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Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

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Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

Postby Ivan Watson » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:52 am

Hello fellow family historians!

I'm trying to confirm if my grandmother's aunt Maggie Helena Butler (1893 - 1993) served in some capacity during the First World War. I never met her but according to family stories she was a charming, strong and spirited woman and I've seen photos of her hiking in the mountains and riding a motorcycle from the 1910-1930 period.

I have a copy of a postcard dated 1918 on the back which appears to show her in a white nurse's uniform (see below) and another photograph that I presume to be from the same era depicting her in what looks like a leather jacket with muff-like gloves and a helmet or googles pulled up over her head (see below). On the back of this photo the following is typed: "Lieut. M.H. Butler."

Does anyone have any ideas on what either of these 'uniforms' depicted in the two images represent? I've searched Ancestry and FindMyPast (as well as the Red Cross Nursing Archives) to no avail. Any leads would be much appreciated!

Kind regards,

Maggie H. Butler, undated photo, "Lieut. M.H. Butler." typed on the back
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Maggie H. Butler, postcard dated Christmas 1918 on the back with unknown white uniform
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Ivan Watson
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Re: Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

Postby KayFarndon » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:26 am

Have you also looked at military sites? As it says Lieut quite possibly she was in/seconded to an army regiment.

There are no identifying marks on her uniform, so she might have been a Commonwealth nurse.This is the nearest uniform I can match.

If you type into Google, WW1 nurses uniforms you will have pictures of lots of nurses in uniform.

Hope this is of some help to you.
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Re: Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

Postby MaureenE » Thu Mar 01, 2018 9:57 am

I would recommend posting on the Great War Forum which has a category Women and the Great War. There is also a category Medical Services (Home and Abroad), however as you have two photographs, its probably better to post both in the former category.
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Re: Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

Postby MoVidger » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:05 pm

Hi Ivan - I know this doesn't help answer your query, but have you found Maggie in the 1939 Register? It would be interesting to see what her occupation was by then, in case it sheds any light on her activities circa 1918.
Was her DoB 24 July 1893? There is a "Mabel H Butler" with that DoB living in Bournemouth in 1939.
I wonder if the first name is a transcription error? Also, did Maggie ever marry?

In the top photo, her cap is similar to those worn by the WRAF. Women served as motorcyclists with the WRAF. If she was with the WRAF and served beyond 1920, I wonder if her service records would be with the Ministry of Defence ??

Lastly, have you spent any time using the ScarletFinders website?
Last edited by MoVidger on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

Postby ermin79 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:55 pm

If you are a Facebook user, there are two groups:

Women of the Great War -

Remembering Women on the Home Front (WW1) - (This one is a closed group which is on hiatus for the next couple of months)

Both of these groups have some very knowledgeable members who might be able to suggest some avenues for you to follow.

Also having checked on the IWM Lives of the First World War site it lists three Margaret Butlers, sadly none have additional information added to them by users at the moment but the service numbers could help you check details.
butler search.jpg
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Re: Did my mysterious great aunt serve in WWI?

Postby Ivan Watson » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:35 pm

Hello all,

Many, many thanks for the detailed replies and the informative tips. I will keep searching and I'm hopeful that eventually something will turn to confirm her military service.

KayFarndon - interesting idea about Google image search for nurses uniform, thanks for the tip!

Maureen - good idea about posting on the Great War forum, thanks!

MoVidger - yes, you found her in the 1939 Register and it was indeed a transcription error. She never married and lived until relatively recently (1993), all of her life in Bournemouth. Interesting tip about the WRAF - I will follow up on that!

ermin79 - I'll check out those Facebook groups, thanks! Thanks for searching the Lives of the First World War site!


Ivan Watson
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:49 am

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