Former Stacey Road Primary schoolgirl awarded MBE for Blitz Bravery

With headlines like that I admit I could reasonably be accused of clickbait but I hope like me you find the story of Ethel and the Peacock family fascinating.

Ethel was born in Cardiff in 1907, the youngest of the Peacock family that lived at 21 Sapphire Street, off Clifton Street.  She attended Stacey Road Primary School and later went on to take up a career in nursing.

In WWII she was a nurse in London at the height of the blitz.  The following accounts speak for themselves so I’ll not try to paraphrase them:

Report from those on duty on the night of the raid:

An extract from the book ‘Southwark in the Blitz’ by Neil Bright:

Ethel Peacock, from Southwell in the Midlands, had worked for the St Olave’s District Nursing Association and was based at the nursing home at Cherry Garden Street. Ethel, who was training as a Queen’s District Nurse, set off from Cherry Garden Street to visit an expectant mother, Mrs Louisa Ludgrove, in Renforth Street. Her colleagues were sheltering in the nursing home cellar, but they made sure Ethel had a strong cup of tea before she set off on her five-minute cycle ride.

Ethel arrived at the property in Renforth Street as the raid was intensifying; she had already seen incendiary bombs find their mark on buildings along the route. She was greeted by an Air Raid Warden, a Mr Walker, who suggested that they should evacuate the property  immediately, particularly as the block of flats Mrs Ludgrove lived in had caught fire. However, the patient was in a serious condition as birth was imminent. Other residents of the block had left for the local shelter.

A baby girl, Lillian, was born at 10.30 a.m. the following morning; Ethel had been tending to and comforting her patient all night. Just as Lillian was born, there was a knock on the flat door. A policeman was at the door, ordering them out as an unexploded bomb was about 100 yards away and was liable to explode. Ethel explained that Louisa and Lillian couldn’t be moved; instead, she put her arm across mother and child to shield them from any blast. The bomb exploded, lifting the bed off the floor, but the building held firm and all three survived. Ethel Peacock went on with her midwifery career, working as tutor of midwives at the nursing home, winning a succession of awards for her skill in her chosen field.

‘Southwark in the Blitz’ by Neil Bright

So how did I know that the Ethel May Peacock in these reports was the same person that grew up in Cardiff?  Well, that’s where the genealogy research comes in.

I found an entry in the 1939 Register for Ethel May Peacock, born 26 May 1907, a Hospital Sister at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital Nurses Home, Marylebone, London.

  

I also found Ethel Peacock in the Stacey Road Primary School records book, born 26 May 1907, living at 21 Sapphire Street, father’s name Thomas.

The reason why on report describes Ethel Peacock as being from Southwell in the Midlands is because the Peacock family moved around quite a bit. Fortunately with a relatively unusual surname they were relatively easy to trace.

Again I’ve taken a liberty with the headline for this piece in that Stacey School records show Ethel moved away in 1912 when she would have been just five, so her stay at the school would admittedly been brief.  

As for the lady Ethel assisted, Louisa Ludgrove, she was a chocolate packer and lived in Bermondsey.  She was born Louisa Rich in 1918 and married Henry Victor Ludgrove in 1940. She passed away in 2000 aged 81.  As to what happened to the baby, Lillian, born in the blitz I don’t know.

Harold Peacock – brother

The reason I was looking at the Peacock family in the first place was that I was researching the name Harold Peacock that appears on the Broadway Methodist Church war memorial plaque.  

Broadway Methodist no longer exists. The church closed in 1950 when the congregation merged with Newport Road and Roath Road Methodist Churches to form Trinity Methodist Church where the war memorial plaque is now housed.  The former Broadway Methodist Church building then became a studio building for the BBC and then later a mosque.  The building was sadly destroyed in a fire on 19 Sept 1989. 

Broadway Methodist Chapel

Finding Harold Peacock was a bit of a challenge.  I made the breakthrough when I found a newspaper cutting referring to a Thomas Harold Peacock from Rumney, Cardiff, who was killed in 1918. I was then able to trace the family back to having previously lived in Sapphire Street in the 1911 census.

 The following summary of Harold Peacock now appears on our Roath Virtual War Memorial:

THOMAS HAROLD PEACOCK

Second Lieutenant, 1st Battalion, attached to 14th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment

Thomas Harold Peacock pictureThomas Harold Peacock was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire in 1895 the eldest child of Thomas Peacock, a basket weaver, originally from Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire and Ellen Peacock née Bond originally from Southwell, Nottinghamshire.  The Peacock family moved to Cardiff in 1906 and lived at 21 Sapphire Street, Adamsdown. In the 1911 census Harold is described as a Commercial Student. He went on to work for some time with H.T.James, Barrister, in Windsor Terrace before moving to the offices of the Vacuum Oil Distillery in Cardiff Docks. The family moved to Whitchurch in 1912, and later to The Grove, Rumney, Cardiff.  Harold joined the Devon Regiment in Aug 1914 and received rapid promotion. He fought at Loos in 1915, where he was shot through the left lung. He returned to Britain for treatment.  After recovering he served with his regiment and returned to France in May 1918. Harold was killed by a bursting shell on the night of 27 Jun 1918 aged 22. He is buried at the Acheux British Cemetery in France (Plot 1. Row E. Grave 17). Harold is remembered on the Broadway Methodist church war memorial plaque, now at Trinity Centre. Commonwealth War Graves Commission record.

Thomas Peacock – father

Ethel’s father Thomas looks an interesting character. In the 1891 census, aged 21, his profession was described as basket maker and local Wesleyan Preacher. In the 1911 census he was described as a Foreman at the Blind Institution.  This was the fine building on the corner of Longcross Street and Glossop Road that later got bombed in WWII.  I wonder if Thomas appears in any of the old pictures of the time of the card selling woven produce from the Blind Institute.  

After living in Rumney, Cardiff the Peacock family moved to Bridgend and then up to Nottinghamshire.  Thomas died in 1949 aged 79 as a result of a cycling accident.

Charles Egerton Peacock – brother

Charles egerton Peacock picAnother of Ethel’s brothers was Charles Egerton Peacock.  He also served in WWI but was fortunate enough to survive. He later became a Methodist Missionary and went to Canada where he settled and was ordained into the ministry.