Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, 30th December 1915
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Caroline Maud Edwards was born in Llanharry, Glamorganshire in c.1887. She started school at the Monmouth High School for Girls and won seven scholarships. She entered Bedford College and from there started work at the London General Hospital.
When war was declared she volunteered and appears to have joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service on 3 August 1914. She saw service at the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar and also at the military hospital at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. She was eventually transferred to the hospital ship Drina on 18 August 1915.
On 30 December 1915 the Drina was based in the Firth of Cromarty with a number of ships from the Royal Navy Grand Fleet. One of the ships at anchor was HMS Natal – a ‘Warrior’ type cruiser of 13,550 tons. The Natal’s Captain (Captain Eric Back) hosted a film party and invited a number of guests including his wife and children, officer’s wives, civilian friends and nurses from the Drina. The party had just started when there was a large explosion and fire. The ship sank within minutes. A subsequent inquiry determined this was due to faulty ammunition. While a number of the crew were ashore at a football match, the explosion and the subsequent sinking of the Natal resulted in the deaths of 422 crew and visitors. Caroline and two other nurses from Drina (Eliza Millicent Elvens and Olive Kathleen Rowlett), were amongst those killed. She is honoured and remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent.
The 1901 Census records Catherine as living at Rockfield, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, Wales with the following family members:-
- Father – Evan Prosser Edwards, born c.1856 in Cymmer, Glamorganshire, d. 7 June 1960.
- Mother – Erena Ellen Jones or Edwards, born c.1862 in Newport, Wales.
- Sister – Matilda Maria Edwards born c.1880 in Liverpool, died 1882.
- Brother – William M. Edwards, born c.1883.
- Sister – Gladys E. Edwards, born c.1885.
- Brother – Daniel Bertram Edwards, born c.1887 in Llanharry, Glamorganshire.
- Sister – Mabel C. Edwards, born c.1890 in Llanharry, Glamorganshire.
- Sister – Evelyn Marie Edwards born c.1894 at Port Townsend, Washington, U.S.A.
- Sister – Mildred H. Edwards born c.1897 at Wales.
- Sister – Gertrude Alice Edwards born 22 March 1898 at Monmouthshire.
A newspaper report of her death records that William served in the Navy and Bertram as serving in the Canadian Engineers. There is also reference to an elder sister Louise who was a superintendent of one of the hospitals in Egypt and was invalided back to the UK.
- The 1891 Census records the family as living at Lowries Buildings, Paddock Place, Cardiff.
- The 1901 Census records the family as living at Rockfield, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, Wales.
- It appears Caroline’s parents were living for a time in the USA as the newspaper report states their address as 541 Calhoun Street Port Townsend, Washington.
Caroline Maud Edwards is honoured and remembered on the following memorial:-
- Royal London Memorial, Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel, London.
- Women of the Empire – WW1 Screen – York Minster, Deangate, York.
- The Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent.
- The Nursing Memorial, WW1 & WW2 – National Arboretum, Croxall Road, Alrewas, Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Links to Additional Information
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Caroline Maud Edwards
- Lives of the First World War – Caroline Maud Edwards
- A Street Near You website – Caroline Maud Edwards
- Imperial War Museum – Royal London Hospital Memorial
- Imperial War Museum – Women of the Empire WW1 Screen
- Imperial War Museum – The Nursing Memorial, National Arboretum
- Find a Grave – Caroline Maud Edwards – Chatham Naval Memorial
- Imperial War Museum – Caroline Maud Edwards
- National Archives: ADM 104/162.
- Western Mail 8 February 1916.
- England and Wales Marriages 1837-2005 (provided confirmation of parents details).
- 1881 England Wales and Scotland Census.
- 1891 England Wales and Scotland Census.
- 1901 England Wales and Scotland Census.
- Find a Grave website.
- Imperial War Museum Collections – Caroline Maud Edwards
- Naval War Medals – Mercantile Marine Reserve.
- Trevor Torkington