Sunday, 31 May 2015

Casualty in The Blitz

Islet Miriam Mackay, my 2nd cousin 3x removed, was born in 1892 in Kempsey, New South Wales. She was the fifth of ten children born to Mercie Caroline Wright (1870 - 1945) and Hugh Adam Mackay (1854 - 1930). Her siblings were Alexander, Ivor, Edwin, Olive, Irwin, Garnett, Ruby, Arthur, and Howard.

In May 1922, it was made known that Islet had passed her fourth year examination as a nurse and was top of her class. In fact, she was the top of her class every year as described in this article from Trove.

Rollands Plains Lady's Success, Port Macquarie & Hastings River
Advocate, 20 May 1922, page 4.
[Source: Trove]
In 1926, Islet left Australia for Canada. However, she was not alone. She was travelling with a Miss Leila Small, also a nurse. After arriving in Canada, Islet & Leila made their way to New York where they spent six months doing post graduate work in nursing. They remained in the US for 18 months gaining further experience in the field. Islet & Leila then went over to the United Kingdom where they spent time traveling around England, Ireland, and Scotland for eight months. They then worked in a nursing home in London for a year. After this, it appears Islet and Leila went their separate ways for a few years as detailed in this article below. Leila went back to the US for a few years, while Islet remained in London. The article is more about Leila's career though. 

Nurses Abroad, Coffs Harbour Advocate, 14 Jan 1938, page 4
[Source: Trove]
When Leila returned to England, she and Islet stayed at the same hotel in Bath where they both continued to nurse. In August 1937, Islet & Leila went on a cruise around Portugal and Bermuda for a month.

UK Incoming Passenger Form, 10 Sep 1937
Arrows marking Islet Mackay & Leila Small
[Source: Ancestry, UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878 - 1960]
Islet & Leila returned to work in Bath, and as explained in Leila's article above, Leila returned home to Australia at the end of 1937. Islet remained in London nursing. However, in 1941, she became a patient. I was quite stunned to find that in early 1941 Islet was a victim in an air-raid.

Air Raid Victim, Macleay Chronicle, 12 Feb 1941, page 4
[Source: Trove
After reading, my reaction was something like - An air-raid?! A bombing?! What?! Wait a minute...1941. That's World War 2!

In school I learned about Australia's involvement in World War 2 and Nazi Germany, but I do not recollect learning about England's involvement in the war. I thought if London was bombed during World War 2, there is going to be something about it on the internet. I googled "air raids in London 1941" and struck gold. Between September 1940 and May 1941, Nazi Germany bombed and launched air-raids on England. It was this period that became known as The Blitz (BBC, n.d.). The raids were almost continuous in that they happened almost every day and/or night, with London being bombed about 70 times (History Channel, n.d.). Islet's father had died in 1930, but her mother Mercie was still alive. This would have been a very worrying time I'm sure.

“It was Hitler’s belief that the war from the air would terrorise London into defeat. He was wrong. The city’s inhabitants, on the contrary, took a perverse and particular pleasure from being the front line of the war. ‘We can take it’ became the catchphrase of the Blitz.” - Jon E Lewis, London: The Autobiography (History Channel, n.d.)

I also found an interesting website called Bomb Sight which has mapped where all the bombs fell in London during The Blitz. They have made it available online and is interactive in that you can type in a London address and see if it or the surrounding area was bombed. In the article above, Islet is working at Wellhouse Hospital and was living a mile away. Googling Wellhouse Hospital led me to Wellhouse Lane which is now the location of Barnet Hospital.

Map showing the location of Wellhouse Lane & Barnet Hospital
[Source: Google Maps]
I put Wellhouse Lane into Bomb Sight to see if there were any bombings in the area....and yes, there were.

Screenshot of Bomb Site showing locations that were bombed. I have labelled the location of Wellhouse Lane & Barnet Hospital.
[Source: Bomb Sight]
I wonder if it was any of those bombs that caused Islet's injuries? I do not know what happened during the rest of Islet's time in England or how long she remained there for, as by 1949 she had returned to Australia. I found her in the 1949 Electoral Roll living in Killara, Sydney.

1949 Electoral Roll for Subdistrict of Gordon, District of Bradfield, NSW.
[Source: Ancestry, Australia Electoral Rolls, 1903 - 1980]
After a definitely interesting life, Islet Miriam Mackay passed away in New South Wales in 1980 at the age of 88. She outlived eight of her siblings. 

BBC (n.d.). The Blitz. Retrieved from

History Channel (n.d.) WW2 - The Blitz Hits London. Retrieved from


  1. Caitlin I just picked up a great enormous huge book on the bombing of London at QBD on the weekend for $10 if you're interested. Photography is by Cecil Beaton. It's of other stuff in WW2 as well e.g. Palestine. Beautiful photos. I think you'd like it. It's called Theatre of War - on their bargain tables out the front at Indooroopilly. Let me know if they've sold out and I'll bring it to the next seminar we attend together so you can see it.

  2. Beaut piece of research Caitlin. An interesting story.

  3. Great blog post Caitlin! Very interesting!

  4. Fascinating story Caitlin! Love how new technology is helping us to research and tell family stories.

  5. Caitlin,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!