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Katherine Mary Harley

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I've been trying to find out about Katherine Harley, whose grave towers above the rest at Lembet Road CWGC Cemetery here in Thessaloniki.

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I was there recently with some friends and they asked who she was and what she did to deserve such a large (comparatively) memorial, and I had to admit that I had no idea! :unsure: Hence my post today.

My research so far (BMDs, 1891 census) would suggest that she was the sister of the Field Marshall French. Is this right?

I've found a pdf file called Conflict & Memory at shropshire.gov.uk with photos of Mrs Harley and of the memorial at St Mary the Virgin, Shrewsbury, on which she is commemorated, but I would be very grateful for higher quality pictures if anyone has any to spare. I can swap for pictures of her grave! :)

I've found out something about her career, but still not too sure what she was doing attached to the Serbian Interior Ministry. Did she liaise for the Serbia Relief Fund or something?

I also wonder why her gravestone gives her date of birth as 3rd May 1853, while BMD records have her registered in 1855 and the 1891 census gives her age as 35. Have I perhaps got the wrong person?

The more I read, the more intrigued I am with this well-bred 60-year-old lady going off to war in the Balkans. :blink:

Any and all information would be very much appreciated!

Adrian

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Adrian

There is quite a bit about Mrs. Harley in the book 'The Quality of Mercy' by Monica Krippner, and she appeared in another thread here:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...5&hl=Harley

with an account of her death taken from the book. It also says:

Of the many remarkable women in the Girton and Newnham unit, several stood out. Mrs. Harley, its head, was already 63 years old, but wiry and energetic - 'with well-chiselled nose, pale piercing eyes, she was slight and graceful and, as she adored everything militaire, was always attired in full uniform.' Apart from her distinguished brother, Lord French, who was CIC British forces in France, Mrs. Harley had a sister who was a noted pacifist, emancipationist and socialist, Mrs. Charlotte Despard. It was rather to be expected that the two sisters were not on the best of terms.

This account seems to agree with a DOB in 1853. I imagine that 'The Times' is also a good source to search, although I haven't done so.

Sue

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Thank you very much, Sue.

I did try to search the forum, but must have been doing something wrong. :D Very interesting reading!

I'll have to keep my eyes open for a copy of "The Quality of Mercy".

Here's the inscription to that Great Benefactress of the Serbian People:

post-16303-1173816758.jpg

Thanks again,

Adrian

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This is from The Times - it has the heading 'Lord French's Sister killed' but I had to crop it as it just wouldn't reduce in size enough. Another short notice says that she was the widow of Colonel George Ernest Harley, formerly of The Buffs, and of Condover House, near Shrewsbury, aged 61.

Sue

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Wow! Thanks again, Sue. That's fantastic.

All my questions answered, and the reassurance that my research was correct.

Interesting that the Times says 61 years old, which tallies with the birth registration in 2nd Qtr 1855 of Catharine [sic] Mary French in Eastry RD, Kent (includes Ribble). I wonder who is correct.

The CWGC website gives her age as 63, and her CWGC headstone (if it is CWGC issue?), which lies flat over her grave is thus:

post-16303-1173821181.jpg

I'm eternally grateful for your help, Sue!

Best Regards,

Adrian

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The Times is in error where it is suggested that Mrs Harley was in an ambulance when she was hit by a piece of shrapnel. She was actually in her quarters taking tea with her daughter and others.

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Adrian,

I don't know if this helps, but my wife trained as a nurse at the Royal Salop Infirmary, which was next door to St Mary's Church. Shrewsbury

When she qualified in 1969 she was awarded the Katherine M Harley Memorial Medal for Efficiency.

I was trying to find out who Katherine M Harley was when I came across your requests in this Forum. The medal is sterling silver with a Birmingham Hallmark

I hope this fits in with your research, but clearly she was a very highly regarded woman.

I know a chap (a retired Nurse) called Brian Bennett who has written an (unpublished ?) History of the Royal Salop Infirmary. I do not know if he knows any more, or knows anyone else who does, but I could put you in touch if you or he is willing.

Hope this is not a red-herring!

Roger

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Hello Roger,

Thanks for the interesting information! It's good to know that she is still remembered in the the medical profession back home.

And welcome to the forum!

Adrian

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Hello Adrian

I checked the Birth registers for 1853 and 1855. There isn't any "Catherine French" registered in Q2/1853 but the image below is taken from Q2/1855

Hope this helps.

Fancy the posh people getting mixed up over ages. I thought it was only the plebs like the Nulty family who couldn't read or write and didn't know their age!!

