More about the Royal Red Cross

Does Matron Ida Greaves RRC share the distinction of being the first Australian woman to be awarded the Royal Red Cross in the Great War with a Nora Kathleen Fletcher who received her award from King George V on the same day in 1915 as Ida?  Nora Fletcher was being honoured for her service as Principal Matron of the British Red Cross in France.  She is not named in the Australian War Memorial’s database of honours and awards, but I have discovered records and artefacts relating to Matron Fletcher in the State Library of NSW.  According to a catalogue entry she was born in Woollahra, NSW, in 1880.  However, there is no record of her birth in the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages online and a search of family notices in Trove from 1879-1881 also proved  fruitless.

Whatever the case, it does not diminish the achievement of either woman! They were in the first group of nurses from throughout the then British Empire to receive the honour during the Great War.

13 thoughts on “More about the Royal Red Cross

  1. Les de Belin

    Are you trying to find the birth of Nora Kathleen Fletcher 1880 at Woollarha? Could it be this birth- Kathleen Fletcher born 1880 at Paddington to John and Ann. (NSW BDM’s). If you have her death details, I could try some other avenues as well.

    1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

      Thanks for responding, Les, I’ll follow it up. Year of death would likely be 1967 or before. It is possible that it’s the same person, although all the newspaper references I can find in the context of the award consistently use the forename Nora or Norah, but don’t always include Kathleen as the middle name which suggests that it’s not her. However, I have picked up a very occasional mistake in the BDM online. I have also come across an instance of a family that seems to have only registered the births of male children! (The Hocquards from Stockton near Newcastle – 2 of the girls joined the AANS, I worked out their approximate year of birth from the age stated on their attestation papers.)

      For various reasons I am still not absolutely convinced that Matron Fletcher was Australian. She trained at the Coast Hospital in Sydney but some New Zealand women crossed the Tasman to do their training. The hunt for certainty continues.

      1. Joan Steele

        Nora Kathleen Fletcher’s birth was registered as Kathleen N. Fletcher, father John,mother Anne.
        She used Nora Kathleen all of her life. She did indeed receive her award on the same day as Ida Greaves. See: On Monday night 12 June 1915 at Buckingham Palace Nora Fletcher and fellow nurse Ida Greaves received the Royal Red Cross. The king pinned the decorations to their breasts personally (|||l-australian=y|||l-availability=y|||l-decade=191|||l-year=1915|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-month=7 )
        See other sources:|||l-australian=y|||l-availability=y|||l-decade=191|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-year=1916 and|||l-australian=y|||l-availability=y|||l-decade=191|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-year=1919 . website has numerous articles pertaining to Nora. Nora died on 18 August 1976 in Torquay, Devon, England. I hope this helps establish her as an important Australian Nurse of WW1.
        Regards, Joan Steele

      2. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

        Thanks, Joan. According to Ida Greaves’ account, they arrived at the Palace together, attired in ward dress as per instructions on the invitations, and white kid gloves. Nora had offered Ida a lift in a Red Cross car. The ceremony started at 11am but the 12 nurses being decorated had a 2-hour wait for their turn, on account of the number of men receiving awards. (Source – Ida Greaves archive, courtesy Trish Hayes.)

  2. Philip Mosely

    Kathleen Fletcher, born 1880 in Wollahra Sydney (Coreen College), daughter of John Walter Fletcher (schoolmaster, later police magistrate) and Ann Marion Fletcher (nee Clarke) was Nora Kathleen Fletcher, much decorated Matron of the British Red Cross during WW1. Using Trove, see Sydney Morning Herald 18 Oct 1916, p.10, 2 Dec 1919, p.6, 18 Mar 1922, p.9. Death certificates of the family, especially her father, confirm Kathleen is Nora. She had 3 sisters (Edith Grace, Marion Dorothy & Ann Judith) and 2 brothers (John William & Robert Eric).

    1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

      Thanks for those references, Philip. Since creating this post I have been lent some documents relating to Matron Greaves, including her description of the investiture at Buckingham Palace. This also confirms Nora Kathleen Fletcher as Australian – in listing the order in which nurses lined up to receive their awards from the King, she notes “4th Nora Fletcher (Australian) Matron in Chief British Red Cross … 6th Myself.” (Quoted courtesy Greaves family archive.) Christine

    2. Glenn Woof

      RE Kathleen Nora Fletcher – On behalf of the Trained Nurses Association of Prince Henry Hospital we are in the process of organising a display on the nurses from this hospital who served in WW1. Do you have any further information regarding this lady. What did she do when she returned to Australia ?when, and when did she pass away. ?did she ever marry
      Thank you
      Glenn Woof

      1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

        Glenn, see the State Library of NSW catalogue entry for Nora Fletcher’s papers – – this gives her year of death as 1951. I have not gone into her story in a lot of detail as my main focus is women from the Hunter region. However, I did have a look at her papers in the State Library and they are quite interesting. She was a significant individual in the context of British Red Cross operations in France. It would be well worth your while to spend an hour or two looking through the material. You will also find references to her on the Scarlet Finders website, which includes transcripts of the war diary of the Matron-in-Chief BEF. Good luck with your project – let me know when / where your display will be.

      2. Joan Steele

        Glenn, Nora Kathleen Fletcher died on 18 August 1976 in Torquay, Devon, England.I have a copy of her death certificateif you need that. She never married and never returned to Australia.

  3. Glenn Woof

    Thank you for your reply. I have had a look at the SL information. I now have to confirm her date of death. It is suggested 1951, but there is no information on the NSW BDM or Trove. This make the hunting interesting. Will let you know when our display is ready.

    1. Philip Mosely

      Nora Kathleen Fletcher, who was born in Wollahra (Paddington, Sydney) on 1st February 1880, died aged 96 in the borough of Torbay, County of Devon , UK. Where in the borough she lived I have yet to find out but it was probably Torquay and, if not, Paignton or Brixham. Her date of registration is listed as September 1976 (England & Wales, Death Index 1916-2007).
      I shall have to go through my records but if memory serves me right she remained unmarried and lived in the UK after WW1. She certainly was unmarried and living in the UK in the early 1920s and her maiden name at death indicates she remained unmarried. I cannot confirm whether Nora visited Australia after the war but it would seem likely.

      1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

        Thanks for the additional information, Philip. Glen Woof of the Prince Henry Trained Nurses’ Association will appreciate it. Christine

      2. Glenn Woof

        Hi Philip, Thank you for the information. It is interesting that you note her date of death as 1976 as the display about Kathleen Norah in the State Library has her date of death being 1951. I think that 1976 sounds more like her as I believe she was already in England when war broke out. I would be more that interested in anything else you have on this good lady
        Thank you

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