Margaret Hodge Chalmers
At first sight, there is nothing particularly unusual about the war memorial in Motherwell’s Duchess of Hamilton Park, with its long lists of names of the dead of two world wars – and some since. However, examine the names from the First World War and it will be observed that one is different and quite unusual – it belongs to a woman. She is Margaret Hodge Chalmers of the Women’s Royal Air Force, who died in its service on 2 November 1918.
Margaret was born on 17 August 1891 at 134 Merry Street, Motherwell, to steelworker John Chalmers and his wife Margaret Hodge. She was their third child and second daughter, coming after siblings John and Elizabeth.
Frustratingly, Margaret's WRAF record does not appear to have survived. Her death certificate, however, details that she was a cook with the WRAF and that she was probably billeted at Saltley College, Birmingham, a teacher training college, where she also eventually died. The CWGC Debt of Honour site says she was a ‘member’, her rank in the WRAF.
The WRAF was divided into ‘sections’ and cooks were part of the household section, dedicated to running the catering and domestic part of the force, providing the staff with their food and accommodation. Members were either ‘mobile’ or ‘immobile'. 'Immobiles' served in their home areas, so Margaret was a ‘mobile’ who could therefore serve anywhere.
Margaret's role in the War effort was chiefly one of support for the fighting forces. Her death was not a result of a war wound - like hundreds of thousands of other, mainly young, people, she died of influenza in the 1918 pandemic. In her case, she also contracted pneumonia and suffered haemorrhaging of the lungs. She died at 27 years old, as a serving member of the Armed Forces.
Margaret's body was repatriated to Motherwell and she is now buried in Airbles Cemetery in the town. As well as being commemorated on both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour website and on the Motherwell War Memorial, Margaret's name is also on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.
From an article by Dallas Carter for the Lanarkshire Family History Society.