Mystery nurse identified after seeing photo on Antiques Roadshow

A mystery nurse, who cared for injured soldiers during the First World War, has been identified after her granddaughter saw pictures of her on Antiques Roadshow.

Carol Jephson from Canada was shocked after the BBC show displayed a photograph of her grandmother, Olive Buller.

The picture showed Carol’s grandmother at Wrest Park in Silsoe, the first wartime country house hospital.

No formal records of the hundreds of nurses at Wrest Park were thought to exist after a fire at the country estate in 1916 destroyed them all.

Until now, many of their identities have been a mystery.

English Heritage put a call out in 2018 along with a colourised selection of photographs in the hope relatives might come forward.

After Carol reached out to the charity to see if she could identify her grandmother, researchers of the programme were able to find out the names of other nurses during the period.

‘I feel very fortunate indeed to have been watching Antiques Roadshow at exactly the right moment,’ she said.

‘During their discussion about the history of Wrest Park, several photos of First World War nurses were shown, and I was very surprised to see a photo of my grandmother, Olive Buller.

‘I have the same photo of her so I recognised her right away.’

She added: ‘It is wonderful that my grandmother’s collection will become part of the archive and it is especially lovely that now several other nurses will be recognised as well.’

Carol also had Olive’s autograph book, in which soldiers recorded details of their unit, wounds and personal messages of gratitude.

One soldier with heart trouble wrote a short poem on November 9 1915, describing Olive as being ‘as sweet as sugar’.

Some of Carol’s photographs also showed imaged of soldiers being unloaded from an ambulance and doctors playing cards with servicemen.

Wrest Park was offered by its owner Auberon Herbert, the 9th Baron Lucas, directly to Winston Churchill as a place to treat wounded service personnel.

By September 7 1914, it was transformed into a convalescent hospital, ready to welcome its first patients.

‘These women were the backbone of the hospital and a crucial part of the war effort, providing much-needed treatment to the wounded but also acting as a comfort to those soldiers traumatised by the horrors of war,’ Andrew Hann, a historian at English Heritage explained.

‘Being able to identify nurse Olive Buller and others included in her photographs help us better understand life at Wrest Park during the First World War.

‘It’s incredible that we’ve found these answers all the way across the Atlantic and we’re grateful to Carol for coming forward.’

Antiques Roadshow is available to catch up on iPlayer.

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