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  • Claire Jordan

Still Looking After Her Boys

This is the unforgettable Nellie Spindler.

She was a Staff Nurse from Wakefield, Yorkshire, the eldest daughter of Police Sergeant George and his wife Elizabeth.

Nellie had trained at Leeds before the War and in May 1915, she volunteered to serve at the Front; she was physically brave, possessed a doughty, pragmatic soul and she knew she could help.

She was sent to No.44 Casualty Clearing Station, an evacuation hospital set up close to Brandhoek on the road to Ypres, surrounded by ammunition stores and within easy reach of the enemy’s guns.

The hospital was constantly shelled, but she stuck it out, day and night, for more than two years.

If her boys had to be there, so too would she be.

But on 21st August 1917, her luck finally ran out when their position was shelled yet again and this time, she was hit by flying shrapnel… white-hot, twisted pieces of jagged metal which could carve through flesh and bone like butter.

Nellie was gravely wounded. She had been so long in the firing line, seemingly unstoppable.

The story goes that she was lifted onto a stretcher and bandaged as well as her terrified staff could manage, all the while instructing them how to bind her dressings and what to do next.

Then she started giving very calm directions about what they should be doing for all the boys she had been working on when she was wounded.

She kept talking, trying to put her house in order before she had to leave it.

Finally, she ceased mid-sentence and said something like: "I’m afraid I must stop now", closed her eyes, and was gone. She was 26.

The decision was made to move the remaining 321 patients at Brandhoek and the body of Nellie Spindler back to Lijssenthoek and re-establish the CCS there.

She is buried in one of the front rows at the #CWGC’s beautiful Lijssenthoek Cemetery, just west of Ypres.

Nellie is the only woman there, surrounded by the more than 10 000 men and boys for whom she helped to care.

Her epitaph is from Longfellow and reads: ‘A Noble Type of Good Heroic Womanhood.’

It was chosen by her Mum.

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