Worker (Waitress) Ada Elizabeth Weller
Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps

Leatherhead Methodist Church Memorial

Queen Mary's
Auxiliary Army Corps

Taken, Not Given, Liam Sumption, L&DLHS

Ada Elizabeth Weller was not included in Liam Sumption's research as she was not recorded on the Town War Memorial.
However, she has been added to his WWI pages by the editor.

It is possible that she was one of the victims of the influenza pandemic which claimed so many lives at the end of the First World War.


Rank: Worker (on her headstone she is described as Waitress)
Regiment: Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps
Date of Death: 17/07/1918
Service No: 39645

Ada Weller is named on a plaque in Leatherhead's Methodist Church.

Her QMAAC file in the National Archives is WO 398/229/17.
On 19 April 1918 Ada completed a Form of Application to join the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) as a Waitress, to serve at Home, not Overseas. She was 32 years old and had done waiting for 8 years and cooking & housekeeping for 6 years.

Her address was Waseda House, Highfields, Ashtead, Surrey where for two years she had been Cook Housekeeper for Sir Arthur & Lady Maud Duckham KCB on a salary of £32.

During the First World War Arthur Duckham was involved in the supply of coal-derived chemicals for use in the manufacture of explosives, becoming Deputy Controller of Munitions Supply in 1915. He performed a number of other executive and advisor roles, notably Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Ministry of Munitions, which resulted in the him being knighted with the Order of the Bath (KCB). His mother was from the McDougall flour making family. His brother Alexander founded Duckham Oils. Arthur Duckham married Maud Peppercorn, a daughter of Arthur Douglas Peppercorn, a London-born landscape painter.

Ada's interviewer noted that she was "A very resp and ?serious applicant. Is very desirous of being with Miss Rose St Stovell as a Cook or Waitress. Appears to have had a good exp in this work."

Ada's War Graves headstone in Leatherhead Parish Churchyard
source: Haslam

Her family home at 3 Poplar Road, Leatherhead, Surrey was her permanent postal address and her next of kin was her father, Mr W Weller, a Painter. She had attended Leatherhead British School, leaving at the age of twelve and a half.

Her Medical was on 9 May 1918 at 2 Hyde Park Street. Her height was 5ft and a half an inch; weight 7-7; 6/6 vision both eyes; teeth AD2; 2 vaccination marks. She was passed Medically Fit by Ann Roberts, President, Women's Recruiting Medical Board.

Her ID Certificate also tells us she was a Wesleyan Methodist, single, of medium build, with blue grey eyes and fair hair.

Three references were sought:

Miss Gwen Sharpe, Sunnyside, Victoria Avenue, Shanklin Isle of Wight said that the applicant had lived with her as cook, general ??? for over 2 years, and Waits well.

Lady Maud Duckham, Waseda House, Highfields, Ashtead, Surrey said the applicant was personally known for 2 years as her Cook-Housekeeper. She would be quite suitable as a Waitress.

S Mould, Ironmonger, 1 Linden Road, Leatherhead, Surrey said he had known the applicant for 20 years more or less. She had spent some years in good class Domestic Service. He had met her in Church & Sunday School work. She was Treasurer to funds in her own church.

Ada was enrolled in the QMAAC on 30 May 1918. She drew the following items of clothing, signing for each one:

Hat Badge
Frock Coat
Collars 3
Felt Hat
Overalls 4
Stockings 2pr
Shoulder Titles 2 sets
Washing Caps 2

On 31 May 1918 she transferred out of the QMAAC Connaught Club in Seymour Street, London W, and on 2 June 1918 joined No 13 Quarter, 28 Warwick Square SW1. There was also reference to the Anzac Provost Corps, Victoria, on 3 June 1918. One of their Sergeant-Majors attended her funeral.

A month later she fell ill. The QMAAC Sick Hostel, 58 Holland Park, W11, recorded that Ada was admitted to Hospital on 3 July 1918 and discharged on 5 July with Pneumonia after those 3 days in hospital.

