Sister Margaret R. Finley, Q.A.I.M.N.S.

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by ritsonvaljos, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Sister Margaret R. Finley, Q.A.I.M.N.S.
    (Missing presumed killed 14.02.1942)

    Roll of Honour

    These are the details of Sister Margaret Raven Finley, 206153, Q.A.I.M.N.S. as listed by the CWGC:

    Initials: M R
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Sister
    Regiment/Service: Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service
    Age: 31
    Date of Death: 14/02/1942
    Service No: 206153
    Additional information: Daughter of Harry and Lilian Finley.
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 113.

    Research enquiry:

    Can anyone please assist with some research enquiries about Sister Margaret Raven, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.I.M.N.S.)?

    a) Perhaps someone reading this has specialised in researching the fall of Singapore (February 1942) or has researched the war casualties of the Ledbury / West Malvern district of Worcestershire? If so, do they have information they could post about Sister Margaret Finley?

    b) Does anyone who knows the West Malvern, Worcestershire area know if Sister Margaret Finley is commemorated on any church or civic war memorials in that area please? If so, could they post a photograph of the memorial?

    c) The Finley family were also linked to West Cumberland (see below). But, at the present time, Margaret Finley is not commemorated on any West Cumbrian war memorial.

    Any information would be appreciated. Many thanks.

    Some background information:

    It is believed Margaret's parents, Dr Harry Finley and Lilian McKelvie married in the Whitehaven area (June 1900 Qtr). This is also where it is believed some of Margaret's siblings may have been born. Margaret Raven Finley was born in the Ledbury district of Worcestershire (June 1910 Qtr.). It is further belived Dr Harry Finley died in Worcestershire in 1938 (Dec. Qtr.).

    Sister Margaret Raven Finley was serving with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.I.M.N.S.) in Singapore in 1942. Just before Singapore fell to the Japanese she was one of the nursing sisters being evacuated aboard SS Kuala along with hospital patients, women and children etc. The Kuala was attacked by the Japanese and lost. As often happened, many lives were also lost. The date when the SS Kuala was sunk off Pom Pong Island was 14 February 1942.

    Sister Finley was officially 'reported missing' in 1943. In January 1946, almost 4 years after the fall of Singapore, Sister Margaret Finley was officially 'presumed killed in action at sea'.

    It will be remembered that the war in the Far East came to a conclusion in August 1945 (VJ Day). The formal Japanese surrender only took place in early September 1945.

    It then took a some weeks to identify and repatriate the prisoners of war and internees held by the Japanese. Margaret Finley was still unaccounted for she and it was presumed she was killed in action. As noted above her name is listed on the Singapore memorial.
  2. Tonym

    Tonym WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I did considerable research on the sinking of both SS Kuala and SS Tanjong Penang some years ago and copied the list of details posted by the Far East Prisoners of War website and I gather, from what you have posted, that you may have seen this list of information gathered together from various official sources and eye withnesses of both events. However the only reference to Sister Finlay is, and I quote =

    FINLEY - Nurse M.R. Finlay - listed as missing 1943. Fate unknown ("Casualties at Sea" file WO 361/462 in National Archives, Kew,UK); Sister Margaret Raven Finley, QAIMNS,aged 31 years, 206153, daughter of Harry and Lilian Finlay - she died 14.2.42(CWGC) UNQUOTE.

    The details in brackets are the reference sources. There is no witness record of a sighting of Sister Finley. However it is known that the Military nursing staff were ordered to evacuate and most of them at least appeared to have boarded the Kuala.

    I can only make an educated guess that with no official information regarding Sister Finley until 1943 CWCG made the obvious assumption that she boarded the SS Kuala and died at Pom Pong Island.

    I do have a 48 page copy of the NA file on the sinking of the Kuala & Tanjong Penang. I will look through this and see if Sister Finley is mentioned there but it will be a while as I will have to fit it in with my other research, I will do my best.

