Clara Deacon was Assistant Matron at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, which pioneered the treatment and rehabilitation of soldiers and sailors who were Great War amputees. The Prince of Wales Hospital was established to provide this service in Wales.
Clara commenced her duties as Matron in Cardiff on 8 January 1917. Her starting salary was £70 per annum, including laundry and board, and she was subject to a 3 month notice period. By 9 May 1917 it was agreed to appoint her as Commandant (a military establishment). In December 1917 her salary was increased to £104 and in December 1918 it became £130.
There’s little doubt that the Committee thought her an exceptional asset; so much so that in November 1918 it was agreed to strike a unique version of the hospital badge in her honour. The hospital badge was normally presented in a base metal to staff who gave good service, but it was agreed that this special badge should be in gold and enamel and set with diamonds.
They also recommended a more formal recognition of her devotion, ability and energy. In March 1920, Clara Deacon became a Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
This photograph of the hospital staff was taken during the 1920s, and would appear to be outside nos. 1 and 3 Richmond Crescent. It looks as though Commandant Deacon, in the centre, is wearing her MBE.
The esteem in which she was held continued with a salary increase to £136 in December 1919. In 1923 it was further improved to £150 with an honorarium of £30. In 1929 Clara had her status enhanced, becoming known by the title ‘Commandant and Matron’, which seemed to attract a further salary improvement to £220 with £10 annual increments to £250, along with £15 per annum uniform allowance.
In August 1933 Clara decided to retire. Despite requests to withdraw her offer of resignation, she remained resolute and retired in January 1934. The minutes of the Executive Committee of 8 January 1934 note the retirement gift presented to their Commandant and Matron Clara Deacon.
Records of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Cardiff, are available to consult at Glamorgan Archives.
Roy Dowell, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer