100 years ago today: Decoration of Bessie Carley

On 3 March 1917, Miss Bessie Carley was decorated with the Royal Red Cross (2nd Class) by the King at Buckingham Palace in recognition of her work as a hospital nurse during the war.

Sister Carley was attached to Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and portraits of her reportedly appeared in the Sketch and Mail. (Framlingham Weekly News; 10 March 1917; Page 4).

Also honoured was Miss Ada Smith, of High House, Parham.

Later, in 1919, she further received the Royal Red Cross, 1st Class.

On 26 April 1920, at the age of 38, Assistant Matron Bessie Carley, RRC [Royal Red Cross], died at Guy’s Hospital after a brief illness, never regaining consciousness after being taken ill. She lies under a CWGC headstone in the churchyard at Badingham, her name recently added to the war memorial.  (Framlingham Weekly News; 1 May 1920; Page 2).

The local news recorded her family’s sorrow, losing her at the ‘Zenith of her career’. Bessie had trained at Warneford Hospital, Warwickshire and was in charge of Dovercourt Nursing Home before war broke out. She subsequently saw active service in France after a time at the 1st Eastern Hospital in Cambridge. She was apparently frequently in the danger zone and even under bombardment. After the war she went to work at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital before moving to Streatham Hill Nursing Home as Matron.

Her funeral took place at Badingham Church on 1 May 1920 and was attended by a very many people. The Carley family were of course well known locally and were chief mourners. Also in attendance were people from villages all around, as well as former colleagues, one of whom, Miss Macdonald, from the Suffolk Convalescent Home, had been with her in France. (Framlingham Weekly News; 1 May 1920; Page 2).

Note: many further records of Bessie Carley, who was born in Badingham in 1881, can be found at the National Archives.

 

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