Sister Hannah Maud Cottingham | Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

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Biography:
Sister Hannah Maud Cottingham
13/10/1886 –27/10/1918

Sister Hannah Maud Cottingham

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A simple tribute ‘Erected by the Inns of Court O.T.C. in memory of Sister Cottingham, Matron at ‘the Beeches’ V.A.D. Hospital, died there 27th October 1918’ marks the grave of someone who was much loved and respected. She died at the age of 31, not as a result of enemy fire but by succumbing to the Spanish ‘flu whilst caring for others. Who then was Sister Cottingham? Was she a local girl, and did she have family to mourn her passing?

Family

Hannah Maud Cottingham was born on 13 October 1886 at Ballymaglave, a small townland near Ballynahinch in County Down, Ireland, 21 miles south of Belfast (now in Northern Ireland). Her birth was registered on 7 January 1887 in the Ballynahinch District of Downpatrick. Her parents were Thomas Cottingham (1849-1929) and Ellen née Robinson (1852-1896). They married at the Mariners' Church in Belfast in 1883 and had two children: William, born 17 September 1884; and Hannah Maud, born 13 October 1886. The family’s religion was Church of Ireland. Thomas Cottingham was a police officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Ireland-wide police force that existed prior to the 1922 partition. Thomas's career progressed and he was promoted within the RIC. He and his family moved around Ireland several times, probably according to where he was stationed. The Cottinghams moved to Belfast in 1889 where Thomas served as Head Constable at the Shankill Road Barracks, and in 1892 he was promoted to District Inspector. Ellen died unexpectedly in 1896 in Co. Clare, when Maud was only 10 years old. It is possible that they were just visiting the area, as the grieving Thomas had Ellen buried in Belfast City Cemetery. Thomas was now left to raise the children. In the 1901 Census of Ireland, Thomas was recorded as living with the teenage children and a domestic servant named Isobel Turner at 6 Margarette Terrace in Portadown, Co. Armagh. The 1911 census records Thomas and Hannah Maud as living in Magheraliskmisk, Co Antrim, along with their domestic servant Mary Agnes Foley. Thomas's last position seems to have been in Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Nursing career

At some stage Maud trained to be a nurse, probably in Belfast. From various sources we know that she worked at the Baltic and Corn Exchange Hospital in 1915 and in the Brundall Auxillary Hospital in Norwich.  The Baltic and Corn Exchange was the name given to a British Base Hospital in northern France, officially named No.8 British Red Cross Hospital. In WWI, base Hospitals were part of the battlefield casualty evacuation chain, further back from the front line than the Casualty Clearing Stations. They were often located near a costal port so that wounded men could be evacuated back to Britain, and some of these hospitals moved around as the theatre of war changed. Maud's hospital was was located at Calais between October 1914 and July 1915. It then moved to Paris-Plage September 1915-December 1917, and from January 1918 it was situated in Boulogne. Hannah would have nursed wounded soldiers from the Battle of Loos in 1915, and would have seen the horrific effects from one of the earliest uses of poison gas on the battlefield. Maud's Medal Information Card shows her as Hannah Maud Cottingham (British Red Cross Society and order of St John of Jerusalem). Her 1916 VAD record card recorded her home address as Springhill in Bangor, County Down. At the time of her death at 31 she was the Matron (or Sister-in-Charge) at ‘The Beeches’ V.A.D. Hospital [aka The Detention Hospital]. Her last home address was given on her 1918 VAD record card as Glenaleanan, near Dundalk in County Louth. The Beeches served as the medical facility for the Inns of Court Regiment which stationed an Officers' Training Corps (OTC) camp at Berkhamsted from 1914-1919. Thousands of young men passed through training at Berkhamsted before being sent to fight in the battlefields of Belgium and France. 2200 of those men never returned home. When the 1918 Flu Pandemic struck Berkhamsted, many OTC trainees were hospitalised at the Beeches. Sister Maud was in charge of their treatment and she opened an overflow fever ward in the Court House next to St Peter's Church. In an attempt to limit infection, sheets soaked in disinfectant were hung in between patients' beds.

Death and burial

Finally, Maud herself contracted flu. The cause of Maud's death is given as Influenza and Bronchopneumonia. The British Red Cross Register of Overseas Volunteers shows her as Nursing Sister Hannah Maud Cottingham. Her death was announced in Irish newspapers, including the Dublin General Advertiser and the Larne Times.
Nursing Sister Maud Cottingham, only daughter of ex-District Inspector T. Cottingham, Dundalk, was buried with military honours at Berkhamsted, Herts, where she had been in charge of the Inns of Court O.T.C. Hospital. General Advertiser for Dublin and all Ireland, 9 November 1918
Maud died aged only 32, hundreds of miles from home. She was much loved and respected by the young men of the Inns of Court OTC in her care, and they were so affected by her death in the service of her country that the regimental OTC paid for her grave in Rectory Lane Cemetery. Her father, Thomas, already a widower, had now lost his only daughter. He had a memorial inscription for Maud added to the headstone of his wife's grave in Belfast City Cemetery:

"...and of his daughter H. Maud, who died 27th October 1918 aged 32 and is interred at Berkhamsted, England"

Thomas died of a heart attack on 3 April 1929 in Dunalk, Co Louth (now in the newly created Irish Free State) and his death was registered by his brother-in-law, Fred Robinson. Thomas was brought back to Belfast to be buried in the plot in Belfast City Cemetery alongside Ellen.
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in the cemetery

A simple tribute ‘Erected by the Inns of Court O.T.C. in memory of Sister Cottingham, Matron at ‘the Beeches’ V.A.D. Hospital, died there 27th October 1918’ marks the grave of someone who was much loved and respected. She died at the age of 31, not as a result of enemy fire but by succumbing to the Spanish ‘flu whilst caring for others. Who then was Sister Cottingham? Was she a local girl, and did she have family to mourn her passing?

