Cicely Margaret Gwyn Elger

Service:     A nurse in the Petersfield Voluntary Aid Detachment

Date & place of birth: 12 October 1889 at Clayton Court, Rogate.
Date & place of death: 10 February 1919 (aged 29) at Clayton Court, Rogate.

 Cicely Elger was the daughter of John Elger the owner of Clayton Court. John was a Church Warden of St Bartholomew’s Church in Rogate and also a member of the Parish Council.

Family background

John Elger with his wife Ethel purchased Clayton Court in 1888 and Cicely was born the following year. At the start of the war, he immediately gave his services to the war effort. In 1916, he gave his house over to the Red Cross, rent free, to be used as an Auxiliary Hospital to Bramshott Military Hospital, near Liphook.

Military service

Clayton Court opened as an Auxiliary Hospital for non-commissioned officers and other ranks on 13 July 1916, fully equipped and ready for purpose. Cicely Elger became a member of the nursing staff for the duration of the war and it is thought that her sister Phyllis was also a VAD nurse.

On the first day that the hospital was open, twenty patients arrived and during the following week a further twenty three patients were transferred from Bramshott. Clayton court was immediately asked to extend their capacity from forty beds to fifty. Due to the number of casualties from the Battle of the Somme, yet more beds were needed by August and as a result four marquees, which were lent by the War Office, were erected on the croquet lawn increasing the Hospital’s capacity to eighty beds.

In late October 1916, the marquees were removed and replaced by two purpose made huts providing accommodation for fifty beds, increasing the total number of beds at Clayton Court to one hundred.

The hospital closed at the end of February 1919.

Death and commemoration

After serving as a nurse at Clayton Court for two and a half years, Cicely died from the influenza epidemic on 10 February 1919. Her funeral in Rogate churchyard was ‘conducted with semi-military honours’. An extract from her obituary in the Red Cross Journal reads: ‘Miss Elger died from pneumonia following influenza… For two and a half years she was a devoted and conscientious worker at Clayton Court Hospital, where her loss is felt most keenly by all who knew her’.

Her father, John Elger was buried next to her grave in June 1925 and her mother in 1940. The family grave is marked by a large stone cross.

Cicely was further honoured by the village of Rogate by being the only female commemorated on the Rogate War Memorial. A ward at Petersfield Cottage Hospital was built in her honour, with funds provided by her parents.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project