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Helen Cargill
Birth name Helen Wilson Cargill
Born (1896-10-01)1 October 1896
Died 4 December 1969(1969-12-04) (aged 73)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1923–1952
Rank Air Commandant
Unit Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service
Battles/wars World War Two
Awards Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class (1941)
Royal Red Cross, 1st Class (1945)
Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1951)

Air Commandant Dame Helen Wilson Cargill, DBE RRC (1 October 1896 – 4 December 1969) was a British nurse and Royal Air force officer. From 1948 to 1952, she was Matron-in-Chief of Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service.[1]

Early life and education[edit | edit source]

11 Cluny Avenue, Edinburgh

Cargill was born on 1 October 1896, the daughter of William Cargill SSC and his wife, Jane Elizabeth Murphy. They lived at 11 Cluny Avenue in Morningside, Edinburgh.[2]

She was educated at St Bride's School, Edinburgh. From 1919 to 1923, she trained as a nurse at St George's Hospital, a teaching hospital in London.[1]

Military career[edit | edit source]

The grave of Dame Helen Cargill, Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh

In June 1923, Cargill joined the newly re-named Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service.[3] She was promoted to sister on 1 July 1926,[4] and to senior sister on 1 February 1939.[5] During the interwar period, she served in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East.[3]

Cargill saw active service during World War Two.[3] She was an acting matron as of June 1941.[6] From 1942 to 1944, she served in the UK and in Aden.[3] Following the Normandy Landings, she was Matron of the RAF Hospital in Normandy, France.[3] From September 1944 to May 1945, the end of the war in Europe, she was Matron of a hospital in Brussels, Belgium.[3]

Cargill returned to the United Kingdom after the end of the war and spent the rest of her military career as Matron of the RAF Hospital in Matlock, Derbyshire.[3] This was a psychiatric hospital that specialised in the treatment of former prisoners of war.[3] On 16 July 1948, she was appointed the Matron-in-Chief (IE head) of Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service.[1][7] On 1 February 1949, when the women's forces were integrated into the British Armed Forces, she was granted the rank of air commandant.[8] On 12 May 1952, she retired from the military due to "medical unfitness for air force service".[1][3][9]

Honours[edit | edit source]

In the 1941 King's Birthday Honours, Cargill was appointed an Associate Member of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC).[6] In the 1945 King's Birthday Honours, she was promoted to Member of the Royal Red Cross (RRC).[10] In June 1949, she was appointed a Commander of the Order of St John (CStJ).[11] In the 1951 New Year Honours, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).[12]

Death[edit | edit source]

She died on 4 December 1969 and was buried with her parents in Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh, close to their family home. The toppled gravestone lies in the south-west section.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "CARGILL, Air Commandant Dame Helen Wilson". Oxford University Press. April 2014. http://www.ukwhoswho.com/view/article/oupww/whowaswho/U53978. Retrieved 1 October 2016. 
  2. Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1896–97
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 "Private Papers of Air Commandant Dame Helen W Cargill". iwm.org.uk. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030004305. Retrieved 1 October 2016. 
  4. "No. 33184". 20 July 1926. pp. 4802–4803. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33184/page/4802 
  5. "No. 34596". 7 February 1939. p. 868. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34596/page/868 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "No. 35204". 27 June 1941. p. 3752. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/35204/supplement/3752 
  7. "New Matron-In-Chief" (pdf). The British Journal of Nursing. July 1948. p. 81. http://www2.rcn.org.uk/development/rcn_archives/historical_nursing_journals/browse_journals?sq_content_src=%2BdXJsPWh0dHAlM0ElMkYlMkZyY25hcmNoaXZlLnJjbi5vcmcudWslMkZkYXRhJTJGVk9MVU1FMDk2LTE5NDglMkZwYWdlMDgxLXZvbHVtZTk2LWp1bHkxOTQ4LnBkZiZhbGw9MQ%3D%3D. Retrieved 2 October 2016. 
  8. "No. 39043". 17 October 1950. p. 5161. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39043/supplement/5161 
  9. "No. 39539". 9 May 1952. p. 2578. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39539/supplement/2578 
  10. "W.R.A.F. Director To Be A.D.C. To The King". The Times. 31 March 1949. p. 4. 
  11. "No. 38650". 24 June 1949. p. 3132. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/38650/page/3132 
  12. "No. 39104". 29 December 1950. p. 9. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39104/supplement/9 

External links[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
Dame Gladys Taylor
Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service

1948 to 1952
Succeeded by
Dame Roberta Whyte

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