Media Release

Matron pays homage to First World War Nurse who paid the ultimate sacrifice

A Matron has made a pilgrimage to Belgium to pay homage to a nurse who lost her life during the bloody fighting of the First World War.

Emergency Matron Debbie Longmuir remembered the sacrifice made by Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler and laid a card in thanks from her colleagues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Nellie died in the arms of one of her fellow nurses after being hit by shrapnel in 1917.

She was just 26 years old and had been working with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service at a clearing station when she died.

Mrs Longmuir made a special point of paying homage to Nellie while visiting First World War cemeteries with her husband Tim.

She said: “Nursing today would not be where it is without the work of Nellie and her colleagues 100 years ago.

“All of the nurses doing the job at that time are an inspiration. They were in the thick of it, on the battlefields, and offering comfort to patients, many of whom were scared teenage boys.

“I wanted to recognise that Nellie had not been forgotten and that she was a pioneer of nursing.”

Nellie, who was born in Wakefield, had been nursing in hospitals in Wakefield and Leeds before joining the Military Nursing Service.

After signing up, she went onto become a staff nurse in a stationary hospital in France before moving to an evacuation hospital in Brandhoek, which specialised in treating abdominal wounds.

Nellie, who had been on a night shift, was wounded on August 21, after the clearing station had come under enemy fire all day. She is reported to have died in the arms of another nurse from her home town.

She is the only woman to be buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery alongside 10,000 men and was given full military honours.

Mrs Longmuir, who was visiting family graves with her husband, said: “You look out at the cemetery to a sea of white stones and knowing that everyone of those is someone’s son. As a mother I found it very emotional.”

The hospital’s Director of Nursing, Catherine Morgan, was among those who signed the card.

She said: “Nellie Spindler and her generation are an inspiration for modern nurses. She put herself in harm’s way to provide comfort and care to their patients in the most difficult circumstances.

“Treatments will have changed over the years but one thing has not, the care and compassion given by nurses to their patients.”



Emergency Matron Debbie Longmuir is pictured at the grave of Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler.

The Imperial War Museum Collections has a copy of a picture of Staff Nurse Spindler. Email:


Click here to download the press release and picture of Debbie