    Regards, Tony
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  3. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member


    Thanks very much. As you have also deduced there is not much to go on. During or immediately after the war nobody ever seemed to have any real information about what happened to Sister Finley.

    I only came across Margaret Finley's story in the local newspaper ('Whitehaven News') when I was checking up on other Singapore and Far East casualties for the 'Roll of Honours' I am trying to sort out. For some of these there was no definite news of what happened.

    Bad as it was to lose a loved one because of the war it must have been even worse not having any definite confirmation either way. In the case of Margaret Finley's relatives, and the relatives of some of the others lost at Singapore, it was not until early 1946 that they received official news their loved ones would not return.
  4. Sue Light

    Sue Light Member

    She trained as a nurse at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, between 1933 and 1936

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  5. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    She trained as a nurse at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, between 1933 and 1936


    Thanks for the information, Sue.

    I have also posted another brief article about Sister Margaret Finley on the 2WW Blogspot:

    WW2 - The Second World War: Margaret Finley, died at Singapore (1942)

    Hopefully further information will turn up so that a more appropriate tribute can be paid to her memory.
  6. Terence finley

    Terence finley New Member

  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

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  8. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    1911 Census West Malvern, Worcestershire

    Harry Finley 42 Doctor of Medicine b.Wimborne Minster, Dorset
    Lilian Finley 40 b.Whitehaven, Cumberland
    Henry Lockhart Finley 7 b.West Malvern, Worcs
    Jean Barbara Mary Finley 4 b.West Malvern, Worcs
    Margaret Raven Finley Under 10 M b.West Malvern, Worcs
    Lily Florence Marsh 24 Cook
    Elizabeth Gertrude Gazey 20 Housemaid
    Milicent Marjorie Fairfax 17
    Rhoda Turner 60 Nurse

    Dunster, Malvern, Worcestershire

    Lilian Finley 02 Mar 1872 Incapacitated [widow]
    Henry Finley 13 May 1903 Solicitor [married]
    Stella Finley 03 May 1906 Unpaid Domestic Duties [married]
    Peter (J) Finley 22 Feb 1937 Under School Age
    Florence Lowe 11 Mar 1904 Cook Domestic
  9. Terence finley

    Terence finley New Member

    I am Margaret's nephew (son of her late brother H.L.Finley, solicitor of Malvern) and a few years ago undertook research about Margaret as far as I could, including making contact with and meeting contemporaries in the QAIMNS who knew her or knew about her. So I may have information to add.

    I was born in Malvern on 18th October 1942. My father, who never spoke about Margaret, died in 1971. Their sister Jean, my aunt, lived fairly near to us. She married rather late (1967) and eventually moved to near Cardiff. She died in Barry in the early 1990s before I undertook my research. She didn't speak about Margaret either and, as so often happens, I didn't get to talk with her properly. My grandfather died in 1938 (Margaret had taken leave to give nursing support and perhaps helped with his practice in West Malvern). I hardly knew my grandmother, who was very frail with dementia in the last years of her life (the early 1950s).

    I can confirm much of what is recorded here. I was concerned to write something up about Margaret's life as she seemed to be known only for her death. (A friend, Sue Lieberman, has examined this issue in a book about the effects of trauma 'After Genocide', published by Karnac.)

    I would be glad know more about the interest of those named above. It would take me a while to reply in greater detail here, but I may be prepared to share more by email or phone.

    Terence Finley
    Newcastle upon Tyne
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  10. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Hello Terence
    Welcome to the forum.
    The interest from forum members is to tell a story (if there is one) not only of her death but also her life. and to remember casualties.
    When researching a casualty we sometimes have to work backwards,this starts with where the casualty is buried/remembered and work on from there.
    Unfortunately Tonym and Sue Light are no longer with us.
    Other forum members have different interests and we combine them to tell and remember the life of an individual whilst trying to respect them and other family members.
    If you feel you would like to add more about Margaret's life please feel free.

