Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Flaybrick Hill Cemetery, Birkenhead - Chief Officer Kathleen Ackerley WRNS (WW2)

We hoped to visit the grave of World War 1 nurse Annie Louise Roberts of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service who died on 29th September 1916 but, unfortunately, couldn't find it, even though we had the correct grave reference (3 NC 403) and more or less understood the layout of the cemetery.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, there are over 200 war graves here so we knew we would never be able to visit all of them. Instead we stopped and paid our respects  at the few war graves that we passed while we were searching the particular area of the grave where Annie Roberts was supposed to be buried.

Instead,  today,  we thought we would feature a WW2 Wren who we found - Chief Officer Kathleen Ackerley, who died on 31st August 1940 aged 46.

According to the London Gazette, Kathleen had just been promoted to the rank of Chief Officer on 10th July, having been elevated to First Officer on 26th September 1939

www.naval-history.net  tells us that she was killed in a road accident while serving at HMS Eaglet - a shore establishment in Liverpool that housed the Mersey Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

According to a news report in the Hull Daily Mail dated 2nd September 1940, the accident happened around 4 miles from Silloth near Carlisle.

Kathleen was travelling in  a car with Womens Voluntary Service driver Mary Anthony when another car containing 4 RAF airmen pulled out of a side road and caused a collision. 3 RAF men were also killed in the crash. The 4th survived, as did Mary Anthony.

Her obituary in The Times dated 5th September 1940 said:

By the death on duty in a motoring accident of Miss Kathleen Ackerley, Chief Officer of the Liverpool Area, the Women's Royal Naval Service has lost one of its most valued officers. The accident occurred in Cumberland last Saturday. Miss Ackerley was appointed to the staff of the Flag Officer-in-Charge, Liverpool, in September, 1939, and had organized the whole of the W.R.N.S. work in the Liverpool area with exceptional ability. She served with the Women's Legion at the end of the last War and afterwards had experience as a district secretary of the Church Organization Society and as a welfare superintendent at Jay's, London. A tall, handsome woman, of distinguished appearance and very attractive personality, Chief Officer Ackerley had gained the affection as well as the respect of all who worked with her, and she will be greatly missed.