Ethel Blundell Radcliffe was born in 1873 in West Bengal to parents John and Ethel Radcliffe.
She trained as a nurse in London, could speak French and German, and worked for a time as a hospital matron in South Africa.
Following the outbreak of the war she signed up to the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (QAINS) where she was immediately posted to a military hospital in Winchester, serving the wounded soldiers returning from the front lines in France.
In 1916 she left the service of the QAINS taking up work as a Red Cross Nurse at Ellesmere’s cottage hospital which had been designated an auxiliary military hospital.
However, according to a letter of recommendation, Ethel was keen to serve her country abroad. And, in April 1918, her wish was granted and Ethel re-joined QAINS and embarked on the channel crossing to serve in a military hospital near Calais.
As peace was officially declared, Ethel began to fall ill. On March 10, 1919, four months after the end of the first world war and almost four years after entering service to her country, Ethel Radcliffe died, never quite being free to enjoy the peace for which she and so many had sacrificed for. She was 45 years old.
Unlike the dozens of others that her name joins on the towns memorial, she wasn’t killed by gun fire or shrapnel. Like millions of others around the globe Ethel was a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic that killed at least 50 million people worldwide.
Her inscription, among the brave men on Ellesmere’s memorial, serves a poignant reminder that this weekend doesn’t just commemorate those felled by bombs and gunfire. It also serves to mark the vital role played by our heroes in the emergency services, still working tirelessly to support us in times of crisis and times of peace.