Harriet Elizabeth Fraser GC (AM exchanger)

b. 12/08/1888 Netherton, Kinellar, Aberdeenshire. d. 17/06/1980 Guildford, Surrey.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 01/10/1918 Rousbrugge, Belgium.

Harriet Elizabeth Fraser (1888-1980) was born on 12th August 1888 in Netherton, Kinellar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the daughter of William and Ann Falconer (nee Reid). Harriet was brought up on a farm in Aberdeenshire as a child. Little else is known about her early life prior to the outbreak of World War I.

Harriet E Fraser GC

On the outbreak of war, she chose to serve in the Territorial Force Nursing Service, and worked in a number of Casualty Clearing Stations across the Western Front. By the end of the conflict, she was working at the No 36 Casualty Clearing Station at Rousbrugge, Belgium, when the incident occurred which led to the award of Albert Medals to three women including Harriet.

Early in the morning of 1st October 1918, a serious fire broke out at the No 36 Casualty Clearing Station in Rousbrugge. At the time some of the patients were undergoing operations. The first intimation of danger in the theatres was the lights going out, accompanied by volumes of smoke, and almost immediately the wooden walls burst into flames. Sisters Gertrude Carlin and Gladys White, along with Fraser, assisted in carrying the unconscious patients to safety, and then returned to the burning building to assist in retrieving the other patients. During this time the ether bottles and nitrous oxide cylinders were exploding, filling the air with fumes and flying fragments of steel.

The announcement of the Albert Medals in Bronze to Sister Gertrude Carlin, Staff Nurse Harriet Fraser (both of the Territorial Force Nursing Service) and Sister Gladys White of the British Red Cross appeared in the London Gazette on 31st January 1919.

After the end of the war, she went to India, where she met Captain (later Colonel) Stephen Barry of the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1922, they married in Eton, Buckinghamshire, and later went on to have two sons and a daughter, Joan. Colonel Barry died in 1959. In 1971, Harriet chose to exchange her Albert Medal for a George Cross, following the change of the Royal Warrant. In later life she was a keen supporter of the Albert Medal Association, and later the VC and GC Association. Harriet passed away on 17th June 1980 in Guildford, Surrey, but her burial/cremation place is not known. Interestingly on her death certificate, she was named Elizabeth Harriet. Her medal is held by the Home Office, London.