Nursing orderly

Olive Harcourt is a singer and musician of international repute who trained in Dresden and lived in Germany for some years. In 1916 she put her musical career on hold to come to Dorset with sister Florence to work as an orderly at Beaucroft Red Cross Hospital in Colehill.

Her diaries are full of colourful stories about life in a small Red Cross Hospital.


The Epitome of a Victorian Lady

Olive Harcourt was “Epitome of a true Victorian lady”, her ward Joan Cocozza told us at her home in Bristol.

Visitors were announced, gentleman friends kissed her hand, women kissed her cheek.

“It was an utter surprise when I began reading her diaries and learned of the time she cared for wounded soldiers,” she said.

During WW2, Joan, then a young girl, would spend half her week living with her family, and the other half living with Olive at her grand house in Clifton, where Olive taught her to play the upright piano she later left her when she died in 1958.



Olive Harcourt’s diary Jan 7th 1919

Men’s concert at Beaucroft Hospital. Mrs Smith went with us, fearful squash. They were dressed as Pierrots in white pyjamas, with paper pompoms and ruffs, Macken, Stubbs, Woodhead and Jacobs the best. The little play “The Area Bell” with Nurse Coggin.

Sidney Macken and Arthur Stubbs really good and amusing. We had a nice talk with them and Fred Woodhead on the stage afterwards.

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Explore by day, month or person here on the blog or on our five Twitter feeds: @Voicesfrom1918 @LadyMonkswell @MarieStopes1918 @JamesSansom230 and @OliveHarcourt.

Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

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