Ceremony held to mark death of Wakefield nurse at Passchendaele

A small but dignified ceremony has taken place in Wakefield this week to mark the death of nurse Nellie Spindler, who was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele exactly 100 years ago.

Tuesday, 22nd August 2017, 10:53 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:47 pm
Wreath laying ceremony for World War I nurse Nallie Spindler who died 100 years ago on August 21. Pictured are Coun Charlie Keith with Nellie's relatives, Margaret Truelove, Julia Duffield and George Spindler

The young nurse, who had volunteered to go to the frontline to treat wounded soldiers during World War One died when a German shell landed where she had been resting after another long shift.

Organised by Wakefield councillor, Charlie Keith, a short wreath-laying ceremony was held at the war memorial on Wood Street at 2pm on Monday, joined by a handful of people including Nellie’s niece and nephew, Margaret Truelove and George Spindler.

Coun Keith said: “Many think of war as a male thing, but we are here to mark the life and commitment of a female - a local hero.

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“Nellie is my hero because she was just an ordinary Wakefield lass.

“At that time, she would not have had a vote and influence whether or not we went to war in the first place.

“She was talented, and above all, she was brave.

“It’s not about feminism or outlining female involvement. Today Nellie is teaching us a lesson that 100 years on, you can’t escape from the fact that in war, nobody wins but everybody will have to give.”

Nellie Spindler was born in Wakefield in 1891 and grew up on Stanley Road.

Training as a nurse, she worked at St James’ Hospital in Leeds before volunteering to ‘do her bit’ with the Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Service.

She found herself close to enemy lines during the bloody Battle of Passchendaele.

Nellie and her colleagues were at a casualty clearing station just behind the British front line, and close to a strategically-important railway which came under attack from the Germans on August 21, 1917.

A stray shell fell on the nurses’ sleeping quarters when Nellie was resting, having worked through the night. She was hit by shrapnel and despite the frantic efforts of her colleagues to save her she died within 20 minutes.

Following her death, she was buried with fully military honours in Belgium, alongside high-ranking men who had fallen.

Her Niece, Mrs Truelove, 82, said: “I think it’s remarkable that we are doing this today, it’s time, it should have been done before.

“We have always known about Nellie, our father used to talk about her. I think she was very brave.”

Nellie’s nephew, Mr Spindler, 86, added: “This is something that we’ve wanted for some time.”