The meeting of 13 November was chaired by our President, Sarah Pennington, who welcomed everyone to the meeting on what was a cold and rainy evening. She reported that the Group Meeting on Makaton was considered a success. She thanked Mary Pollock for the fine letter she had written on the decline of local bus services in rural areas which had been sent to National. The talk on Degas the previous month was considered excellent. Eileen Humphreys then asked for ideas for inclusion in the design of a seat cushion the Needleworkers were planning to embroider for the Church to commemorate a hundred years of the W.I. in the Village. Red Box Project: Sarah reported that she had taken the box of sanitary products to Test Valley School who had been very pleased to receive the items. Sarah outlined the programme for our Christmas Party which would include blind tasting of some festive fare, a finger buffet, wine and possibly a quiz. Details of our New Year`s Lunch to be held on 15th January were circulated.
Linda then welcomed two guests and introduced our speaker, Helen Earle, who some of our members had first met while on holiday in Greece. Helen had studied the First World War in detail and in her talk entitled “Take Three Girls” she outlined the considerable contribution each had made to the war effort although in very different ways. Firstly she recounted the experience of Elsie Fenwick, a wealthy young woman who served in the British Red Cross, as recorded in her diaries. She served mainly with the Belgian Red Cross in a large military hospital in La Panne on the coast near Ostend. Her diaries reveal the true horror of treating shrapnel wounds as she worked with the celebrated Dr. Deparge trying to help wounded men. Her diary also reveals that despite being in the middle of war Elsie still managed to go on “joy rides “out with her friends, often getting near enemy lines. At the end of the war Elsie’s work was recognised and she was honoured by the King and Queen of Belgium. After the war Elsie returned to England and lived an active life influencing local affairs. The second girl Helen told us about was Emilienne Moreau, a young French girl of seventeen who lived in Loos. During the War Loos became a fortified village occupied at different times by British and German troops. At one time Emilienne was helping to nurse British soldiers and French civilians in the cellars of the town after a battle when the Germans returned unexpectedly and entered the house where she was nursing and tried to bayonet the injured men. She grabbed the gun from one of the injured soldiers and shot several German soldiers thus protecting the men in the cellar. She had only one bullet left when the British soldiers returned and rescued them. For her bravery she was honoured and received the French military cross and became known as “The Lady of Loos”. The third girl was Nellie Spindler who after completing her training joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and eventually found herself in a field hospital near the front line at Ypres in 1917. Her diary recounts the harrowing nature of the war where they worked in thick mud with the constant threat of shell fire and mustard gas. The hospital dealt with severely injured soldiers and those suffering from the effects of mustard gas and many died despite all the efforts to save them. Nellie was finally killed during shelling and when she died she was buried with full military honours in the war cemetery at Lissenthoek – the only woman with ten thousand men. Helen brought the full horror of the First World War to us through the lives of these three remarkable young women. Heather thanked Helen for her very moving talk which was so appropriate near to 11th November.