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Christine Jean Tait (1890-1932)

Etherley woman served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in England and France

Christine Jean Tait was born about 1890 at Witton Park, the oldest daughter of James and Helen Tait. James, born in Scotland, was a colliery clerk and farmer, living at Etherley Grange in 1901. The family were relatively well off, being able to afford the services of a cook and a housemaid.

By 1915, 24-year old Christine lived at “The Fields”, Etherley, together with her younger sister, 21-year old Helen Marguerite – this may have been the family home. Helen was employed at the Etherley Voluntary Aid Hospital as an “accountant and chauffeuse” from 18 March 1915 to 15 April 1919, the full duration of its existence.

Christine worked as a nursing member [whole time] at the Etherley V.A Hospital from 18 March 1915 to 15 March 1916 before going to France to serve as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse at the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples, northern France, from March 1916 to January 1919.

The St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples was the largest voluntary hospital serving the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The hospital had a staff of 241, all from the St John Ambulance Brigade, and was considered by all who knew it to be the best designed and equipped military hospital in France, caring for over 35,000 patients throughout the war.

As a Base Hospital, patients received by the hospital came from the Casualty Clearing Stations, which were situated a few miles behind the front line. It provided treatment, surgical support and some degree of convalescence to patients before they were evacuated to hospitals in the UK or returned to their units. During the course of the conflict, the hospital was expanded several times. Initially containing 525 beds, when it opened in September 1915, the hospital was able to accommodate 744 patients by spring 1918.

Christine will have witnessed the full horror of war. During her time there, casualties from all the major battles in which the British Army fought would have been brought to Etaples for treatment. The hospital itself was not immune from attack. On the night of the 19 May 1918, the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital was hit by a bomb which killed 5 members of staff. Shortly after, on 31 May, a second bomb hit the hospital, resulting in 11 deaths and 60 casualties. This second attack left no department undamaged and rendered the hospital incapable of continuing.
The decision was taken to move what remained of the hospital up the French coast to Trouville, where it operated from October 1918 to 1 February 1919.

Christine married William Haig in 1922 within the Auckland registration district. The following announcement appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 7 April 1922:

The marriage arranged between Dr William Haig DSO, Galvelmore, Creiff, and Miss Chritine Tait, The Fields, Etherley, Bishop Auckland, will take place quietly at the Parish Church, Etherley, on Tuesday April 25, at 2pm. No invitations are being issued but friends will be welcome at the church.

The following appeared after the wedding in the Dundee Courier, 26 April 1922:

Interesting English Wedding
A Crieff Bridegroom

A wedding of particular interest to Crieff folks took place quietly in St Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley, Bishop Auckland, yesterday.

The charming bride was Miss Christine Jean Tait, eldest daughter of the late J.J. and Mrs Tait, the Fields, Etherley, Bishop Auckland, and the bridgegroom was Dr Wm. Haig, DSO, Galochmore, Crieff, Perthshire.

The officiating clergymen were Rev L S Menefield, rector of Etherley, and Rev C Owtram, rector of Woodchurch, Kent, brother-in-law of the bridegroom. Miss Tait’s brother-in-law, Commander H F Whitworth, RNVR, gave her in marriage, and she was attended by Miss Muriel Batey, ARRC, while Mr David Colville was groomsman.

Standing at the altar midst a lovely setting of lilies and white tulips, Miss Tait made a radiant bride. Her bridal robe was fashioned of ivory satin, with overdress of lace and georgette. In a corner of the bride’s graceful train nestled a dainty horseshoe of orange blossom, and this flower again appeared in a coronal holding a filmy tulle veil in place on the bride’s tresses. The bridal bouquet consisted of yellow tulips and narcissus, and Miss Tait wore the bridegroom’s gift – diamond earrings.

Mauve georgette formed the underdress of the bridesmaid’s powder blue taffeta gown, with which she wore a large black capeline hat. Miss Batey carried a bouquet of mauve tulips and a gold chain bag, gifted by the bridegroom.

It seems that Christine probably have moved to Scotland after that as the probate calendars records that she died at Gelvelmore, Crieff, Perth and Kinross. Her husband and sister, Helen Marguerite Whitworth, are mentioned in the record.

For more information about the 17th Durham VAD Hosptial:
The Fallen of SouthWest Durham website, page about Red House Hospital:

Civil Parish: West Auckland

Birth date: 1890

Death date: 18-May-1932

Armed force/civilian: Civilian

Residence: Etherley Grange, Etherley (1901 census)
“The Fields”, Etherley (1911 census)

Family: Parents: James John Tait, Helen Tait
Sister: Helen Marguerite Tait (Whitworth, married name)
Husband: William Haig (married 1922)

Gender: Female

Contributed by Kevin Richardson | Glenys Egglestone

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