Miss Dorothea Crewdson was a Red Cross nurse who refused medical treatment during a bombing on the Western Front in order to continue helping others who were wounded.
Dorothea was born July 1886 in Barton Regis, Gloucestershire to Henry and Margaret Croom Crewdson. She underwent medical training at various hospitals around Nottingham before leaving for France as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.
Dorothea was one of the 38,000 young VADs who flocked overseas to aid wounded servicemen after the War Office lifted restrictions that had previously prevented women from serving near the front. She was 28 when she arrived at Boulogne on the Channel coast in 1915, where she was initially posted to hospitals No. 16 and No. 3 at Le Tréport, before finally being posted to hospital No. 46 at Étaples.
The Étaples Army Base Camp was the largest of its kind ever established overseas by British Forces. It was served by a network of railways, canals, and roads connecting the camp to both the southern and eastern fields of battle in France and to ships carrying troops, supplies, guns, equipment, and thousands of commonwealth troops across the English Channel. Etaples was of vital strategic importance and at its peak housed over 100,000 people while its hospitals had the capacity to treat 22,000 patients. It could be a dark place and Dorothea’s diary revealed that she did not enjoy her time there.
Etaples was considered far enough behind the lines to be safe from attack. However, on a summer’s evening in 1918, squadrons of German bombers targeted the area, despite the obvious signs that it was mainly populated by wounded men, nurses and VADs. As the bombs fell Nurse Crewdson received severe shrapnel wounds and was fatally injured. She bravely refused all medical treatment, until she had finished treating the many wounded men and women around her.
Dorothea died in France on March 12, 1919 aged 32 years old. For her courage she was posthumously awarded the Military Medal, a very rare honour for a woman at that time.