Rachel Coward: A Red Cross Nurse

Alice, or as she was better known Rachel, Coward was born in Bath in 1868. In 1892 she moved to Chippenham when she married Frederick Coward, Manager of the Chippenham London and Smiths Bank.

Rachel and Frederick lived a comfortable life in Chippenham and both played an active part in town life; Frederick was the Treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the town’s cricket club whilst Rachel was on the Management Committee of the Westmead and Ivy Lane Schools.

Rachel Coward of Chippenham, in her Red Cross Nurse uniform

When war broke out in August 1914, Rachel read about the plight of the Belgian people at the hands of the Germans. The couple supported the Belgian Relief Fund, Frederick becoming the local treasurer. When the Belgian refugees arrived in Chippenham, at the end of 1914, Rachel no doubt became part of the committee that arranged their accommodation and provided clothing. She would have worked closely with the Red Cross to help the Belgians and became a member of the Chippenham branch herself.

When, in September 1915, it was announced Chippenham town hall would become an auxiliary hospital Rachel Coward reported for duty in the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a VAD probationer. She saw the first wounded men arrive on 5th November and undaunted served the hospital until it closed in 1919, a total of 5115 hours unpaid service.
Rachel Coward left the hospital as a Staff Nurse, her name entered on the Red Cross Roll of Honour, and with her husband Frederick, returned to her life in Chippenham.


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