When we think of the Great War, our thoughts are of the honest British Tommy, there doing his bit for King and country. Sadly, we all too often forget that many young women from every corner of the British Empire, volunteered, served, suffered and died. Now one hundred years after the Great War, the time has come to refocus our views, to remember everyone who served, sacrificed and changed our world.
One overlooked hero was Dr. Isobel Addey Tate, Isobel who died in service on 28 January 1917, is the only lady on the Queen’s University Belfast Roll of Honour.
Isobel was born 1 May 1875 into a large family living in 18 High Street, Portadown. Her father owned a shoe factory and shop. As a child Isobel worked hard, and excelled herself at Alexandra and entered Queens University Belfast in 1893. She graduated with a degree in Medicine in 1899. At that time women were not permitted to practice medicine on men, they could only treat children, as a result of this she spent most of her distinguished medical career in children’s hospital in England.
In 1915 as the situation in Gallipoli became more desperate, the army needed more doctors, this led to the army asking young women doctors if they would consider volunteering, Isobel was one of those who would volunteer. She once again excelled herself, serving as a doctor attached to Military Hospital, Valletta, and in Serbia as a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps. She worked tirelessly there until her untimely death during service in Malta on 28 January 1917, as a result of illness. She was buried with full military honours in Valletta Military Cemetery, Malta.
Dr Isobel Tate was an extraordinary lady, she broke many barriers and you would think her home town would have been so proud of her. But, one look at the Portadown War Memorial would show that her name was not commemorated on this memorial, which is located less than 100m from Isobel’s family home. So how, and why did this lady not make it onto the memorial? The 1901 census of Ireland lists Isobel’s mother as a widow, living in High Street, Portadown. Twenty-four years later, the town council would appeal for names to be submitted for inclusion on the memorial, we must assume by this date Isobel’s mother has also passed away, so no one was there to put her name forward.
On 28 October 2018, Portadown Royal British Legion righted a great wrong, Dr Isobel Addey Tate, was added to the Portadown War Memorial, she was one of 101 names added, 79 Great War and 22 Second World War. Isobel has now been welcomed back to her home town, a true hero that will never be forgotten.