The following biography is the work of Carol Hunter.
Maude Millicent Wilson
An article that appears in the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury (transcription at bottom of page) tells us that Maude was a much loved and caring nurse. She died at her place of work: the Auxiliary Hospital of the Entente Cordiale, Menton, France on 27th March 1917.
Maude was born in 1886 in Waterloo, Great Crosby. Her father Alexander, a solicitor, was born on France circa 1855 and her mother Edith Botterill was born in Southport in 1855. They married on 25th October 1883 at St Michael in the Hamlet, Toxteth. Maude had 3 brothers: Roy Buchanan born 31st July 1890, Colin Buchanan b1892 and Keith Alexander Buchanan born 3rd January 1899, who took their middle name from their paternal grandmother.
Alexander’s father William Hebden Wilson was a shipping agent who had died in 1859 when Alexander was not yet 5 years old and his widowed mother Maria Elizabeth (née Buchanan) therefore brought him up. She was born in the West Indies and had perhaps met William during one of his overseas voyages; his occupation would also explain why Alexander was born in France. In 1861 Alexander and his mother are living in Ramsey in the Isle of Man, with his sister Maude Elizabeth (who was baptized in Rock Ferry in 1852); Maria is described as a fundholder, no doubt of the money left from William’s business after his death. In 1871 Maria is living with her 2 children in Waterloo. By 1881 Alexander working as a solicitor’s clerk and still living with his mother in Great Crosby.
In 1891 we find Maude Millicent living at “Woodcroft” in Dinbren, Llangollen with her parents and brother Roy who was also born in Waterloo. Her father Alexander is now a solicitor and able to afford to employ a live-in governess and general servant.
In 1901 Maude is a pupil at a private school “Mayura”, Bolsover Road, Eastbourne. Her brother Colin, also born Waterloo, is a pupil at a private school in Riverbank Road, Heswall. The family seems to place great importance in the children’s education. Maude’s mother Edith, and her brother Keith who was born in Eastham, are living at Hooton Priory and the family are certainly quite well off by this time as 7 servants are listed: children’s nurse, domestic waitress, cook, kitchen maid, housemaid, laundress and groom. There is no sign of Maude’s father or her brother Roy, so perhaps they were abroad.
In 1911 Maude is living at 16 Ashville Road, Birkenhead with her parents and brothers Colin, a student civil engineer at the waterworks, and Keith. Again Roy is not listed; however he is mentioned in Royal Navy records from 1907 to 1928, with his highest rating Lieutenant Commander, so was no doubt posted away from home. The family is living in a large house with 18 rooms and is employing 3 servants, so they are certainly people of some substance. Maude clearly did not need to earn a living and we can therefore assume that she went into nursing to be of help to her fellow men.
At the time of Maude’s death her family was living at Firwood, Eleanor Road Bidston. Administration was granted to Alexander Wilson, solicitor, presumably her father. She left £697 10s, which using the National Archives’ convertor is worth approximately £30,000 today, so Maude was clearly quite a wealthy woman in her own right.
Little has been found about Maude’s family. Her brother Roy died in 1979 in Bristol aged 89. Her brother Colin continued in his career as a civil engineer and married Sybil Manbré in Bromborough in 1920; they had at least 2 children: Carol Millicent b1921 and Colin Buchanan b1928. Colin senior died in Kendal in 1929. Maude’s brother Keith became a solicitor and in 1914 he was living at Holmfield, Meols Drive, Hoylake; he married Rhoda Violet Neville in 1923 in Bedford and died in 1987. I have not been able to ascertain the death of Maude’s parents.
