Welwyn War Memorial

Who was Nurse Roskell?

By Jennifer Ayto

Welwyn war memorial
Jennifer Ayto
Jennifer Ayto

The Welwyn War Memorial records the names of 40 people who lost their lives in the first World War.  As the population of the parish of Welwyn stood at 1,708 at the time of the 1911 census, many would have been directly affected.   Unusually, the memorial lists the name of a woman, Nurse G. Roskell, V.A.D.   Who was she?

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates her as Nurse Gertrude Lucinda Roskell, 17th General Hospital, Voluntary Aid Detachment who died on 31 October 1915, Age 38.  She was the daughter of John Burrow Roskell and Gertrude Roskell, of Cronkley, Knebworth, Hertfordshire and was buried at Alexandria Military and War Memorial Cemetery.

This suggests that she was a local woman but in fact she was born in Penarth, South Wales in 1878 and went to Howell’s School near Llandaff.  By the time of the 1891 census her father had died and her mother was the head of household, described as a “Professor of Music”, and living at Windsor Terrace in Penarth.  Ten years later, the family had moved to Hora Villas in Hove.  By 1911 Gertrude was living independently as a boarder at 10 Duchess Street in Marylebone.

Gertrude died of appendicitis whilst nursing in Egypt and without a permanent home it is probable that the V.A.D. hospital in Knebworth was her last known address.  Certainly, there is no evidence of either of her parents ever living in Hertfordshire.

By the way, can anyone identify Cronkley?

This page was added on 22/10/2013.

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  • In 1913 Mary and Carl Elderhorst held a concert in St. Mary’s Hall, Welwyn, the proceeds of which were donated to the Woolmer Green Church Organ Fund. On enlistment Gertrude’s address was given as Beethoven Cottage, near Welwyn.
    (Herts at War website)

    By Brenda Palmer (27/12/2023)
  • Gertrude Lucinda Roskell’s middle name was in honor of her grandmother, Lucinda Maria Yates Roskell, wife of John Roskell that lived on the Isle of Man where her father was also born.  My husband would be her first cousin, twice removed.  His grandfather, Robert Stowell Roskell was also born on the Isle of Man and grew up with Lucinda’s father John Burrow.  Robert named his only son, Robert Burrrow in remembrance of Gertrude Lucinda’s father.

    By Barbara Roskell (30/03/2015)
  • Gertrude Roskell is also remembered at Howell’s School in Llandaff.  It  has a memorial to two ex-pupils who were nurses during World War 1 – Gertrude Roskell and Kate Banks.  Kate died of blood poisoning as a result of washing bandages.

    By Jennifer Ayto (09/02/2015)
  • Our house is called Cronkley apparently and is in Knebworth.  I will try and find out who lived here when then.  The house was fairly new in 1915

    By Sue Clark (08/02/2015)
  • Thank you Paul – it just shows that I should have been more rigorous with my research.  By the way – a quick look at FreeBMD suggests that Carl died in Hitchin in the December quarter of 1929.

    By Jennifer Ayto (24/10/2014)
  • The following information has been discovered during Welwyn & District Local History Society’s investigations into the names on our War Memorial.

    Gertrude’s mother (also Gertrude) remarried in 1903 to a musician, Carl Elderhorst. Both Carl and Gertrude Snr. are also boarding in Duchess Street in the 1911 census.

    Carl and Gertrude Snr. appear at Cronkley in telephone Directories of the time.

    Gertrude Lucinda is also named on the Knebworth memorial for obvious reasons, but I have yet to find a reason for her to be named on the Welwyn Memorial


    By Paul Jiggens (23/10/2014)
  • Thank you!

    By J. Ayto (30/10/2013)
  • Cronkley was in Pondcroft Road. In the 1911 census it was empty – the owner Mr R. Clarkson had “gone away” – but you can find it listed quite clearly in the Enumerator’s book for the road (list view). On some websites the actual property sheet is not shown as it is blank.

    By V Richards (27/10/2013)