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Blue Plaque to be unveiled for unsung hero nurse in Altrincham

10 May 2018

An ‘un-sung hero’ nurse from Altrincham who was held captive by German soldiers during the First World War is set to be commemorated with a blue plaque, it has been revealed today.

The plaque will be at the former home of Marie Margaret Netherwood on Ashfield Road, Altrincham.

Last year, Trafford Council’s Local Studies department uncovered the nurse’s tale and have worked with the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) North West office to secure the plaque.

On October 2nd 1914, the Altrincham, Hale and Bowdon Guardian published an article titled “Nurses Experiences -Altrincham Lady’s Adventures at The Front”. The story related to a party of eight nurses who travelled to Belgium with the Duchess of Sutherland to care for injured soldiers on the front line. The nurses spent six weeks at the front before being captured by the Germans as Prisoners of War. After four days they were released on the condition that they would not return.

The article states that Nurse Netherwood “speaks of thrilling experiences, and some of the sights have been so horrible, that she declares, she is unable to mention them.”

It continues: “For four days they were prisoners of war, but were eventually allowed to leave under American protection and returned by way of Namur, Huy, Liege and they were delighted to arrive safely at Maastricht.”

After her capture and subsequent release, Marie soon went back to Belgium to continue her work as a nurse despite promising the German officials never to return.

The Royal College of Nursing has funded the plaque as part of its work to mark the contribution the North West has made to both nursing and medical history. 

Regional Director at the RCN, Estephanie Dunn, said: “We are very proud of our nursing heritage and history and we are all aware of the stories of nurses Florence Nightingale, Edith Cavell and Mary Seacole. However it is an honour to be able to mark a local lady whose contributions are little known. 

“Having lived in Altrincham and trained in Birkenhead, her roots were firmly in the North West and she decided to take her skills and bravery to the front line following a short spell working in London. We feel very strongly about officially recognising her contribution with the plaque.

“International Nurses’ Day is a day where we celebrate the achievements and contributions made by of today’s health professionals. Nursing is a vocation of which I’m sure we’re all very proud, and unveiling a blue plaque for someone who has helped shape the profession feels really fitting and it’s a big thank you to Trafford Council for helping make this happen.”

Jill Colbert, Corporate Director, Children, Families and Wellbeing at Trafford Council, said: “It is only fitting that we honour Nurse Netherwood with a lasting tribute in Trafford. She was an amazing woman whose inspiring story deserves to be remembered along with her important contribution to nursing.”

As part of the region’s Nurses’ Day celebrations and to help share Margaret’s story locally, pupils at Oldfield Brow Primary School in Altrincham will be taken back in time for a morning to experience what it would have been like to be a nurse and medic in the First World War.

The RCN has organised for a re-enactment to take place at the school to enable to pupils to ‘experience’ and learn about this part of history. The pupils will hear from nursing historians, who will be dressed in period attire, about the type of things wartime nurses did. They will also get to examine war time medical equipment, see inside a real life war time medical vehicle and have the opportunity to take part in a stretcher relay.

The pupils have been learning about Marie Margaret Netherwood in school and have written newspaper articles about what it would have been like to be her. They have been taking inspiration from real-life Altrincham Guardian news articles.

Further details about Marie Margaret Netherwood can be found at: https://gm1914.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/marie-margaret-netherwood-prisoner-of-war/