A mass of black smoke and flying debris, a constant screech, rumble and roar of shells – another terrifying day for the nurses near the frontline in Flanders in August 1917.
Among them was Sister Minnie Wood, who was born in Batley in October 1880.
The Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) at Brandhoek had been sited unusually close to the line to reduce the mortality rate from abdominal and chest wounds. It was at huge risk from German shelling and was targeted on August 21. A fragment of shrapnel killed Sister Nellie Spindler, who died in the arms of Minnie Wood, the Sister in Charge of 44 CCS.
The shelling of Brandhoek continued from 11am until late at night but “this lady never lost her nerve for a moment and during the whole of a most trying day, carried out her duties with the greatest steadiness and coolness. By her work and example she greatly assisted in the speedy evacuation of the patients and the transfer of the Sisters.”
The quotation is part of her citation for the Military Medal, awarded to her shortly afterwards. She was one of only 146 to receive the honour.
Minnie, who trained as a nurse at Salford Royal Infirmary from 1905 to 1908, joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1912, serving in France, Belgium and, after the Armistice, Germany from August 1914 to October 1919.
As well as her gallantry at Brandhoek, she was mentioned three times in dispatches, was awarded the Royal Red Cross (second class in June 1917 and first class in January 1919) and the OBE in June 1919.
But war conditions took their toll – her records also show that after serving in Germany she was given sick leave for ‘debility’ and went to Craiglands Hydropathic Establishment, Ilkley, for rest and convalescence.
Minnie’s story features in a new exhibition to commemorate the outbreak of WW1 at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery.