Adelaide SWANZY Order of St John
Olive Adelaide Swanzy,
(1881-1974), was the daughter of the Reverend Thomas Biddall Swanzy, (Church
of Ireland), of Newry, Northern Ireland.
The Swanzy family, originally from Lancashire, had been in Ireland since
the 1600s. Her three brothers all became priests. The 1911 census shows
Olive as living with her mother, Elizabeth, and a cousin, in Newry. Her
father had died when she was an infant.
Olive was born in
Cannes, France. She never married and
continued nursing when she returned from the Western Front.
She became the Matron of Newry Hospital, where she served
throughout WWII. She was prominent in the local
Ambulance Brigade and taught at Sunday School.
is wearing the uniform of a St. John VAD.
on the images to enlarge
A proficient water-colourist, she painted several scenes of
the tented accommodation that the nurses lived in during
their service in France. The
accompanying illustration is one of these views, painted
while she served at General Hospital No 12, which was sited
on the racetrack outside Rouen, in
her funeral service, the priest said: “When I think of Olive Swanzy I am
reminded of the saying that saints are not people who do extraordinary
things but people who do ordinary things
The above information was kindly provided by David
Boardman. If anyone else has information we can add to this page,
particularly if you are a relative of Olive’s, please get in touch by
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Edie mentions her in her diary on 22 November 1918:
The London Gazette of 14
January 1964 lists Olive Swanzy amongst those awarded
The Most Venerable
Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Information about the
Order is available here and
I had the day off and thoroughly enjoyed it. My kind people sent up
breakfast from the ward; then until 10 o’clock I chiefly slept – it was
too cold to put as much as a nose out of bed. Then I got up and Swanzy
and I went to the Casino to lunch and after joined several folk who had
the half day off. We walked through the Tank Camp to Bois de Cire. It
was a frosty afternoon with golden sunshine and the autumn tints showed
up to perfection. We went to a quaint little Hotel for tea which is kept
by a charming old man and his wife. They are rather a picturesque couple
– he played the gramophone to us while she prepared tea. It was quite
dark before we left and no moon and no lights made it a bit difficult to
find the way but we did all right and got home soon after 7 o’clock.
Early to bed and slept like a log.”