SPINDLER Nellie – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
Nellie Spindler was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire and baptised in the parish of Westgate Common, Yorkshire on 11th November 1891, the daughter of George Spindler (Police Constable) and his wife Elizabeth, of 40 Carlton Street. In 1891 the family consisting of George who was now a Police Sergeant, Elizabeth and their 2 daughters, Nellie aged 9, and Lillie aged 4 were living at 74 Cleaver Place, Wakefield. On the 1911 census Nellie is working as a Hospital Nurse at Corporation fever Hospital, Wakefield.
In 1915 Nellie enlisted enlisted as a Staff Nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, remaining in England until she was posted overseas to France in May 1917. Shortly afterwards she transferred to No 44 Casualty Clearing Station in Belgium. On 20th August 1917 Nellie reported for her night duty nursing very sick men, many of whom were not expected to live. On the morning of 21st August with her night shift over, Nellie returned to her tent to sleep. Shortly afterwards the area was shelled by German artillery, three bombs exploding in the hospital compound. Shrapnel flew in all directions, one penetrating Nellie’s tent and striking her in the abdomen. She was found in her tent bleeding profusely from her wounds with doctors unable to stem the haemorrhage. According to reports she died within 20 minutes in the arms of Minnie Wood, the Sister in Charge of No 44 CCS.
Following the attack the 44th CCS moved to Lijssenthoek, Belgium where Nellie Spindler was buried in the cemetery the following day, grave XVI. A. 3., one of only two women buried in a Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemetery in Belgium. She was 26 years of age.
The following extract is from the book Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War:
This has been a very bad day. Big shells began coming over about 10am – one burst between one of our wards and the Sisters’ Quarters of No.44 CCS, and killed a Night Sister asleep in bed in her tent and knocked three others out with concussion and shell shock. Another laid out the QM stores in the Australians and many more have had narrow shaves.
Bits came over everywhere, pitching at one’s feet as we rushed to the scene of action, and one just missed one of my Night Sisters getting into bed in our compound. I knew by the crash where it must have gone and found Sister E as white as a paper but smiling happily and comforting the terrified patients. Then I came on to the shell-hole and the wrecked tents in the Sisters’ Quarters at 44. A group of stricken MOs were standing about and in one tent the Sister was dying. The piece went through her from back to front near her heart. She was only conscious a few minutes and only lived 20 minutes.
Sister K. E. Luard Casualty Clearing Station No32, Brandhoek, Belgium.