Annie and Lily FRASER

Beginners' Guide to the History of Wrexham

Annie and Lily Fraser, two sisters, who originally grew up on Holt Street, both joined the Scottish Women’s Hospital during the First World War. They served alongside a nurse called Florence Caton, whose grandparents had brought her up on Bryndraw Terrace, off Chapel Street, Pen y Bryn.

The Scottish Women’s Hospital (SWH) was established by Dr Elise Inglis, secretary of the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies. The SWH included doctors, nurses, cooks, and cleaners. They had planned to serve in France, but the authorities declined their offer, perhaps fearful of having so many independent-minded feminists on the Western Front.

Dr Inglis contacted the French and the Serb military, who accepted her offer. Consequently, the Fraser sisters and Florence Caton ended up in the Balkans. They would be captured by the advancing Austrian army when the SWH staff refused to abandon the sick and wounded when the Serb forces had to retreat. The SWH were eventually transported to Budapest, then Vienna before finally being handed over to the neutral Swiss authorities.

The nurses had to sign an agreement as citizens of a belligerent country not to participate in the war effort following their release. However, Florence Caton, did return to the battlefield again but under a US passport because she had dual nationality. She once again saw active service in the Balkans on the Macedonian front. It was while working with the SWH in Salonika that, sadly, she fell ill with appendicitis and refusing to report in sick for fear of being sent home again, her condition worsened, and she died of peritonitis. She was buried in the Serbian cemetery at Salonika, now Thessaloniki, in northern Greece.

Acknowledgement: Wrexham Museum; The Friends of Wrexham Museums WWI Roll of Honour Project.

Full details in Wrexham: In Memoriam 1914-18 available from the Friends of Wrexham Museum.

Source: Wrexham Museums.