Unveiling the Storrington mystery of WWI hero Edith

It is one of those miraculous tales that comprises elements of mystery, heroism and sheer coincidence that began with a simple name on a piece of paper.

Friday, 15th August 2014, 2:36 pm
JPCT 300714 S14312264x Storrington roll of honour - finding Edith Ingram. -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140730-125525001

For the last year, Storrington Museum in School Lane has been labouring night and day to uncover the World War One heroes of the village.

This included the restoration of the original Storrington Roll of Honour that had remained missing for decades, until the two final pieces to the puzzle were uncovered.

The roll includes all the names of those who fell during the war between 1914 and 1918 with a link to Storrington (although the museum intends to add some additional names).

JPCT 300714 S14312346x Storrington roll of honour - finding Edith Ingram. Peter and Jane Ingram -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140730-123726001

Edith Ingram is one of those that appeared on the list, and as the only female to be mentioned, the team at the museum were intrigued to learn more about the mystery behind the woman.

After picking up her weekly County Times, Henfield resident Jane Lang read an appeal by the museum to find Edith’s relatives.

“I knew about Edith since my childhood because we had the Red Cross certificate that was awarded to her,” said Jane, 65, Edith’s great niece.

Jane arrived at Storrington Museum last week with her husband Peter, carrying a wealth of photographs, belongings and other documents of Edith’s that had been saved since her sudden death in 1918.

This was not the only reason that Edith was a constant flame in Jane’s life - they share a few incredible coincidences too.

Edith lived and worked in Brighton as a nurse, but decided to join Storrington’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) so she could contribute to the Great War.

“I always wanted to be a nurse myself,” said Jane, “and my dad always wanted me to join the army, so I combined the two.”

But an even more remarkable fact was to link her to the Victorian relative.

Peter, 68, said: “Edith was killed August 14 1918, Jane’s birthday is August 14 1948.”

Jane interjected: “I definitely have a spiritual side and I always felt there’s been a connection.”

Picking up a decorative silver belt buckle, Jane explained that Edith wore it when she worked as a nurse, and in turn Jane did the same.

“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” added Jane.

Edith was born in North Devon to her school teacher father, Herbert Ingram and mother, Sarah. She also had two sisters and one brother.

After moving around to various locations and her father’s stint in a mental institution, the family ended up living in Washington where Edith’s parents are now buried.

“Storrington was the nearest VAD detachment so that would have attracted people from the surrounding areas,” said Peter.

Although Edith travelled the world as a nurse and put herself on the line to tend to wounded soldiers, she did not forget to write back to her loved ones, which can be seen in a little Christmas card.

On the card is a symbol which represents the South African Heavy Artillery.

Edith wrote ‘Stuart’s regiment’, which could be referring to a boyfriend.

“We tantalisingly found a picture - I can’t guarantee it’s Stuart, but it’s a nice idea,” said Peter.

There are at least a dozen photographs of Edith from the age of 18 leading up to her early 30s, wearing her VAD uniform. There is even a shot of the Red Cross station in Cambridge where Edith was once stationed.

On August 14 1918, Edith was leaving the hospital during a long air raid.

“She was bombed,” said Peter. “It was dropped on 55 Military Hospital, which was near Boulogne in France.”

Looking for more information about the incident, he stumbled across a document on the internet that belonged to a head nurse who was on the scene.

“There’s a chief nurse from Northern France, an Australian lady, and she kept a diary and Edith’s death was mentioned there.

“Basically, it says there was an air raid that went on for quite a long time as the Germans were bombing.”

Taking out an old clipping from The Evening Argus newspaper for reference, Peter continued to say that Edith was leaving the hospital with a friend when they got caught in the blast. The friend survived.

Jane’s considerable collection of photographs, documents, newspaper clippings and items of Edith, which has survived for almost 100 years, shows just how devastated it left her Washington family who did not want to forget the memory of their much loved daughter and sister.

The Evening Argus described Edith as a ‘charming girl’ who gave herself ‘willingly and devotedly to the noble cause’.

Jane and Peter will continue their search to uncover more of Edith’s story and hope to find out who Stuart was and the friend that was with her on that fateful day.

Storrington Museum will be launching its World War One Commemoration Weekend on November 1 and 2, which will include a section on Edith and her story.

For more details visit: www.storringtonmuseum.org