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  12. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Casualty List No. 914 Dated 28 August 1942
    Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
    206153 Finley, Sister MR 15.2.42
    208738 Muir, Sister AW 15.2.42

    Casualty List No. 1955 Dated 9 January 1946
    At Sea
    Previously posted missing 15.2.44, Malaya, now presumed killed in action
    Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
    206581 Ayers, Sister EN, 14.2.42
    208176 Clewett, Sister CH, 14.2.42
    206153 Finley, Sister MR, 14.2.42
    206752 Fowler, Sister MHT, 17.2.42
    208739 Hervey-Murray, Sister AJ, 14.2.42
    206325 Montgomery, Sister HL, 14.2.42
    208738 Muir, Sister AW, 14.2.42
    209317 Symonds, Sister LS, 14.2.42
    206488 Tombs, Sister DH, 17.2.42
    209440 Wright, Sister I, 14.2.42

    Territorial Army Nursing Service
    213559 Ingham, Sister AA, 14.2.42
    215508 Strachan, Sister E, 17.2.42
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  13. Terence finley

    Terence finley New Member

    Thank you, Clive. I am sorry about the others you mention, especially if there was any personal connection with my aunt.

    It is true that Margaret's death is not recorded anywhere in the UK so far as I know. But I was told a while ago that she is remembered annually in the field of remembrance at Edinburgh. I don't know how that would have been arranged, or by whom. Perhaps you or another correspondent could cast some light.

    In 1940 Margaret was at Le Treport in France near Dieppe, billeted in a former hotel, from where she escaped by train to Cherbourg and across the Channel at the time of the German invasion and the evacuation from Dunkirk. After some time in hospital work in the UK she was posted to India and was at a military hospital at Bangalore in 1941, from where in early 1942 she went to Bombay to embark for Singapore. Apart from the possibility that she was seen on the quayside there before embarking on SS Kuala nothing more was heard of her and it is assumed she died either when the ship was bombed or soon after. I met a former colleague (originally from Norfolk) who had been at Le Treport with her and went to India with her but was posted elsewhere and another (from the west coast of Ireland) who nursed with her at Bangalore.

    I also met one of the nurses on SS Kuala - who didn't know Margaret personally - who jumped into the sea (putting in her pocket a packet of cigarettes which didn't survive, photos of their safari on their way out in South Africa, which following capture proved to be a morale booster, and a pair of tweezers which had many uses in the prison camp) and after swimming to land, with others, crossed Sumatra but, was then interned by the Japanese and in a prisoner of war camp for the duration.

    The story of SS Kuala is graphically told in John Smyth's 'The Will to Live' about Dame Margot Turner, another QAIMNS nurse who was on the ship, who survived to become the army's Matron in Chief.

    I was contacted by another former QAIMNS Sister, who had trained with Margaret at St Thomas's, and was in India later than Margaret. She told me that at the Lahore Club, towards the end of the war, she had met a young nurse and her husband, who were not long married.The latter had been nursed by Margaret at Bangalore.
    This former nurse, by then a widow, herself got in touch and my wife and I visited her. She showed me her late husband's diary, in which he had written about my aunt. After the war he made contact with the family, but to no avail. He had tried to persuade Margaret not to go to Singapore. When this former nurse herself died, her family generously sent me a book which Margaret had given to her husband - the only tangible thing we have of her.

    I haven't named those I have mentioned - they are no longer alive - but if anyone reading this
    thinks they have a possible connection I could provide more information.

    Terence Finley
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  14. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Hello Terence.
    It is possible that she is Remembered in the UK on a war memorial( I have checked the Ledbury War Memorial but she is not on there)
    She is Remembered on the CWGC database along with the memorial panel in Singapore.
    I would add she is Remembered on this forum which has a worldwide audience.

