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Ceremony marks sacrifice of WWI volunteer nurse

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A First World War nursing volunteer has been commemorated with a special stone-setting ceremony nearly 100 years after her death.

An event marking the creation of a new war grave in honour of Edith Munro was held last week in London and attended by a range of nursing, military and religious dignitaries.

Edith Hilda Munro died in 1916 aged 23 while working as a voluntary aid detachment (VAD) nurse during World War I.

The daughter of John Munro and Leah Nathan, she had been based at the Albert Dock Hospital in Silvertown, East London.

While nursing Royal Navy and merchant seamen, she died at the hospital on 12 December 1916 from acute bronchopneumonia.

Ms Munro was buried privately at the Plashet Jewish cemetery in East Ham. However, in 2012, researchers from Oxford University and the Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women located the site of her grave and investigated her story.

United Synagogue

Ceremony marks sacrifice of WWI volunteer nurse

Jacqui Zinkin, Claire Lemer and Helen Styles from the United Synagogue with Hilda Munro’s grave

An appeal was subsequently launched and a gravestone erected in 2014 by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – along with another to mark the nearby grave of a soldier, Solomon Bird, who died in 1917.

Following the erection of the headstone – which unusually features both the emblem of the Order of St John and the British Red Cross – the researchers tracked down her relatives and worked to ensure she received a proper burial and ceremony.

As a result, a special stone setting ceremony took place at the Plashet cemetery on 8 March.

The ceremony was led by Rabbi Major Reuben Livingstone, Jewish chaplain to the armed forces, and took place in the presence of Ms Munro’s family and many dignitaries.

Stan Kaye, who first contacted Nursing Times about Ms Munro’s story, helped with the research and was the driving force behind organising last week’s event.

He said: “I believe that this is the first time a ceremony such as this has taken place in a Jewish cemetery in the UK and perhaps, indeed in Europe. Not many VAD nurses were honoured in this way.”

Stephen Pack, president of the United Synagogue, said: “Congratulations to Stan Kaye for his research on the life and family of nurse Munro and his hard work in making this ceremony happen.”

There was also a poppy planting ceremony at the cemetery on the same day in memory of service personnel who died in the conflicts of war.

Ms Munro was part of the VAD nursing group, which was founded in 1909 in co-operation with the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance.

It was comprised of 38,000 volunteers, mostly from middle- and upper-class backgrounds. Famous members of the VAD include actress Hattie Jacques and authors Vera Brittain and Agatha Christie.

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