BROWN, Eleanor Lawson
(Service number )
|First Rank||Nurse||Last Rank||Sister|
|Date||18 October 1885||Place of Birth||Geraldine|
|Address at Enlistment|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin|
|Served with||British||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||Army Medical Services|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserves|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With|
|Service Medals||1915 Star; British War Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||3 June 1966||Age||80 years|
|Place of Death||3 and 4 Clarence Road, Tunbridge Wells, England|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 9 June 1966|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Kent, England|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Eleanor Lawson Brown was born on 18 October 1885 at Geraldine, the second daughter of Henry Faber and Catherine Annie (née Bennett) Brown. Henry and Catherine married in 1880 at St Anne’s Church, Pleasant Valley. Like her siblings Eleanor attended the Woodbury School, with two months at Pleasant Valley School in 1894. The Woodbury Public School’s annual treat and distribution of prizes was held on Boxing Day 1899, when Eleanor Brown won a sewing prize. The following month Miss E. L. Brown won second prize for a men’s shirt with collar at the Geraldine Floral Show. By 1911 Eleanor was doing her nursing training in Dunedin. Dunedin Hospital. In 1912 while nursing at the Dunedin Hospital she attended Dunedin Technical Classes. E. L. Brown, of Dunedin, was successful in the examination for State registration of nurses in July 1912. In 1914 she was with her family at their Wai-iti Road, Timaru, residence.
At the outbreak of war, four New Zealand Nursing Sisters, including Eleanor Brown, volunteered for overseas service. As the New Zealand Government was not at that time accepting nurses, they cabled the British Government and were immediately accepted. They were sent to Egypt where they were stationed at the Citadel, Cairo. In time they were sent to Mudros Island where they nursed the first cases from the Dardanelles (Gallipoli).
Miss Eleanor Brown spent a few days in the country at the beginning of January 1915, before going from Timaru to Christchurch to join Miss Margaret Nixon en route for Wellington. Eleanor Brown, Lucy Bowie, Emma Blackmore and Margaret Nixon, all with Timaru connections, and two others, sailed for London on the S.S. Somerset in January. One of them wrote to friends in Timaru, saying that they had a splendid passage Home and enjoyed the journey immensely, although they were unaware at the time of the associated dangers. They played golf on the ship almost every day, and a prize given by the captain was won by Nurse Bowie. Once in London, they had no trouble in getting about. The weather was cold and foggy, and very dark at nights. Calling on the High Commissioner they found him very nice indeed. Meeting up with South Cantabrians, they enjoyed hospitality and kindness. They had travelled Home at their own expense. Going to the War Office, they put in their applications to go whenever they might be sent. “They had to sign on for one year. Large numbers of wounded were being sent in to London every day and lots of hospitals were being opened including one of 35,000 beds. There was any amount of nursing to do. They all had to be examined by a doctor before they were accepted for service, and they all passed without any difficulty. The authorities were most particular about every little detail. Everybody was very kind and courteous to them and altogether they could not wish to be better treated.” (Letter-writer). In London they were quickly engaged by the Imperial Government and received orders to go to Cairo, Egypt, where, under the direction of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, they were the first New Zealand nurses serving the troops. The four South Canterbury nurses, along with Mr C. A. Dunn (Canterbury) and Brother Joseph McAteer (Timaru) were callers at the High Commissioner’s Office, London, in April 1915.
It was April 1915 when Sister Eleanor Brown went from England to Egypt. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service was established by the War Office as a recognised branch of the army in 1902. It was to provide nursing services to British Army soldiers wherever they were stationed. With the high casualty rates at the start of the First World War, the tight restrictions on recruitment were relaxed, allowing New Zealand nurses to be engaged. “On arrival of a portion of the N.Z.A.N.S. in Egypt early in 1915, work was at very high pressure. Many British hospitals were being opened and partly staffed by sisters from various Colonial units, namely: Canadian, Australian and New Zealand. . . . . . The kindness of the regular matrons and sisters of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to come in contact with them. In July, 1915, a number of sisters arrived at a hospital in Alexandria and were so well received by the matron and sisters that they at once felt at home.” (Kai Tiaki).