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I may be in error but this lady does not appear to be recognised as a war casualty by the CWGC

Chris

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Chris

Although she had previously worked for the Scottish Women's Hospital, at the time of her death she was a civilian working for the Serbian forces, and therefore would not have qualified for CWGC inclusion.

Sue

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Sue

thanks

Chris

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I saw Mrs Harley's record in the Index To War Deaths 1914-1921 - Army Officers, (Ref 1917 O.8 151) and applied for a copy of the Death Certificate. This was received this morning along with a note from the GRO Overseas Section stating that she is buried in the Officers Row, Anglo-French Military Cemetery, Lember Road, Salonika. I attach a snap of the Death Certificate below.

As she is an "official" war casualty perhaps I can write to the CWGC to get her commemorated.

What do Pals think?

Regards

Jimmy

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Jimmy,

She does already have a grave within a CWGC cemetery, and though her grave is a private non-standard one, it is immaculately maintained by the CWGC.

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I saw Mrs Harley's record in the Index To War Deaths 1914-1921 - Army Officers, (Ref 1917 O.8 151) and applied for a copy of the Death Certificate. This was received this morning along with a note from the GRO Overseas Section stating that she is buried in the Officers Row, Anglo-French Military Cemetery, Lember Road, Salonika. I attach a snap of the Death Certificate below.

As she is an "official" war casualty perhaps I can write to the CWGC to get her commemorated.

What do Pals think?

Regards

Jimmy

Jimmy,

I noted the statement that she is buried in "The Officers Row". I'm trying to remember if that row was (and it would be the exception) just officers, but like most if not all CWGC cemeteries the ranks are much mixed in at Lembet Road. The wider cemetery is more than just "Anglo French" encompassing the Serbians (who have a substantial memorial) as well as others. Interestingly although all plots are fairly well maintained a recent visit showed the Italian section to be second in standard of care, the British leading with grass that I could best describe as being of "Axminster" quality .....

Martin

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I noted the statement that she is buried in "The Officers Row". I'm trying to remember if that row was (and it would be the exception) just officers,

Hey, I never noticed that before - but it's true.

With the exception of Mrs Harley at O.38, one QAIMNS sister and Staff Nurse Ritchie, all the "O" graves are indeed army/navy officers. Of the 39 others, there are 17 2nd lieutenants, 11 lieutenants, 4 captains, 2 majors, 2 colonels and one each RNR/RN/MM sub-lieutenant, 4th engineer officer and chief engineer (does he count as an officer?)

In the rest of the cemetery I can find only a handful of RFC/RAF 2Lts and Lts and one solitary RAMC major. I wonder if all the officers were originally buried at another cemetery - perhaps near an officers-only hospital, if there was such a thing? - and were moved here later. I'll ask our friendly neighbourhood CWGC Regional Manager next time I see him.

I also wonder why the CWGC site uses a 0 (zero) for the grave references, when it should plainly be an O for "Officer". Scanning error perhaps?

Adrian

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This seems to be a fascinating exception to the general rule that rankers and officers generally mix in together.

No doubt others will provide a long list of other locations where this happens but this is an interesting exception, especially as it holds such a prominent position for visitors to the cemetery.

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:rolleyes:

Well thats saved me alot of research thanks guys

Hope this is of use Adrian

Neil

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Although some records show Katherine Harley’s birth date as 3 May 1853, it could not be so because her brother John was born 28 Sep 1852, only 7 months prior. Her correct birth date is 3 May 1855. I have the genealogy of this entire line -- Katherine is in the 8th generation and I have it back to the 1st generation in Ireland. If anyone is interested, please email me at marafrench@mindspring.com. Regards, Mara French

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Hi Mara,

Since my last past, i've located two memorial plaques to her. One in Condover Church in Shropshire and one in the old Royal Salop Infirmary, Shrewsbury, which is now a shopping centre.

I have emailed them both to you.

Neil

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Heres some more information which may be of use. DID ANYONE HERE REALISE THAT THIS LADY WAS THE SISTER OF FIELD MARSHAL SIR JOHN FRENCH NO LESS!!!!! -

HARLEY, KATHARINE “Katie” MARY. British Nurse. Croix de Guerre (France).

Serbian Army.

Died Wednesday 7 March 1917. Aged 62.

Born Ripple Vale, Deal, Kent. Resided Bromley, Kent.

Daughter of the late Captain John Tracey French R.N. (Retd), and of the late Mrs. Margaret French (née Eccles).

Wife of the late Colonel George Ernest Harley, formerly of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), of “Condover Hall,” Condover, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and formerly of “Balgowan House,” Saltwood, Hythe, Kent.

Sister of Field Marshal Sir John Denton Pinkstone French, (1852-1925) K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., A.D.C., P.C.

Buried Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery, Thessalonika, Greece.