On 5 July she was transferred to the South London Hospital For Women, 103, South Side, Clapham Common, SW4. This was founded and incorporated in 1912 and had an Out-Patient Department at 86-90 Newington Causeway.

AM Griffiths, House Physician at the South London Hospital, reported that 39645 Weller AE QMAAC was suffering from Rt Basal pneumonia (3rd day of disease). Consolidation spread to R. apex in the course of a few days. The left lung became involved on Monday 15th & patient died at 3.20 am on Wednesday 17th having been unconscious all week. Griffiths formally recorded the cause of death as Double Lobar Pneumonia.

Surrey Advertiser
Saturday 27 July 1918

The funeral took place on Monday of Miss Ada Elizabeth Weller, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Weller, Poplar-road, Leatherhead, whose death occurred the previous Wednesday after an an illness of only a fortnight's duration. Deceased, who was 32 years of age, was a member of an old and respected Leatherhead family, her father being an ex-member of the Urban Council, a prominent member of the local Foresters and local Liberal Association.

The late Miss Weller was a popular member of the Leatherhead Wesleyan Church, being in the choir, a teacher in the Sunday School, and having a Bible Class of her own. At the time of her death she was working as a member of the W A.A.C.'s. [The WAAC was renamed the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps on 9 April 1918 but the new name was not generally adopted.]

A service was conducted in the Wesleyan Church by the Rev. G. Panman (Horsham), previous to the interment in the parish churchyard. The chief mourners were Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Weller (father and mother), Will and Alf (brothers), Mabel, Florrie, Emily and Alice (sisters). Mrs. Ben Weller and Mrs. George Weller (sisters-in-law) and Miss Rowe and Sapper Bond. There were also present a sergeant-major of the Australian Police Force, and number of W.A.A.C.’s from Warwick-square, where deceased was stationed. There were numerous wreaths.

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser
Saturday 3 August 1918

Mr. and Mrs. Weller, Poplar-road, Leatherhead, have received through the Office of the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, a message of sympathy from the King and Queen at the death of their daughter, Miss A. E. Weller, who was a member of the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

Her life

Ada Weller was born on 23 February 1886 in Leatherhead, Surrey.

In the 1891 Census, then aged 5, she was living in Gravel Hill, Leatherhead. Her father was William J[ames] Weller, a House Painter, born in Dorking. Her mother was Elizabeth Weller, née Hammond, born in Wallington. They were married in Leatherhead on 10th December 1875. Her siblings were William C (13), Albert J (11), Charles H (6), George (3) and Frank H (1 month). All the children were born in Leatherhead.

In the 1901 Census the 15 year old Ada was still in Gravel Hill. No occupation was shown for her. The family now included Flora E (8), Emeline M (7), Alfred E (5), and Alice M (3 months).

In the 1911 Census her parents were living in Fairfield Road, Leatherhead, with Charles Henry Weller (26) and Alice Marion Weller (10). However the Electoral Registers show that her father remained in Gravel Hill until 1913. In 1914 he was in Poplar Road, Leatherhead.


The earliest of the women's voluntary bodies was the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) formed in 1909 with memories of the South African war still fresh. It was recruited from ladies who could ride well, with the aim of locating and retrieving the wounded on horseback. Sensibly the FANY converted to a corps of drivers and mechanics for ambulances. Though ignored by the British Army, the FANY were appreciated by the French and Belgians. They maintained a tradition of devotion and efficiency through both world wars, retaining their separate identity even after joining with the Auxiliary Territorial Service in WWII and from whose ranks were drawn a number of those working underground in Nazi occupied Europe.

The first year of the First World War produced a number of other women's voluntary organisations - the Women's Emergency Corps, the Women's Auxiliary Force, the Women's Volunteer Motor Drivers, the Home Service Corps and the Women's Volunteer Reserve. The WVR was the most military in terms of uniform and drill.

