Many nursing sisters and former students of King’s College Hospital at Denmark Hill volunteered during the First World War and a number died on active service. They are commemorated on a plaque in the hospital chapel. Here, we look at some of the people behind the names.
Captain Donald Aucutt
Captain Donald Aucutt was just 24 when he was killed in action on 9 October 1917. He would have known King’s College Hospital well. Not only did he qualify as a doctor here, but he grew up nearby, living with his parents at 179 Denmark Hill.
At the outbreak of war, Donald obtained a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps and went to France. But he believed he could better serve his country as a fighting man and joined the Royal Sussex Regiment, before obtaining a commission in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Fanny Jones was born in Carmarthen and trained as a nurse at King’s College Hospital between 1908 and 1911. At the start of the war, she volunteered as a staff nurse with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service and was sent to work at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, Hampshire, in June 1916. Sadly, Fanny became seriously ill and had to resign from nursing. She died of breast cancer in 1919 and was buried back in her home town.
The War Office decided that Fanny was not eligible for the WWI Silver War Badge, given to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness. In November 1917, it said: “The badge is only awarded to those nurses who have retired from the Army on account of physical disabilities which render them unsuitable for further service. The disability which occasioned resignation did not render her unsuitable, and is a claim that cannot be entertained.”
Fanny’s family campaigned against this decision. The War Office eventually reconsidered her case and decided that, in view of a medical certificate confirming the gravity of her illness, she should be honoured with the Silver War Badge (pictured above).
Second Lieutenant Harold Deller
Second Lieutenant Harold Deller went to school at Dulwich College, then made the short journey to train as a doctor at King’s College Hospital. He stayed here until December 1915, when he left to join the Army, eventually serving in the Royal Field Artillery.
He saw active service at Ypres, where he was killed by shell fire in July 1917. He was only 21. Harold was liked and respected by his fellow soldiers, and after his death his commanding officer wrote: “He was beloved by all ranks of his regiment. In laying down his life for England, we have lost one of the best types of officer and gentleman I have ever seen.”
Elise Kemp was the only nurse from New Zealand to be killed in action during WWI. Born in the capital, Wellington, her family moved to London and Elise studied nursing at King’s College Hospital between 1904 and 1908, and then worked as a ward nurse. When the war broke out, she volunteered for the Territorial Forces Nursing Service, and in January 1916 she was posted to the Western Front.
On 20 October 1917, Elise was treating casualties at a casualty clearing station in France when it was bombed by an enemy aircraft. She was killed instantly. She was buried in the British cemetery at Godwaersvelde, northern France.
On 3 November 1917, the British Journal of Nursing wrote: “Great sorrow has been caused at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, by the news of the death of Sister Elise M Kemp, of the Territorial Force Nursing Service. Sister Kemp, who was trained at King's College Hospital, and afterwards promoted to the position of Sister, was a great favourite with her colleagues, both at home and abroad.”
Biographies and images of Captain Donald Aucutt and Second Lieutenant Harold Deller courtesy King's College London Archives.