Family

Hannah Maud Cottingham was born on 13 October 1886 at Ballymaglave, a small townland near Ballynahinch in County Down, Ireland, 21 miles south of Belfast (now in Northern Ireland). Her birth was registered on 7 January 1887 in the Ballynahinch District of Downpatrick. Her parents were Thomas Cottingham (1849-1929) and Ellen née Robinson (1852-1896). They married at the Mariners’ Church in Belfast in 1883 and had two children: William, born 17 September 1884; and Hannah Maud, born 13 October 1886. The family’s religion was Church of Ireland.

Thomas Cottingham was a police officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Ireland-wide police force that existed prior to the 1922 partition. Thomas’s career progressed and he was promoted within the RIC. He and his family moved around Ireland several times, probably according to where he was stationed. The Cottinghams moved to Belfast in 1889 where Thomas served as Head Constable at the Shankill Road Barracks, and in 1892 he was promoted to District Inspector.

Ellen died unexpectedly in 1896 in Co. Clare, when Maud was only 10 years old. It is possible that they were just visiting the area, as the grieving Thomas had Ellen buried in Belfast City Cemetery. Thomas was now left to raise the children.

In the 1901 Census of Ireland, Thomas was recorded as living with the teenage children and a domestic servant named Isobel Turner at 6 Margarette Terrace in Portadown, Co. Armagh. The 1911 census records Thomas and Hannah Maud as living in Magheraliskmisk, Co Antrim, along with their domestic servant Mary Agnes Foley. Thomas’s last position seems to have been in Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Nursing career

At some stage Maud trained to be a nurse, probably in Belfast. From various sources we know that she worked at the Baltic and Corn Exchange Hospital in 1915 and in the Brundall Auxillary Hospital in Norwich.  The Baltic and Corn Exchange was the name given to a British Base Hospital in northern France, officially named No.8 British Red Cross Hospital.

In WWI, base Hospitals were part of the battlefield casualty evacuation chain, further back from the front line than the Casualty Clearing Stations. They were often located near a costal port so that wounded men could be evacuated back to Britain, and some of these hospitals moved around as the theatre of war changed. Maud’s hospital was was located at Calais between October 1914 and July 1915. It then moved to Paris-Plage September 1915-December 1917, and from January 1918 it was situated in Boulogne. Hannah would have nursed wounded soldiers from the Battle of Loos in 1915, and would have seen the horrific effects from one of the earliest uses of poison gas on the battlefield.

Maud’s Medal Information Card shows her as Hannah Maud Cottingham (British Red Cross Society and order of St John of Jerusalem).

Her 1916 VAD record card recorded her home address as Springhill in Bangor, County Down. At the time of her death at 31 she was the Matron (or Sister-in-Charge) at ‘The Beeches’ V.A.D. Hospital [aka The Detention Hospital]. Her last home address was given on her 1918 VAD record card as Glenaleanan, near Dundalk in County Louth.

The Beeches served as the medical facility for the Inns of Court Regiment which stationed an Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) camp at Berkhamsted from 1914-1919. Thousands of young men passed through training at Berkhamsted before being sent to fight in the battlefields of Belgium and France. 2200 of those men never returned home.

When the 1918 Flu Pandemic struck Berkhamsted, many OTC trainees were hospitalised at the Beeches. Sister Maud was in charge of their treatment and she opened an overflow fever ward in the Court House next to St Peter’s Church. In an attempt to limit infection, sheets soaked in disinfectant were hung in between patients’ beds.

Death and burial

Finally, Maud herself contracted flu. The cause of Maud’s death is given as Influenza and Bronchopneumonia. The British Red Cross Register of Overseas Volunteers shows her as Nursing Sister Hannah Maud Cottingham. Her death was announced in Irish newspapers, including the Dublin General Advertiser and the Larne Times.

Nursing Sister Maud Cottingham, only daughter of ex-District Inspector T. Cottingham, Dundalk, was buried with military honours at Berkhamsted, Herts, where she had been in charge of the Inns of Court O.T.C. Hospital.

General Advertiser for Dublin and all Ireland, 9 November 1918

Maud died aged only 32, hundreds of miles from home. She was much loved and respected by the young men of the Inns of Court OTC in her care, and they were so affected by her death in the service of her country that the regimental OTC paid for her grave in Rectory Lane Cemetery.

Her father, Thomas, already a widower, had now lost his only daughter. He had a memorial inscription for Maud added to the headstone of his wife’s grave in Belfast City Cemetery:

“…and of his daughter H. Maud,
who died 27th October 1918 aged 32
and is interred at Berkhamsted, England”

Thomas died of a heart attack on 3 April 1929 in Dunalk, Co Louth (now in the newly created Irish Free State) and his death was registered by his brother-in-law, Fred Robinson. Thomas was brought back to Belfast to be buried in the plot in Belfast City Cemetery alongside Ellen.

Relatives


No relatives have been linked to Sister Hannah Maud Cottingham

Historical Connections

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