A major requirement was to cater for the new armies - food was plentiful but was often wasted in preparation or poorly cooked and thrown away by the men. The Quartermaster-General Sir John Cowans realised that women could usefully employed in their most traditional role, at least in non-combatant units or establishments. He asked Lady Londonderry of the WVR if she could use one of her organisations for this task.

As she was in disagreement with the organisers of the WVR she opted to form a new corps, the Women's Legion, a civilian organisation managed by volunteers with workers recruited through the Labour Exchanges and paid through the Army Vote. Her aim was to establish three sections - canteen, ambulance and military cookery - but the immediate need was for cooks.

It was a great success and by the end of 1916 detachments totalling 2000 cooks and kitchen staff were working at 200 camps in England. They were recruited from domestic cooks, housewives with practical cooking experience and ladies with diplomas in domestic science and untrained volunteers who were at first trained in the kitchens. Improvements were seen in palatability and good cooking - and the women proved to be more efficient than the men. There was some resentment - few men wanted to exchange a safe billet for the trenches. The Women's Legion was run by amateurs with great efficiency. It continued to the end of the war but was overtaken by the realities of modern warfare.

Manpower was draining from industry into the trenches and women were taking their places in the factories. It was realised that women might also replace men in some of the tasks which supported the fighting men. Sir Nevil Macready, the Adjutant-General, asked Haig in December 1916 if he would be prepared to accept women in the 'static chain'. Haig agreed, requiring only that they be properly organised and operate in groups of not less than 20 each under their own officers. A report recommended that just in in France 12,000 women could be used as ambulance drivers, storemen, clerks, checkers, telegraphists, telephonists, postal employees, orderlies, cooks, and domestic servants.

Macready's assistant was Brigadier AC Geddes whose sister, Mrs Mary Watson. had been the first woman to graduate in Medicine from the University of Edinburgh and who had some experience in public affairs. In February 1917 she was invited to raise and command what was to be called the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Helen Gwynne-Vaughan was the Controller (Overseas).

Eventually 57,000 WAAC were employed. The response was swift and the planned establishment soon achieved. The first WAACs moved to France on 31st March 1917. By early 1918, some 6,000 WAACs were in France.

Inevitably there was eventually a furore back in England and seized upon by German propaganda about women and soldiers serving together. An enquiry was set up which effectively ended the fuss. More critically, the German offensive in Spring 1918 caused concern in some quarters about the exposure of women to enemy fire and the possibility of withdrawal of the WAACs from France altogether. When it was proposed that all the WAACs at the Signal Centre at St Omer should be sent back, this order was cancelled, much to the satisfaction of the WAAC, by the Director of Signals who said that if his 142 women who had behaved with exemplary calm under air raids were removed, he could not be responsible for communications between GHQ and Second Army. So ended the only attempt to withdraw members of the Corps from duty for the sake of their own safety.

Though non-combatant, members of the WAAC had to put up with shelling by heavy artillery and German bombing raids. During a bombing attack in April 1918, nine WAAC were killed at the Etaples Army Camp. British newspapers claimed that it was another German atrocity but Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, the redoubtable Controller (Overseas) remarked to the press that the WAAC were in France as replacements for soldiers and the enemy was entitled to view them as a target.

In the midst of all this on 9 April 1918 came a statement issued by Buckingham Palace:

"As a mark of Her Majesty's appreciation of the good services rendered by the WAAC both at home and abroad since its inauguration, and especially of the distinction which it earned in France during the recent fighting on the Western Front, Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to assume the position and title of Commandant-in-Chief of the Corps, which in future will bear the name of Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps."


This title was not generally adopted and the WAACs stayed WAACs.

click for source page (Hoover Institute, Stanford University)

The organisation of the WAAC partly reflected the military model: their officers were called Controllers and Administrators, rather than Commissioned Officers, and messed apart from the other ranks. The WAAC uniform included a small, tight-fitting khaki cap, khaki jackets and skirts. The skirt had to be no more than twelve inches above the ground. To maintain a high level of fitness, all WAAC had to do physical exercises daily, including morris dancing and hockey.