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  15. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Hello Terence,

    As I mentioned earlier in the thread I came across the story of your aunt in an old copy of the 'Whitehaven News', a local West Cumbrian weekly newspaper. Your family had roots in the district and your aunt's story was in the newspaper as she would have been known by many relatives and friends and the story let them know what had happened to her, four years after her death.

    I was researching the story of your aunt after I came across it to try and commemorate her life and her sacrifice. For several years I have tried to research the people of WW1 and WW2 especially those who lost their lives in those conflicts. As I am based in West Cumbria many of those I research are from that district or have a connection in some way, as with your family.

    There has not been a lot of information to go on to write an appropriate tribute for your aunt so the additional family information you provide is really interesting and informative, so thanks for that. Unfortunately I could not find Sister Finley commemorated in any of the WW2 Books of Remembrance or on any of the church memorials in the Whitehaven area, but then she wasn't born there. Sometimes there are photographs in the newspaper articles but I'm afraid there wasn't one for your aunt. Such as it is, I hope we have helped you and your family to remember a family member and to know she is remembered.

    Sorry if it seems like a while since I have picked up your message. I have been unwell because of a long term illness and I'm only now getting back up to speed with everything else.
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  16. Terence finley

    Terence finley New Member

    Thank you for this, and for your interest. I am sorry you have been ill and hope you are recovering well.

    My grandparents are buried in St James's churchyard, West Malvern. I don't think there was ever any thought of commemorating Margaret there. My father was cremated, as was their sister Jean. A family friend arranged for a bench in memory of my father to be placed on the Malvern hills above 'Ashfield', where they lived and where my grandfather had his practice; it had been a guest house during the Victorian period of Malvern's fame as a spa; among those who had stayed there were Roget of the thesaurus, who was buried in West Malvern churchyard, and the poet Algernon Swinburne.

    There are no longer any close members of the family in Whitehaven. My grandmother's mother, Elizabeth Raven Spittal is commemorated in a stained glass window in the - ' new' now 100 plus years old - parish church at Hensingham, Whitehaven. She was widowed relatively young; her husband John McKelvie, solicitor, was from the Isle of Whithorn. My grandmother, Lilian, was one of two sisters and three brothers. Her younger sister Mabel, who married Tom Brown, land agent in west Cumberland, died young (with TB); she had one daughter, who, when married, lived in the Lake District and had three daughters, the eldest of whom retired from Sheffield in recent years with her husband to Grange over Sands, and keeps up with family history. My grandmother's eldest brother, George, became a solicitor in his father's firm in Whitehaven; his son was a radiologist in Surrey; his daughter married a professional (British) spy and lived in London; they had two sons, who live in the south of England; the daughter of the younger son is a successful actor who will appear next year in a BBC production about her grandparents, acting her grandmother whose husband was found to have had three other families. My father served his articles with his uncle in Whitehaven in the 1920s and loved the Lake District (he had a motorbike and then a car) where later he holidayed with his first wife, who died from a blood condition in 1940; when we ourselves were on holiday in the area we came across a family - my father's uncle had been their solicitor - who had met my father when he called on behalf of his uncle. The second of my grandmother's brothers died young. The youngest brother, John, was an engineer at Barrow; he had a son and two daughters, all of whom lived in the south, so far as I know as do their families. There may be Spittals, who were bakers of ships biscuits and then jewellers and Ravens, who were farmers (my great grandmother's family), Robertsons or Dalziels still in West Cumbria, but they will be rather distantly related.

    It is good that someone descended from these families is remembered for her sacrifice.

    It is potentially confusing that there was a Margaret (Duncombe) Finley, born at Ryde on the Isle of Wight in 1913, who was trained as a theatre nurse and volunteered during the Spanish Civil War in 1938/9. I have minimal information about her and haven't looked further into this; she was probably descended from another branch of the family (back to my great great-grandfather's generation; he or his father was married twice ).

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  17. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Thanks for the family background information, Terence.
    All the best.

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