Two True Friends – the Soldier and the Nurse

Charlotte Lillie Davis never married and probably would have been known as the maiden aunt of the family. However, that doesn’t mean she never loved nor led a fulfilling and interesting life. She was my second great grand-aunt; a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, and a fiancée.

Very little is known about Charlotte’s fiancé, not even his full name. Official records refer to him only as R.L. Harrison. In 1901 he was with the British Army Post Office Corps, serving in South Africa at the time of the Second Boer War.1 It’s unclear when R.L. Harrison and Charlotte met, but likely Charlotte was already in her late 30s. Charlotte, aged 39, was working as a nurse at Beckett Hospital in Barnsley, Yorkshire in 1901. 2

Their long distance love story is encapsulated in the seven envelopes that are framed, hanging on the wall of my cousin’s home in England. Addressed to Miss L. (Lillie) Davis, they were sent from South Africa by R.L. Harrison, complete with incredibly detailed hand drawn sketches on the front. As befits Private Harrison’s job with the Army Post Office Corps, the franking is very thorough on each envelope. Below are 3 of the 7 envelopes.

Envelope1
“Two True Friends – the Soldier and the Nurse”
Envelope2
“Tommy’s Smile” (Tommy was slang for a common soldier in the British Army.)
Envelope6
“A Gentleman in Khaki”

Sadly, their love story was short and sweet. R.L. Harrison never returned from South Africa. His exact death date is unknown but in the Roll of Individuals entitled to the South African War Medal he is noted as ‘Deceased’ as of 9th July 1901. 3

Also in my cousin’s possession are Corporal Harrison’s medals. The Queen’s South Africa Medal was presented to British, Imperial and Colonial troops serving in the Boer War. It has bars representing individual campaigns fought in. Corporal Harrison’s medal contains bars for service in the Cape Colony between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902, service in the Transvaal between 24 May 1900 and 31 May 1902 and a third bar for service at Wittebergen 1 July 1900.

RlHarrisonMedal
R.L. Harrison’s Queen’s South Africa Medal.

There is also a British War Medal for Charlotte Lillie with her name, C.L. Davis and S.(Staff) Nurse, 1914-1918 written on it. Charlotte Lillie served in France as a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR), which was the nursing branch of the British Army. 4

Charlotte Lillie fit all the requirements for entry into the QAIMNSR which stated that members were to be over the age of 25, single, educated, of impeccable social standing, and must have completed a three-year course of nurse training in a hospital approved by the War Office. 5

CLMedal
Charlotte Lillie Davis’ British War Medal.

During the time that she served as a Staff Nurse, Charlotte kept a small autograph album which some of the men she was nursing, wrote in.  One of the pages is shown in the photocopy below. The large black square is a plaster (bandage) stuck to the page. A transcription of the page follows.

DavisAutogrph
Page from Charlotte Lillie Davis’ Autograph Book.

“This court plaster is warranted
Not to heal “unkind cuts” “wounded feelings” “injured innocence”

“cracked heads” & “broken hearts”
              ___________

If you should carve the Xmas goose
This plaster you may find of use
For you’re so kind upon my word
You’ll cut yourself and spoil the bird.”

A.W. Narrel. The E/Surreys
Ward 22
Sep ’17

To Sister Davis”

Charlotte Lillie Davis never did marry.  Perhaps I am being fanciful but I wonder if her heart ever recovered after learning of Corporal Harrison’s death.

After her service in the war, she lived for some time with her older brother, William Davis in Doncaster, Yorkshire. Later, she moved to a Nurse’s Home in Wentworth, West Yorkshire. From 1931 until her death in 1940, Charlotte Lillie lived at 14 Woodland Road, Wath-Upon-Dearne, near Rotherham, Yorkshire.6

CharlotteLillieDavis1862_lastresidence
14 Woodland Road, Wath-Upon-Dearne, as it appears today.

The maiden aunt of the family perhaps, but so much more. I would have liked to meet her and hear her tell her love story in her own words, and listen as she described her care of the ‘boys’ fighting in France during the Great War.

