Nellie Spindler

Nellie Spindler

Nellie Spindler was born in Wakefield, a small city in Yorkshire, England. She’s the eldest daughter of George and Elizabeth, has two younger sisters, Lillie and Mary, and a brother, Edward. Her father was a police sergeant. Nellie is educated as a nurse in the Leeds Hospital. From November 1915 she works as a nurse in the military hospital of Lichfield, a town in the West Midlands.

Nellie Spindler

In May 1915, she left for the front line. She became a staff nurse in No.44 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), an evacuation hospital that at that time was located in Brandhoek, a township near Poperinge, beside the road to Ypres. There were strong objections to Brandhoek as a hospital location. It was too close to the front line and was, moreover, surrounded by ammunition and supply depots. Not a very tranquil location, in other words.

The incessant clamour of bombardments didn’t help the patients’ mood either, while the nearby depots were obvious targets. On 21 August 1917 Brandhoek was hit by German artillery shells. Nellie Spindler was hit by a schrapnel and died that same day. After the bombardment Brandhoek was evacuated. The 321 patients and the body of Nellie Spindler were transported to Lijssenthoek, where it was placed in the mortuary. The next day, Nellie Spindler was buried with full military honours. Her fellow nurses, meanwhile, were on their way to Saint-Omer.

She is the only woman buried between more than 10,800 men at Lijssenthoek Cemetery.

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Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row
These lines by poet and soldier John McCrae describe the horrors of the First World War. Some of the war’s bloodiest battles were fought in the Westhoek. One million soldiers died, were injured or went missing. Entire cities and villages were wiped off the map.

Tyne Cot Cemetery ©Westtoer