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Introduction

Grace Charlotte Vulliamy, C.B.E. 12 September 1878 – 1957Nurse, Refugees’ Helper, Prisoners’ Friend, Children’s Saviour

Grace Vulliamy and Leon, a Belgian refugee child

Introduction'Real happiness or rather worthwhile happiness, I do feel comes from helping others when one can.' Grace Vulliamy to her adopted son, Misha VulliamyThe name Grace Charlotte Vulliamy is not one which many people recognise today, yet her contemporaries compared her to Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell because she had similar experiences and displayed the same qualities. She identified her motivation in the sentence quoted above, written to her son, Misha. Grace was a pioneer in mental nursing, and like Cavell, during the First World War she helped prisoners to escape, smuggling men onto ships about to cross the Channel to England. Two members of the escape route team were arrested on July 31st, 1915. Grace was, however, safer than Cavell because she operated from Holland, not occupied Belgium. Nonetheless if Germany had invaded Holland she would have suffered the same fate. Post-war, Grace Vulliamy was delegate for the International Save the Children Union. The Relief Fund she founded for Poland was probably the first to be helped by Save the Children and she became a Life Vice-President of SCF. However, here I mainly consider her war-time work. Who was Grace Vulliamy and what kind of person was she? Described by one of her sisters as ‘Ahead of her time’, a rebel, a born leader and full of energy, she was not understood by her parents or by the schools to which she was sent, rejecting the restrictive double standards imposed on young Victorian women, and was expelled twice. Described by one of her sisters as ‘Ahead of her time’, a rebel, a born leader and full of energy, she was not understood by her parents or by the schools to which she was sent, rejecting the restrictive double standards imposed on young Victorian women, and was expelled twice. Being considered a somewhat unruly child, and needing to be able to earn her own living, she was sent to Germany and to France for a year each as a preparation for becoming a governess – a most unsuitable occupation for one of her temperament - but, on the suggestion of a friend, trained at Holloway Sanatorium as a mental nurse, passing the Medico Psychological Association nursing examination and gaining her certificate and medal. She was sent to Germany and to France for a year each as a preparation for becoming a governess but, on the suggestion of a friend, trained at Holloway Sanatorium as a mental nurse, passing the Medico Psychological Association nursing examination and gaining her certificate and medal. In this career she secured the high opinion of others. Francis H. Edwards, Medical Superintendent at Camberwell House said he had ‘come to regard her as a woman with exceptional gifts of organisation and general ability.’ Dr Mary Scharlieb, who practised in Harley Street, had a high opinion of her. Scharlieb was a member of the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases 1913–16, and in 1917 was made C.B.E. Further, for some years Grace Vulliamy was in charge of some of Netterville Barron’s patients. Barron was physician in Ordinary to TRH Prince and Princess Christian. This contact may have assisted her later approach to Royalty on behalf of prisoners of war. Grace Vulliamy’s ability with languages and mental nursing experience were vital in the First World War. She was a forerunner in some of the tasks that it was considered impossible for women to do. She was a woman who pushed at boundaries, did not suffer fools gladly, could be caustic and reduce inefficient workers to a ‘quivering jelly.’ However, she was greatly loved, because she expressed love for others, not in a sentimental manner, but in one which restored their self-respect.

Chapter 2. Her war workChapter 3.‘Last lap from Nurse Cavell’ Grace, Edith Cavell and Escaped PrisonersChapter 4. Helping the Quakers help Refugees Chapter 5. Civilian Prisoner ExchangeChapter 6. Military Prisoner ExchangeChapter 7. Post-war WorkChapter 8. ConclusionHome Page