Sergeant W. I. Tait, writing to a friend in Timaru from the Front, in June 1915, says: “The wounded are just beginning to roll in. I saw the first lot and I can assure you it was a sorry sight. . . . . I met Nurses Blackmore, Bowie, Nixon and Brown, who have been to England, and have come out here at the orders of the Imperial authorities.” Sister Eleanor Brown (South Canterbury), who had been attached to the Military Hospital, Citadel, Cairo, was in London in December 1915. She may well have been the Sister Brown who, with five other nursing sisters, arrived at Lyttelton on the “Ulimaroa”, which was bringing home some sick and wounded soldiers amongst others, on 19 April 1916. Sister Brown and three others were leaving on Transport duty again with the ships departing at the end of April and beginning of April.
Two articles printed in Kai Tiaki (1 July 1917, 1 October 1917 – see attachment) give some insight into the work of those who served with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. “. . . . I am indebted for some most interesting information with regard to the huge amount of work going on in caring for our sick and wounded troops in India and from Mesopotamia. . . . . . Until last year Bombay itself only contained one military hospital of 700 beds, which was known as “Kolaba.” . . . . . Now Bombay is a hospital base of 8,000 beds, besides other hospitals and numerous convalescent homes up country, and in the hills, . . . . . The patients comprise our own British soldiers and Indian troops, West Indians from Jamaica, and German and Turkish prisoners. Some are from garrison and frontier regiments in India, where there is always more or less fighting going on with border tribes it seems, and tropical illnesses to which the troops succumb. The others come by hospital ships, of which there were five in port while we were there, from Mesopotamia and East Africa, where the struggle is still going on. . . . . . . We also had a visit from Sister Margaret Nixon, who, with Sister Brown, belong to the Q.A.I.A.N.S., and are attached to a hospital in Bombay. . . . . . The St. George’s Hospital for sick sisters, close by Kolaba, is very nice. . . . . . I asked if the sisters indulged in sea-bathing, but was told that the water was too dirty, and no doubt it looked so, . . . . . A feature of these Indian hospitals is the scarlet blanket quilts; no white ones are to be seen. Linen has not the same nice white appearance that ours at Home has, but much of it is unbleached, and probably the natives are not the very best of washers. Kolaba has a splendidly fitted operating theatre and annexes, and the best X-ray room I have seen, where a very great deal of work seems to be done. All sorts of annexes have been built in the grounds. . . . . . There are plenty of native servants, the nursing done, of course, by. Q.A.I.A.N.S. sisters and R.A.M.C. orderlies. . . . . . There is a large part of Bombay known as “Hospital Quarter,” at either end of which a notice board requests quietness. . . . . . . .”
“Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Service, the Territorial Force Nursing Service, and their vast reserves, might well share with the Royal Navy the description of being ‘the Silent Service’. Over the splendid work and devotion of the 19,000 or so of trained, skilled women there has hung a veil of reticence and reserve that has barely been lifted. . . . . . of the special grace and untiring labours, of the calm courage that gave steadiness and self-control to men in agony who were called upon to suffer the further terrors of bombs falling in the very wards where they had hoped for haven, no indication is given to the nation at large. . . . . . It is a well understood tradition of the service that nurses do not talk of what they have done. . . . . . And the matrons-in-chief with the Australian, the Canadian, the New Zealand, and the South African armies have been worthy daughters of the Empire in conjunction with them. All of them regarded signal acts of long-sustained attendance as when convoy after convoy brought down its loads of men needing instant attention and hours of labour, or sheer disregard of shell-fire on the part of the sisters and nurses, merely as part of the duty to be done. . . . . .”
Since April 1915 Sister E. L. Brown had been on active service in many places. In 1918 she was at Colaba, India, and prior to her marriage was acting matron at Lahore. Eleanor Lawson Brown married English born Philip Fell Pope on 9 September 1918 at the Church of St John-in-the-Wilderness, Naini Tal, Bengal, India. After the military wedding, the wife of the Commissioner at Letapur held a reception for the wedding party. Eleanor had been on active service since volunteering for service in January 1915 and prior to her marriage was at various stations in India, including Colaba and acting-matron at Lahore. Philip was serving with the Indian Army as of 1905. Sister (Mrs) Eleanor Lawson Pope (Eleanor Lawson Brown) was awarded the 1915 Star and the British War Medal. In May 1920 Major and Mrs Pope of India, were guests of Eleanor’s mother, Mrs Faber Brown, at Timaru. Mrs P. F. Pope, Of Crowborough, Sussex, visited New Zealand again in June 1930 and stayed with her parents in Timaru.
