On 21 April 1919, the day before what would have been his daughter Kate’s 32nd birthday, Newcastle’s John Ogg replied to a request from the Imperial War Museum in London for a photograph of her. Kate had died just eight weeks earlier.
In his letter, John apologised for the late response and promised that he would find something suitable and ‘forward it on with as little delay as possible’. Below is the photograph he eventually sent. It can now be seen on the IWM website along with his letters.
© IWM (WWC H2-164)
But why would the Imperial War Museum want a photo of Kate and what does it have to do with Heaton? We’ve been finding out.
Kate Elizabeth Ogg, the first child of John (a brass finisher) and Catherine Ogg was born in the west end of Newcastle on 22 April 1887. But by the time she was four, she and her younger sister, Maggie, had moved with their parents to 31 Bolingbroke Street in Heaton. Kate started at the nearby Heaton Park Road School in 1894.
By 1901, the family had grown (The now fourteen year old Kate had a younger sister, Edith, and a brother, John) and they had moved across the road to number 46 Bolingbroke Street.
Kate was obviously an able scholar because after leaving school, she was employed as a teaching assistant and by 1911 was employed at Welbeck Road School in Walker. By this time, her father had set up in business as a newsagent and, still single, Kate had moved back to Elswick with her family.
Perhaps to make her journey to work easier, the following year Kate changed school too. The Wingrove Council School log book, now held by Tyne and Wear Archives, records that she began work there as a ‘certified assistant’ on 27 August 1912. And there, but for events hundreds of miles away and totally outside her control, she may well have stayed and so contributed to the learning of hundreds, if not thousands, of Newcastle schoolchildren for years to come.
Serving in World War One
But, in August 1914, World War One broke out and immediately millions of men volunteered for and later were conscripted into the armed forces. Schools were often short staffed and there were greater opportunities for women like Kate than ever before.
Indeed we know that Wingrove School was under pressure even in subjects traditionally taught by women. On 10 January 1916, it was recorded in the log book that there were ‘only two ladies on the staff at present – Misses Bone and Ogg have the whole of needlework between them – and accordingly the classes for needlework have been rearranged’.
But sometime before, in 1914, Kate had started training with St John Ambulance and on Saturday 5 June 1915 ‘The Newcastle Daily Journal’ reported examination results in which Kate’s name appears among those successful members of the Novocastria Nursing Division who had been awarded vouchers as prizes.
And the following year, Kate made the momentous decision not merely to contribute to the war effort outside her working hours but to give up her promising teaching career completely for the duration of the conflict. We know that Kate’s brother, John, had joined the Merchant Navy as a wireless operator. He was, for example, on board the SS Lapland, which sailed to New York on 23 June 1915. Whether his dangerous job was a factor in her wanting to devote herself full time to hospital work, we can’t be sure but on 16 April 1916, it was noted in the school log book that ‘ Miss Kate E Ogg ceases duty today (pro tem) to take Military (Hospital) Duty on May 1st’.
She was missed. When, on 1 May, the school reopened after the Easter holiday, the head wrote in the log book:
‘The vacancy caused by Miss Ogg’s departure has not been filled. This is awkward for it is thus impossible to assist at 1a where the ST (student teacher?) is in charge and is very weak in discipline’
As for Kate, Red Cross records show that on 28 April, eight days after leaving her teaching post, she was engaged as a VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) nurse, serving firstly in Fulham Military Hospital, London; then from 1 December 1916 to 31 January 1917 at Liverpool Military Hospital before returning to Newcastle to serve at the 1st Northern General Military Hospital from 10 March 1917.
The war officially ended, of course, on 11 November 1918 but many of those serving couldn’t immediately return to normal life. In the hospitals, there were still injured military personnel to care for and in fact the need for nurses became greater than ever when troops travelling home from theatres of war brought with them the deadly strain of influenza in which some 25 to 40 million people are estimated to have died worldwide. The virus spread quickly in cities like Newcastle and young adults such as the returning soldiers and the nurses like Kate who looked after them were worst affected.
Later that winter, on 23 February 1919, Kate Elizabeth Ogg died on active service. Her death was attributed to pneumonia, which was often the result of a serious bout of this deadly strain of influenza. She is buried in St John’s Cemetery, Elswick in a simple grave in which her parents were eventually laid to rest with her.
Kate is commemorated on Wingrove School’s war memorial
and is among the 17 Newcastle teachers who lost their lives and are named in ‘The National Union of Teachers War Record: a short account of duty and work accomplished during the war’ published by Hamilton House in 1920.
She is also remembered on the St John Ambulance Brigade Number VI Northern District war memorial, which covers divisions from Northumberland as far south as Whitby, Bridlington and Hull. It is currently stored at Trimdon Station Community Centre in County Durham. You’ll find Kate’s name in the middle of the third column of the centre panel.
And her name can be seen on page 44 of the St John Ambulance Roll of Honour.
Women in WW1
But why the letter to Kate’s father? The Imperial War Museum had been founded in 1917 and almost immediately put in place plans to ensure that the role of women in war would be recognised and recorded. By the end of the first world war, almost 700 women were known to have died and it is thanks to the diligence of the Women’s Work Subcommittee, even after Armistice day, that we have Kate’s photograph and read her father’s letters. Volunteers have recently digitised them so that they can be viewed online. Many, including Kate, have been researched as part of the Lives of the First World War project.
Finally, in the 1920s, money was raised for the restoration of a window in York Minster as a memorial to all the women of the empire who lost their lives as a result of the war. The Five Sisters window and oak panels list 1,400 women, including Kate. They were officially opened on 24 June 1925 by the Duchess of York in the presence of family members of many of the women commemorated.
Kate Elizabeth Ogg will never be forgotten.
Kate’s brother, John, happily survived the war and married Margaret W Hunter in 1918. In 1939, the couple were living in Newburn. John died in 1957, with probate granted to a Robert William Ogg (perhaps his son) who died in 1976.
In 1917, her sister, Maggie, had married William Robert Appleby who is buried in the family grave, though Maggie does not appear to be. And sister Edith married Robert T Hunter in 1918.
We hope eventually to make contact with descendants of the Ogg family.
Can you help?
If you know more about Kate Ogg or her family or have photographs or anecdotes you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was researched by Arthur Andrews and John Hulme, who drew our attention to Kate Ogg’s story, with additional input from Chris Jackson. Thank you also to Keith Fisher for his photo-editing. The research forms part of our Historic England funded ‘Shakespeare Streets’ project in which we are working with Hotspur and Chillingham Road Primary Schools to explore both Heaton’s theatrical heritage and the people of the streets named in William Shakespeare’s honour.