Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 13.09.46They were the “Florence Nightingales” of the First World War trenches, saving countless lives amid the horrors of the Western Front.

Now, in a free talk at Durham’s County Hall, the great nephew of nurse Edith Appleton will explore the dedicated and distinguished war service of his ancestor and her close friend, Spennymoor’s own Kate Maxey.

Durham County Record Office’s principal archivist Gill Parkes said: “This promises to be a fascinating tale of the heroism of two women in their late thirties who set off from Southampton together in 1914 and spent the next four years helping to save lives in exceptional circumstances.

“Edie served in France and Belgium throughout the First World War and Kate Maxey was one of her closest friends. They worked together in General Hospital No. 1 at Etretat on the Normandy coast for most of 1916.

“It is hardly surprising that the two women developed such a close bond, given their similar backgrounds. Edie was born in Kent in 1877 while Kate was born a year earlier in Spennymoor.

“They both trained as nurses in the early 1900s, by the time war broke out they were both experienced practitioners and they travelled out to France together.

“At the end of hostilities both women were decorated for their dedicated and distinguished war service, and after the war they were both members of the Territorial Force Nursing Service.

“Edie mentions Kate, always referred to as ‘Maxey’, on numerous occasions in her diaries, and Dick Robinson’s talk will focus on their shared friendship and experiences.”


The free talk, Sister Edith Appleton: The diaries of a Front Line nurse in the Great War, takes place in the Council Chamber at County Hall on Tuesday 15 March at 7pm.

The event is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Durham at War project.

The story of Kate Maxey will then also be featured in the Somme 1916: From Durham to the Western Front exhibition, which opens at Durham University’s Palace Green Library on 25 March 2016.