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The Carruthers Sisters

Feature Stories Ident Kate Carruthers Nurses in France Nurses on ship

Their names will be remembered for evermore

A nurse who carried on tending to her patients despite her own wounds was among the first to receive a Military Medal. Kate Carruthers' bravery led to her award in 1916.

Born in Partick, Kate was a twin. Both she and her sister Margaret became nurses and in 1913, enrolled in the Territorial Force Nursing Service, which was formed in 1908 to support the reserve units. These civilian nurses were mobilised at the start of the war. Kate and Margaret were called up in 1914 and worked at the 4th (Scottish) General Hospital at Stobhill. Kate arrived in France on Christmas Day, while Margaret was sent over in May 1915.

Hospital Attacked

On 15 November, 1916, Kate was working at No 56 Casualty Clearing Station when it was raided by aircraft. Many patients were killed, but Kate stayed on duty for a further 24 hours, although she herself had head and leg wounds. After she was awarded the medal, The British Journal of Nursing offered "hearty congratulations", and described how she attended to surviving patients despite "suffering much". She was mentioned in dispatches by Field Marshal Haig on 25 November.

George V had decided that women deserved recognition for acts of courage, and a courtier had noted that "at present we have absolutely nothing to give". The Military Medal was extended to women for devotion to duty under fire.

Confusion over the twins' identity led to three different medal records being created for Kate. She also received the Royal Red Cross in 1919, by which time several thousand Military Medals had been awarded to men. Only 135 women received them during the war, 55 of them military nurses.

After the war, Kate and Margaret continued to work as nurses, eventually retiring to Largs together. One of their brothers had died from a brain tumour in 1907, aged 22. Their remaining brother, Lieutenant William Carruthers, 154th Field Company, The Royal Engineers, was also 22 when he died during the Arras offensive. The twin sisters died in 1969.

View the original referenced text here: pdf icon Carruthers Sisters [134kb]


  • Kate Carruthers, MM, taken from an article about the heroic services of nurses and female Voluntary Aid Detachment members, in the contemporary periodical, The War Illustrated. Credit: The War Illustrated, Vol 8, p2839
  • Nurses in France. Credit: The War Illustrated, Vol 1, p277.  
  • Nurses of The Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service leave Dublin, Ireland for France in 1914. Credit: The Wall Illustrated, Vol 1, p277.   
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