On 3 February 1934 Eleanor and Philip Pope, home duties and retired major respectively, arrived in England, having travelled from Brisbane, Australia, by the “Bendigo”, and intending to go to Crowborough, Sussex. They had arrived in New Zealand by the “Ionic” on about 14 December 1932 and were to be the guests of Mrs Pope’s parents at Wai-iti Road, Timaru. Did they perhaps remain in the country for a year? They were again the guests of Mrs Faber Brown at Timaru for a few days in early December 1933 before leaving for England.
In 1939 Eleanor was a hospital sister at The Ragel School for the Blind at Leatherhead, Surrey, England. Philip, a retired Indian Army Officer, was residing in London. By the 1939 electoral roll, the address for Eleanor and Philip was 21 Holland Street, Kensington, London. In 1934 they were residing in Church Street, while in 1922 and 1923 they were at Wickford, London Road, Cheam, Epsom. They were at Latymer Court, Hammersmith, London, in 1946, while in 1950 they were in Kensington Church Street.
Eleanor Lawson Pope left Wellington and arrived at Southampton, England, on 20 August 1948, having travelled by the “Akaroa” of the British India Steam Navigation Company. Having given her last permanent residence as New Zealand and her occupation as artist, she intended to go to Kensington Church Street, London. Philip Fell Pope arrived at Southampton on 3 May 1948 by the “Akaroa”, having departed from Auckland, New Zealand. He was retired, his last permanent residence was New Zealand, and he also intended to go to London (9 Royal Ave, Chelsea). Eleanor Lawson Pope died on 3 June 1966 at Clarence Road, Tunbridge Wells, England. She was 80 years old. Probate was granted to her husband. Philip died on 27 February 1972 at a nursing home at Hove.
Eleanor’s brothers James Lawson Brown and William Lawson Brown also served in World War I. Three uncles also served – Herbert John Bennett, Jonathan (Tom) Bennett and Stephen Bennett; as did a cousin – Francis Oswald Bennett. Another uncle, Harold Bennett, served in the South African War. And a cousin, Francis Henry Bennett, lost his life in Greece in 1941.
NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [26 April 2017]; School Admission Records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG & Dunedin Branch NZSG) [27 April 2017]; Timaru Herald, 9 June 1966 (Timaru District Library) [28 April 2017]; South Canterbury Times, 29 December 1899, 18 January 1901, Kai Tiaki: the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, 1 July 1912, 1 January 1915, 1 April 1916, 1 July 1917, 1 October 1917, 1 July 1919, Evening Star, 19 July 1912, Timaru Herald, 5 & 25 January 1915, 13, 20 & 29 May 1915, 19 June 1915, 23 November 1918, 15 May 1920, 11 June 1930, 9 December 1932, 30 November 1933, Dominion, 11 January 1915, 9 February 1915, NZ Times, 23 January 1915, Press, 11 February 1915, 19 May 1915, 31 December 1915, 1 January 1919, New Zealand Herald, 27 April 1915, Otago Daily Times, 8 January 1916, Star, 2 December 1918, Lyttelton Times, 3 December 1918, Evening Post, 31 December 1918 (Papers Past) [22 November 2015; 16, 18, 21, 26, 29 & 30 April 2017; 05 & 06 August 2018; 19 February 2019; 13 August 2019; 13 January 2020; 22 & 24 July 2021]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [27 April 2017]; Register of Nurses (NZ Gazette) [27 April 20121939 England Register (ancestry.com.au) [08 May 2021]; England Probate Index (ancestry.com.au) [26 April 2017]; England Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [27 April 2017 & 22 July 2021]; Travel records (ancestry.com.au) [27 April 2017 & 22 July 2021]; British Medal Card (The National Archives) [15 August 2018]; Genealogical notes, 22 April 2014, submitted by E. F. Ian Blackmore re his aunt Emma Blackmore, one of the nurses who went to England by the Somerset in January 1915.
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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