MISS MARY ASHBEE
Miss Mary Ashbee who died on June 13 while on holiday in Switzerland had a distinguished nursing career holding major matronships in peace and wartime, and latterly devoted herself to the work of the National Children’s Home.
She trained at University Hospital in London and, after a period as Deputy and then Superintendent of the Alverstoke Branch of the National Children’s Home in the 1930s, she was appointed Matron of the New Sussex Hospital for Women and Children, Brighton, and so became at 29, the youngest hospital matron in England.
In 1940, at the height of the blitz in London, she applied for and was appointed to Matronship of the Metropolitan Hospital in London’s East End, where she remained until, as a territorial member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, she was called-up to be matron of Military hospitals at home and abroad.
She saw service with the Eighth Army in Tobruk, then on to Palestine, Greece and Italy, at one time having a field hospital of 1700 beds under canvas in the desert. She had an adventurous time in Greece, being the first woman to be flown into Salonika after the Germans were driven out, and there she had to organise a hospital in a former Jewish orphanage, and later in a war-damaged tobacco factory. She was there for the Communist uprising and, after most of the nursing staff had been evacuated, she volunteered to carry on the hospital with a handful of nursing sisters.
Later she returned to the Metropolitan hospital to take up her former appointment as Matron. In 1947 she went to America to undertake a comparative survey of nursing training at the invitation of King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London.
In 1948 Miss Ashbee left the Metropolitan Hospital and was appointed the first woman executive of the National Children’s Home and travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdom, as well as visiting Rhodesia, Kenya and Uganda to assess the position in those countries with regard to orphaned children. In 1965 she retired to live at Hythe in Kent.
Very soon she was asked to take over in voluntary capacity the Directorship of the South-East Coast Division of the British Red Cross Society in which capacity she was very active for several years. She was then made a Vice President of the Kent Branch of Red Cross. Her association with that Society had extended over many years and she was awarded the Badge of Honour in 1940 for her services in lecturing and examining.
The Times 4 July 1984 p.16 Issue 61874
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