VAD Ethel Fletcher

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Ethel Fletcher

Nursing Member

Ethel Fletcher was the oldest of five children born to Samuel Hodgson Fletcher, a woollen mill manager, and Hannah Fletcher nee Bickerdike, both of Idle, Bradford. She was born on 16th November and baptised on 24th December 1882 at Holy Trinity Church in Idle.

Baptism record of Ethel Fletcher

Her four younger siblings were all brothers - Joseph (1885), Charles (1888), Reginald Bickerdike (1893) and Walter (1896).

At the time of the 1891 census the family lived at 5 Victoria Street in Idle.

The Fletcher family on the 1891 census

At the time of the 1901 census, however, Ethel was staying in nearby Thackley with her paternal grandmother, Charlotte, and working as a dressmaker with her own account.

I have not been able to locate Ethel or her family on the 1911 census.

When Ethel signed up as a VAD nurse in 1915, her first posting was at the 5th Northern General Hospital in Leicester. It was based in the old Leicestershire Lunatic Asylum which had been empty for some years, and opened as an army medical hospital at the outbreak of war. It housed 111 officer beds and 2487 other ranks beds. She worked there from 1st November 1915 until 7th December 1916.

The 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester (postcard from a private collection)

She was then posted, on 1st August 1917 until 1st January 1918 to Morton Banks in Keighley.

Two of her brothers were also serving - Charles was in the RAF, and Reginald in the Royal Marine Artillery. I believe both survived the war.

Ethel married Frank Smith, a textile merchant, at the Parish Church in Idle, on 23rd September 1919.

The marriage of Ethel Fletcher and Frank Smith

They lived for several years at Woodbank on Station Road in Esholt. At the time of the 1939 Register they are at this address, Frank was described as an electrical component salesman and Ethel a housewife. They have a 19 year old daughter, Margaret who was an orthoptic student at Leeds General Infirmary.

Frank, Ethel and Margaret Smith on the 1939 Register

It became very difficult to track Ethel after 1939, so I looked for her daughter. The 1939 Register indicated she had married, becoming Margaret Breare. A passenger record from 1956 showed Margaret Breare returning to the UK from the USA, and it gave her occupation as an orthoptist, as well as the address she would be staying at as Ravenscliffe Cottage, Farnham, Harrogate. A search of electoral records from 1957 showed the occupants of this address were Margaret Breare, and Ethel and Frank Smith.

Ethel died on 18th February 1962 at Scotton Banks Hospital, Knaresborough. Her probate record shows that she was still living at Ravenscliffe Cottage, and her estate was left to her husband Frank, retired wool merchant. Frank died 11 years later in 1973, still at their home in Farnham.


England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915

West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1935

1891 England Census

1901 England Census

UK, Royal Air Force Airmen Records, 1918-1940

West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935

West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962

1939 England and Wales Register

England and Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2008

UK & Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960

England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995




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