War nurse family’s shop, Machynlleth

PWMP logoWar nurse family’s shop, 19 Heol Penrallt, Machynlleth

This building, now home to Charlie’s antiques shop, was erected in 1898 as a shop and family home for John Morgan Breese and his wife Margaret. Their daughter Annie was honoured for her work as First World War nurse, and served again in the Second World War.

Look up to see John’s initials set into the brickwork. He was a grocer, tea merchant and councillor, and chaired the County School governors. He served on the district’s military tribunal after conscription was introduced in January 1916. The tribunal had the difficult task of deciding whether men who appealed against conscription should be compelled to join the armed forces.

John argued for his son Willie to be excused, because Willie assisted with the baking in the family business. However, the tribunal’s military representative said this wasn’t a good enough reason, and the tribunal withdrew Willie’s exemption. He served in the Welsh Regiment. He fell ill and spent time in hospital in late 1916 but survived the war.

Annie Breeze, a qualified nurse, volunteered in August 1914, the month the war began. Initially she was one of 20 nurses on the hospital ship Asturias, which evacuated casualties from France. She had made 11 return trips over the English Channel by November 1914. Each time the ship arrived at a French port, a crowd would call out: “Vive l’Angleterre!” (British troops were helping the French to keep the Germans out of western France).

In 1915 Annie travelled to the Dardanelles, where the Allies suffered mass casualties in their failed attempt to invade Turkey. She received the Royal Red Cross Medal in 1916 and was Mentioned in Despatches in 1918.

She was in her 50s by the Second World War but served as a nurse for about a year, before conceding that at her age she couldn’t cope with the work. She died in 1969.

With thanks to Rab Jones. Sources include Machynlleth and the First World War, by David Wyn Davies and Richard Knight Williams

Postcode: SY20 8DT    View Location Map

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