Sometimes we look but we don’t really see – a local link to Egypt

On a recent visit to the graveyard at All Saints church in Grasby, North Lincs I was very surprised to see the recent addition of a Commonwealth War graves sign – indicating the presence of a war grave. A quick consultation of the CWGC app revealed the name Arthur Frank Wescott of the Royal Field Artillery who died on the 13th of November 1918. Now I’ve visited this particular graveyard many times as I have two family members buried here and I was immediately curious as I could not recall the presence of a CWGC Portland headstone in such a small graveyard.

I walked round the graveyard 3 times looking for a headstone until I noticed the ‘Dardanelles’ wording on large, white memorial stone directly behind the grave of my Nanna. The headstone bears the names of three unmarried brothers who fell during the conflict – the sons of  local Headmaster Elton Edward Wescott and his wife Leah of Grasby.

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Arthur Frank Wescott died on the 13th November 1918, a scant two days after the signing of The Armistice, whilst serving as Corporal 99056 in A Battery of the 152nd Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. The CWGC records state he was buried in the churchyard at Grasby, he presumably having died at home of his wounds. Arthur was 20 years old.

Harry E Westcott should in fact be Elton Harry Wescott. Elton was serving as Corporal 9828 in the 6th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment when he was killed in action on the 15th August 1915 at Gallipoli aged 23. He was buried in the Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War cemetery in Egypt, grave reference no: J44. I’m rather taken with the personal inscription on his gravestone which states ‘Asleep with England’s heroes in the watchful care of God’.

Edward Lawrence Wescott died of wounds on the 11th May 1917 in France whilst serving as Sergeant 9580 of the 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment  at 22 years of age. He had apparently been a member of the 1st Battalion and had gone to France as a member of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in August of 1914 and could therefore have been a regular soldier. Edward was buried in the Etaples Military cemetery, grave reference no: XVIII.M.6A. Like Harry, Edwards gravestone bears the inscription ‘Asleep with England’s heroes in the watchful care of God’. 

In September, I’m due to start my Doctoral research project on the IWGC’s operations in Egypt during the Great War – with a particular focus on the cemeteries of Hadra and Chatby at Alexandria. The Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery (originally the Garrison cemetery) was used for burials until April 1916, when a new cemetery was opened at Hadra. I am so looking forward to uncovering more stories such as Harrys within the context of my research.

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Stories from the Hadra War Cemetery (Egypt): Staff Nurse Ella Cooke

In the winter of 1914, Ella Cooke was looking forward to a grand adventure. The Auckland-born nurse and her twin sister Lily had just departed New Zealand in a boat bound for Vancouver, New York and finally England. She was looking forward to seeing the sights, and eventually a working holiday in London, or maybe Paris.

The outbreak of war in July 1914 dashed all her plans. By the time the pair finally docked in London, Ella was contemplating an assignment in one of the many under-resourced hospitals in France. In November 1914, Ella was one of a group of 14 nurses who left England to serve with the French Flag Nursing Corps. She spent the next six months at a hospital in Bernay near Rouen before to returning to England.

Instead of returning home, Ella was persuaded to join the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve. After completing her training at Aldershot she was posted to No: 17 General Hospital at Alexandria, Egypt at the end of September 1915.

During her two years at the hospital, Ella was regarded by her colleagues as a “happy and popular” recruit. On a Saturday off duty – exactly two years after arriving in Alexandria she was killed instantly whilst taking a short cut across a railway line behind the hospital enroute to visiting her friends, Major and Mrs Walshe. She was struck on the forehead by some part of the tram and fell back onto the verge. She died instantly as a result of a skull fracture.

A Court of Enquiry chaired by Lt Col Godding R.A.M.C concluded that she must have been either hurrying or dreaming and did not look up to see whether the tram was approaching. The enquiry exonerated the Driver and the Tram Company of blame and recorded the death was ‘due to a temporary and regrettable want of care on poor Miss Cooke’s part’. 

She was honoured with a full military funeral and buried in the Hadra War Cemetery, Egypt. Her name is inscribed on the World War 1 Nurses Memorial in York Minister, England.

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Service Number 2/RESC/1266 Staff Nurse Ella Cooke

Cemetery/memorial reference: B. 25.