Various details can be found in online blogs about Maude’s nursing career, but as they are not sourced I have not included them here. However I have transcribed an article that appeared 12 April 1917 in the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury:
“It will be of interest to many in and near Liverpool to learn of the honour paid by our gallant allies to a young Liverpool lady. Miss Maude Millicent Wilson, daughter of Mr and Mrs Alex Wilson of Eleanor Road, Bidston, on the outbreak of war joined the V.A.D. and duly passed all the necessary qualifications. Shortly afterwards she was offered an appointment as nurse (infirmière) at the great hospital started by the English residents at Mentone for the French wounded. She took up this position at the beginning of 1915, and from that date devoted herself to that excellent work. The hospital is the splendid Imperial Hotel, and is fitted to take about 500 wounded. Here Miss Wilson worked with such energy and capacity that she was promoted to the position of infirmière major, and appointed to take charge of the great operating theatre and radiograph room, in which so many extraordinarily successful operations have been performed by the skill of the great surgeon, Dr. Le Blanc.
Unfortunately the strain of such work was extreme, and Miss Wilson was struck down with pneumonia, death resulting from heart failure on the 27th March. Her illness and death were the occasion of a display of affection and regard which is almost unique. The patients, on learning of the serious nature of her illness, themselves imposed a rule of absolute silence, for fear that the noise of a great hospital might disturb one to whom many of them owed much. When her death took place many of the men completely broke down from grief.
Her funeral was the occasion of an extraordinary demonstration of admiration and affection. From the highest to the lowest there was but one wish – to do honour and homage to one who, as they themselves expressed it, had died on the field of honour as surely as any soldier in the Allied armies. Those who know well the department of the Alpes Maritimes say they never saw such intense feeling.
The coffin, draped in the flags of France and England, was borne by British soldiers from Cap Martin. The military guard was supplied by the French Chasseurs Alpins. The coffin was preceded by the nurses of the hospital and followed first by one of their number carrying on a cushion the Medaille d’Honneur, awarded to Miss Wilson by the French Government. Then followed the Prefect of the Province, the Maire of Mentone, deputations from the Association des Dames Françaises and the Croix Rouge Française, the officer in command of the district with his staff, the English officers from Cap Martin, and as many of the patients from the hospital as were able to walk. Those who could not do so, including many who seemed barely fit to leave their beds, lined the approach from the hospital. It seemed as if most of the population of the place had turned out to show their sympathy and love, and many of them joined the long procession. There seemed hardly a dry eye, and all, or nearly all, the shops on the route were closed.
It was indeed a remarkable and touching sight – the little coffin of a girl, draped in the flags of the two nations she served, and carried and followed by the soldiers she had loved and tended. The land of flowers itself seemed to have joined the tribute. Surely such masses of lovely blooms seldom have been gathered together as those that nearly covered the cemetery where she was laid.
As was truly said, alliances strengthened by such links of devotion and tenderness are indeed not lightly broken.”
As Maude’s funeral procession took place in Menton we can assume that she was buried there too, in which case her resting place will be the Cimitière du Trabuquet.
At the time of WW1 the Red Cross was reluctant to allow civilians near the front line and therefore nurses like Maude were deployed by the Voluntary Aid Detachment to hospitals at home, then as the war progressed overseas. Maude is also remembered on Bidston War Memorial. However she is not listed on CWGC because she was a civilian.
The town of Menton is situated in the French Riviera, on the border with Italy, hence its name Mentone in Italian. It is a beautiful area of France and an interesting juxtaposition with the horrors of war. The Imperial Hotel, seen here in 1913 was opened that year and commandeered for use as a hospital in 1915.
Birth: c.1886 in Waterloo, Great Crosby, Liverpool
Death: 27th March 1917, died of illness in her place of Work, Menton, France, aged 31
Addresses: “Woodcroft”, Dinbren, Llangollen (91), “Mayura”, Bolsover Road, Eastbourne – at school (01), 16 Ashville Road, Birkenhead (11), “Firwood”, Eleanor Road Bidston (17)
Occupation: Lived on own means before becoming a nurse in WWI
Number and Rank: Infimiere Major CRF
Unit: Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) before transferring to the Entente Cordiale Hospital at Menton
Medals: Medaille D’honneur
Buried and Commemorated: Bidston and probably France: Cimetiere Trabuquet, Menton
Sources: BR, Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury, Census 91, 01, 11, National Probate Calendar, Imperial Hotel website