The WAAC version of an NCO was a Forewoman, and the private was a Worker, as was Ada Weller.

A detachment of 1000 WAACs was requested by the American Expeditionary Force and were an independent body under their own Chief Controller. WAAC/QMAAC formally operated under the control of the War Office and was a part of the British Army. Women enrolled rather than enlisted. Breaches of discipline were punished by civil rather than military courts.

A cadre of 6,000 WAAC transferred to the Royal Air Force on the formation of the Women's Royal Air Force. The QMAAC formally disbanded on 27 September 1921.

On 9th September 1938 the Auxiliary Territorial Service was formed. ²

Rose Stovell who was mentioned by Ada in  her QMAAC application interview was baptised on 16 November 1889 under the name Katherine Rose Stovell. The 1901 Census showed her living at Fetcham Common with her parents George, a farm labourer and stockman and mother Grace Annie (née Diment).  She had a younger brother George Stovell born in 1902.  The 1911 Census showed the family living in The Street, Fetcham. The Fetcham Village School Log Book showed that she was unsuccessful in passing the Labour Examination in July 1912 but successfully passed the following July. Her brother left school in 1916 aged 14.

War Office Women’s (later Queen Mary’s) Army Auxiliary Corps Service Records, First World War, 1917-1920, show that Rose served in the QMAAC. [source: Surrey in the Great War]

After WW1

According to the Electoral Registers Ada's parents were at 3 Poplar Road until 1922 and for 1923-26 their address was 35 Poplar Road, probably as the result of renumbering in the road..

Both died in 1926. They and Ada are among 14 Wellers buried in the churchyard¹ of the Parish Church of St Mary & St Nicholas, Leatherhead:

F 815 WELLER Elizabeth b1855 d1926 age 71 died 11/07/1926
F 815 WELLER William James b1854 d1926 age 72 died 29/09/1926

Ruth Stovell married George Robbins Winter on 11 February 1922 at St. Mary’s Church, Fetcham. [source: Surrey in the Great War]

As for Lady Duckham, after the end of the First World War, builders were quick to acquire land in Ashtead where they could erect houses for the purchase by outsiders, mainly  Londoners.

The Warren Estate was one of the areas developed at this time, mainly for large houses. Even a golf course, begun as part of the planned Estate development, but was never completed. With its spacious houses on large plots, the Estate attracted men who had done very well out of the war and able to pay the then very high prices of around £2,000 to £3,000.

One of the most impressive of these houses was High Warren, finished in 1922 and containing three oak panelled reception rooms and six bedrooms. This was for many years the residence of Sir Arthur and Lady Maud Duckham. Sir Arthur McDougall Duckham born in 1879 at Blackheath, London, was a Gas Engineer. He was one of the founders of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and its first President. He was Knighted for services rendered in the Ministry of Munitions during the Great War. In 1928 he led a British trade mission to Australia, and following this received a further knighthood, GBE.

He died in 1932 and is buried in St Giles' Ashtead graveyard.

Lady Maud was President of Ashtead Horticultural Society in 1937 and, after retiring as President, remained as Vice-President until 1958. She died in Richmond, Surrey on 12 June 1967.

Ada Weller is remembered on these memorials
Leatherhead Methodist Church
Surrey in the Great War

Other Sources
1. SSMN Leatherhead graves inscriptions database; Ancestry.co.uk for most of the other genealogical data.
2. The Women's Royal Army Corps, Shelford Bidwell
3. Women in Khaki, Roy Terry

The late Mrs Joan Ralph of Poplar Road, Leatherhead, an ATS Gunner in WWII, loaned sources 2&3.


The Long, Long Trail - Women's Organisations

Western Front Association: We too were Soldiers

IWM: The Vital Role of Women in the First World War

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of her, and of any recollections within her family

with thanks to Brian Bouchard for identifying Ada Weller's file reference
last updated 10 Aug 04: 18 Feb 14: 5 Mar 18: 5 Sep 20