Historic woman from Northumberland will feature in special BBC World War One project

Lady Sybil Grey from Northumberland will feature in a special programme for the BBC about life during World War One

Image courtesy of the British Red Cross
Lady Sybil Grey, centre with buttons on dress, with members of the Russian royal family to her left

A historic woman from the region will feature as part of a series looking at life during the war.

Lady Sybil Grey, from Northumberland, is to be documented within special programmes for the BBC’s World War One At Home project that kicks off on Saturday.

In partnership with Imperial War Museums, Jo Lonsdale will tell how the aristocrat turned her ancestral home into a Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital (VAD) and then went on to help run the Anglo-Russian hospital in Petrograd.

Lady Sybil, part of the famous Earl Grey family in Northumberland, began her nursing career with the Red Cross at a VAD hospital in her family’s ancestral home, Howick Hall in Northumberland.

She then travelled across war-torn Europe to help set up and run the Anglo-Russian hospital in St Petersburg. During her time in Russia, she met the country’s royal family and she survived the Revolution of 1917.

A character in the popular ITV1 period drama Downton Abbey was called Lady Sybil and she too became a nurse during the first World War - although there is no connection to the Northumberland lady.

Andrew Robson, managing editor of BBC Newcastle, said: “Fans of Downtown Abbey will know Lady Sybil became a nurse during World War One and it seems the North East has its own Lady Sybil from the famous Earl Grey family, and she also served as a nurse during the conflict.

“This radio report gives an insight into what life was like at home as the war unfolded and how even the wealthy had their lives and homes transformed by the repercussions of war. “This is one of the many stories far away from the battlefields which we will be telling on BBC Newcastle.”

Lady Sybil was facially injured in a freak accident when a fragment from a hand grenade hit her during a visit to a field hospital.

Undeterred, in 1919 she spent nearly a year in France leading the Women’s Legion which supplied ambulance drivers to the British Army.

Listeners to BBC Newcastle, BBC Tees and BBC Radio Cumbria will be able to hear a collection of stories from the conflict at 8.15am from Saturday, May 31, to Wednesday, June 4.

The documentary featuring Lady Sybil Grey will be broadcast on the Breakfast Show of BBC Newcastle on Saturday at 8.15am.

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