 

WordCloud

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 14 prompt: Maiden Aunt

  1. “Natal & South African Forces Death, 1899 To 1902, Army Post Office Corps”. Database with images, Findmypast.com (www.findmypast.com : accessed April 3, 2018), Roll of Individuals entitled to the South Africa Medal, entry for R.L. Harrison. 
  2. “1901 Census for England and Wales,” database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 February 2004); entry for Charlotte Lillie Davis, Barnsley, Yorkshire West Riding; citing the National Archives, RG 13, piece 4314, Folio 79, p. 1. 
  3. “Natal & South African Forces Death, 1899 To 1902, Army Post Office Corps”. Database with images, Findmypast.com (www.findmypast.com : accessed April 3, 2018), Roll of Individuals entitled to the South Africa Medal, entry for R.L. Harrison. 
  4. Scarletfinders, (http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/2.html : accessed April 7, 2018), “Researching A Nurse.” 
  5. The National Archives (U.K.), “Service Medal and Award Rolls Index, First World War,” database, Discover Our Collections (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ : accessed 6 April 2018), “Medal Card of Davis, Charlotte Lillie”; citing catalog reference WO 372/23/10656. 
  6. West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962, Township of Wath-Upon-Dearne, p. 36 for Davis, Charlotte Lily, 1940, residence 14 Woodland Rd; image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 February 2012). 

He registered for the Draft but did he serve? Using Ancestry’s new collection U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939

troop ship
803rd Pioneer Infantry Battalion on the U.S.S. Philippine docked at Brest Harbor, France, July 18, 1919. Photographs, prints, ephemera from the Gladstone collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-11458

Ancestry’s new collection U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, consists of passenger lists detailing all those departing from or arriving at U.S. ports on Army Transport ships.  World War 1 Draft registrations show who registered for the draft but that does not mean they served. The Army Transport Services Lists show the men enlisted at the time of the war.  It is important to note that these are not military service records.  They include the ship name, arrival and departure date and place and the service member’s name, rank, service number, age, residence, next of kin with relationship and the regiment that they were attached to.

HenryEZimmerman1892_ww1
U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. ancestry.com. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Private Henry Edwin Zimmerman departed Brooklyn, New York on 15 August 1918 on board the Briton sailing for Bordeaux, France.  Further U.S. Army Transport Service Lists in which Henry Edwin Zimmerman appears show him departing Bordeaux, France on 7 June 1919, arriving back at the port of Hoboken, New Jersey on 18 June 1919.  If we previously did not have the regiment Henry Zimmerman served with, these Army Transport Service lists provide that information.  Further research can then be done on that regiment to learn more about their role in the war.

Comparing Draft Registrations with U.S. Army Transport Service Passenger Lists

An interesting comparison can be made between a Draft Registration and the Army Transport Service Lists to determine if someone who registered for the Draft ultimately ended up serving.

Henry Edwin Zimmerman was one of five Zimmerman brothers eligible for service during World War 1.  All five registered for the Draft.  Two of the brothers claimed exemption, one on medical grounds and one based on his employment in the farming industry. Of the three who did not claim any exemption, one was aged 32, married with an infant and was a farmer.  He was temporarily exempted under Draft Category III: ‘Temporarily exempted but available for military service. Registrants employed in agricultural labor or industrial enterprises essential to the war effort’. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_Act_of_1917)

Youngest brother, Charles Stephen Zimmerman, aged 21, was drafted under the second Draft registration, on June 5, 1918, for those men who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. Charles S. Zimmerman was training with the Merchant Marines which exempted him from military duty.  The third brother who did not claim an exemption was 22-year-old Otto Emil Zimmerman.  He registered for the draft on 5 June 1917.  As of this post, military service records for him have not been found. Otto Emil Zimmerman was single with no dependents and would have been eligible and liable for military service.

It is interesting to note that the two brothers, Henry Edwin Zimmerman and Louis William Zimmerman who both claimed an exemption, were called up for service.

Name Draft Registration Date
Age & Occupation
Claimed exception? Served?
George Everett Zimmerman 12 Sep 1918; 32; Farmer No No.[1]
Henry Edwin Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 25; Salesman Expert Yes. Grounds – hernia. Yes[2]
Louis William Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 24; Shipping Clerk Yes.  Grounds – employed by farmer making farming implements Yes[3]
Otto Emil Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 22; Book keeper No No records found
Charles Stephen Zimmerman 5 June 1918; 21; Office Work – Shipping No Training with Merchant Marines[4]

[1] Third Draft Registration for men aged 18 to 35.  George had married in 1917 and had a 4-month-old child in September 1918.  Perhaps exempted Class III: ‘Temporarily exempted, but available for military service. Registrants employed in agricultural labor or industrial enterprises essential to the war effort’.

[2] First Draft Registration, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. Henry was unmarried with no dependents therefore was eligible and liable for military service.

[3] First Draft Registration, on June 5, 1917.  Louis was unmarried with no dependents, therefore was eligible and liable for military service.

[4] Second Draft Registration, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. Charles was in training with the Merchant Marines in June 1918 and therefore exempt from military service.

Army Transport Service Passenger Lists are another great resource for research into World War 1.  In addition to troop information, this collection also contains information on non-military passengers traveling on these ships, including any family members traveling with their military spouses.