Grave Ref: Officers Row, Grave O.38.

Commemorated on memorial at the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

Katherine’s late husband died in the Second Boer War. An early and ardent member of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, a number of commentators have recorded “Katie” as being headstrong, impatient, and not very easy to work with. Despite the criticisms of some of her contempories, she had been amongst the very first ladies to offer their services for the war effort, and had from December 1914 served as a member of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. In 1915 “Katie” conceived the idea of a ‘Flying Column’ (which she headed) to evacuate the wounded, and served in France and at afterwards Salonika, where she led a group of British nurses serving with the Serbian Army. The Girton and Newnham unit in which Katherine served was at Troyes, Aube, France, working under the French Military Authorities, when the unit was ordered to Salonika, where it formed part of a thousand bed French hospital working with the French Expeditionary Force. The Serbian Unit was originally installed at Kragienwatz, twenty-five miles from Belgrade. Part of the Great War undertakings of the Women’s Freedom League, of which Katherine’s sister Mrs. Charlotte Despard was President, was helping the wounded at home. The Women’s Suffrage National Service Corps was organized by this League, and one of its first efforts was to provide a hospital for the women and children who would in ordinary times have been taken into the London hospitals. Katherine lent her impressive house "Brackenhill," at Bromley, Kent for this purpose, and its spacious rooms were soon converted into sick wards; "Brackenhill" accommodated 40 patients, and there were surgical, maternity, and children’s wards. The first baby born in the hospital was a Belgian. Some very distressing cases were received, especially in the children’s ward, and it has been recognized that Katherine Harvey’s work was one of the finest pieces of practical patriotism which has been carried out during the progress of the Great War. Katherine’s grave bears a private memorial which towers above all the others in the cemetery, and was erected in 1917 by the Serbian Army, and is inscribed in two languages with the following inscription; “The generous English lady and great benefactress of the Serbian people, Madame Harley a great lady. On your tomb instead of flowers the gratitude of the Serbs shall blossom there for your wonderful acts. Your name shall be known from generation to generation.” It should be noted, that depending on which data is accessed and/or book consulted, the cause of death and her first Christian name do not all tally. Some publications etcetera state that Katherine, Kathryn or Catherine Harley died during an air-raid over Vertikop, or in her quarters taking tea with one of her daughters and other Nursing Sisters, another that she was killed by shellfire at Monastir, or as was reported in The Times newspaper that Katherine was in an ambulance when she was hit by a piece of shrapnel. Of historic note, it was noted whilst researching the Saltwood casualties, that at the time of the 1891 census, the then Colonel John D.P. French (Cavalry), was residing with Major and Mrs. Harley at “Balgowan House,” Saltwood, Hythe, Kent. Although brief mention was made above of Katherine’s Suffragette activities, the following (extract) is from the book ‘The Quality of Mercy’ by Monica Krippner. “Mrs. Harley had a sister who was a noted pacifist, emancipationist and socialist, Mrs. Charlotte Despard. It was rather to be expected that the two sisters were not on the best of terms.” Charlotte died in November 1939 at the age of ninety-five following a fall at her home, and is buried in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. A street in the Battersea district of London where Charlotte had formerly resided and worked, is now named Charlotte Despard Avenue (SW11 5HD) in her honour. After the transcriber of these brief commemorations contacted a likeminded friend in Shropshire, in the hope of gleaning a bit more information on former Saltwood resident Katherine Harley, it was learned that in addition to having been a recipient on the (French) Croix de Guerre, she like her famous brother John, and sister Charlotte, Katherine also has a road named after her, it being Harley Road at the village of Condover near Shrewsbury. It was also learned that some outstanding nurses on the completion of their training in Shrewsbury, have been awarded a silver medal named the ‘Katherine M. Harley Memorial Medal for Efficiency,’ in recognition of their work, and Katherine’s memory and her contribution to nursing.

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Cheers Neil,

I thought i recognised the name. I did indeed now she was the sister of FM French. Due to a torn shoulder muscle i have all the time in the world to ponder life and research memorials.

Memorial at the old Royal Shrewsbury Infirmary. Now a shopping centre :)

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Plaque at Condover. The only other plaque in the church is to Eric Stanley Lock DSO, DFC & Bar. Highest scoring British fighter pilot during WWII.

Neil

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Name on the Memorial at St. Mary's church, Shrewsbury. Also remembered on the same memorial is Capt. Walter Napleton Stone VC

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Neil,

It certainly helps to bring more information to the party. The more we add here on this thread - the more helpful it is in the future when someone needs the information. Pity I didn't take time to find this link before posting on non-coms. Still it's an interesting case nevertheless...

Your getting pretty good at this memorial lark Neil lol...

Neil

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