serving Governor General of Canada.

Colonel Gorrell died in January 1917 of a suspected suicide.  A non-commissioned officer under his command was convicted of accepting bribes. Although Gorrell was under no suspicion himself, he took his responsibility as commanding officer to be such that somehow he was at fault.

A final, interesting footnote to this photo is that “young Willie Astor” grew up to become the 3rd Viscount Astor, active in politics and a member of the House of Lords.  In 1963 he was implicated in the infamous Profumo Affair that brought down the MacMillan government.

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