Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The remarkable Madge Addy from Chorlton part 1 ....... the Spanish Civil War and secret operations in France

This is the story of Madge Addy who worked in Chorlton, was a nurse in the Spanish Civil War and was awarded an OBE for her wartime work as an undercover agent in occupied Europe during the last world war.

Ms Addy, 1938
It has been a bit of a challenge to uncover the story because while most of the references give her name as Madge she was actually Marguerite and was married twice, first to a Mr Holst and later a Mr Hansen.

All of which makes trawling the records that bit more difficult.

According to one source, she was “from the Chorlton-cum-Hardy area of Manchester. She arrived in Spain in 1937 and became Head Nurse at a hospital in an old monastery at Uclės in Castile. Like some of the other British nurses, she was also involved with the fund-raising campaigns back home. 

Madge would write detailed letters about the work being done in the 'Manchester Ward' at the hospital in Uclės to the Chairman of the North Manchester Spanish Medical Aid Committee to help with the campaigns for medical supplies. 

She was the last British nurse to leave Spain but what happened to her after that did not come to light until recently. 

Spain Fifgts for Independence, poster, 1936-39
She married the Norwegian she had met in Spain, Wilhelm Holst, and during the Second World War she went on to play a vital role in setting up the famous 'Garrow-Pat O’Leary' escape line, working with MI9. 

She was awarded the OBE for her work in France; her bravery included travelling as a Norwegian subject on German civil flights, carrying secret messages sewn into the lining of her fur coat. 

As an English woman operating in enemy-occupied territory, she would have known what the penalty would be if caught.  Madge Addy died in 1970.”*

But there is much more including some of the letters she sent home from Spain and an article from the Manchester Guardian which she gives a description of the revenge carried out by the victorious forces of Franco on the civil population and those who sided with the defeated democratic government of Spain.

Wilbraham Road,, Chorlton, circa 1930s
Like all good stories I came across it by chance after Cllr Shelia Newman had been asked to look into the possibility of erecting a plaque to the memory of Ms Addy.**

The cost will be met by voluntary subscriptions which just leaves a decision on its location.

Now there is a reference to Ms Addy having a hairdressing business in Chorlton just before she left for Spain, so a search of the trade directories may reveal an address.

Beech Road, Chorlton, circa 1930s
In the meantime I think I have found where was living in 1911 which was 58 Rusholme Grove with her widowed mother and five siblings.  Ms Addy was seven and her mother is described as a “dressmaker.”

The house was on the south side of Rusholme Grove was demolished sometime in the 1970s but that address is a start and over the next few weeks I want explore what I can of her story.

There may even be people who remember her and have more letters, pictures and stories of this remarkable woman.

Location; Chorlton, Spain, and France

Pictures; Ms Addy in 1938 courtesy of Shelia Newman, Chorlton in the 1930s from the Lloyd Collection  and Spain Fights for Independence, For Peace and Solidarity Among All Peoples, G. M. 1936-39, from The Palette and the Flame, 1980 

*From foodships to the front lines: a forgotten Manchester heroine of the Spanish Civil War
By Angela Jackson,

*From Foodships to the front lines: a forgotten Manchester heroine of the Spanish Civil War, Angela Jackson

**Cllr Shelia Newman, cllr.s.newman@manchester.gov.uk  0161 234 1841 (Town Hall)

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