Sidmouth WWI nurse remembered on church war plaque

Mary Tindall - Sidmouth’s only woman to be named on WW1 memorial plaque

THREE years after starting research into some of Sidmouth’s fallen soldiers, the chairman of Sidmouth branch of the Royal British Legion has solved another mystery.

During the time he worked on getting a plaque for Private Dave Hamson, killed in Korea in April 1951, Dave O’Connor noticed there was one woman’s name on the large World War One remembrance plaque – that of Mary Gertrude Tindall – a Red Cross nurse during the war, who died, aged 37, in 1917.

It appears Mary, who was born on May 9, 1880, returned to her home The Marino – renamed Pauntley in 1923 – from V.A. No. 2 Hospital, Exeter, where she was a Red Cross nurse, seriously ill six weeks before her death on September 20, 1917.

Reporting her funeral at the time, the Sidmouth Observer writes: “Despite the highest medical skill and best devoted attention, (Mary) gradually became worse.

“A little more than a week since an operation was performed, which, unfortunately, proved unavailing, and although she temporarily rallied, hope of her ultimate recovery was very faint.

“She passed away at Marino at a late hour…at the age of 37 years, to the great grief and sorrow of her many friends.”

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The report says Miss Tindall was held in the deepest respect and esteem by “all classes” in Sidmouth “and her early death has occasioned much regret in the town.”

Dave, who has found and been cleaning Mary’s grave, said: “She first joined the Red Cross in 1910 and was one of its first members.”

Also in Sidmouth Cemetery are the graves of Mary’s parents, John Tindall and Isabella Mary Tindall, who lived at Cotmaton House, and of her grandfather, whose grave lies next to hers.

The Sidmouth Observer describes Mary’s character during its tribute, saying “…she was, undoubtedly, an inspiration to others, and her brightness and cheerfulness infected others with whom she came into contact.

“She got the best out of everything, and by her amicable disposition won the love of a host of friends.”

Since finding more out about Mary, who was attached to the Voluntary Aid Detachment at Exeter since its formation, Dave has contacted her relatives living in Brussels and has learnt more about her from Thomas Ouchterlony.

He sent greetings from his mother-in-law, Lady Ann Smith, 93, niece of Mary Tindall and widow to Professor Sir Thomas Smith.

“She asked me to convey to you the family’s great appreciation of the honouring of her aunt’s memory and also to you for the care you have taken of her grave,” writes Thomas.

He said Mary’s father John was a banker and one of her brothers, Christian Tindall, CIE, (1878-1951), married Elsie Toogood who was killed in 1943 in an air raid in Exeter.

Mary’s other brother, Noel, was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, and was killed in 1919. His name also appears on her gravestone and on the church WW1 plaque.

Dave hopes to get red primroses planted on Mary’s grave in time for Remembrance Day.