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Story of Belfast nurse lost to pneumonia in Great War echoes down years


Grave: Gertrude’s headstone

Grave: Gertrude’s headstone

Grave: Gertrude’s headstone

Researchers have uncovered the poignant story behind a gravestone of a First World War nurse in Belfast City Cemetery that carries parallels to today's health crisis.

The story of Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse Gertrude Ann Taylor (35), who passed away more than 100 years ago, was uncovered by History Hub Ulster researcher Nigel Henderson.

He was undertaking research into Gertrude, who died of pneumonia on December 12, 1916 while nursing at the 1st London General Hospital at Camberwell.

Gertrude was originally from Belfast.

She was the daughter of Alexander Taylor of 'Strathearn', Strandtown, in the east of the city.

After her death her body was brought back home for burial in Belfast City Cemetery and the memorial on her grave declares that she died "on active service".

But the poignant words of Rev John MacDermott in his sermon on Sunday, December 17, 1916 at Belmont Presbyterian Church will resonate more than 100 years later with the families of NHS workers battling to save lives today during the worldwide outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

In the sermon, five days after Gertrude's passing, Rev MacDermott said: "Miss Taylor's death reminds us that not all the heroes in the war were men.

"They were not all to be found among the fighters at the front.

"Not infrequently they were to be found among those who, all unmentioned, faithfully performed their duties at the bedsides of the wounded and weary.

"For them there was no roar of the guns, no excitement of the charge.

"(For them) nothing but the endless battle against suffering and death.

"But they were heroes and heroines all the same."

History Hub Ulster chair Gavin Bamford said: "In the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and the tremendous work being undertaken for all the community by the front line workers, the words spoken so gracefully by Rev MacDermott only too easily fit into today's praise."

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