Aileen Mary Moriarty

Aileen Moriarty was a nurse, who served alongside Molly Evans and Clarice Molloy at the Queen Alexandra Hospital at Dunkirk, 1917-1918. Her father Arthur Stephen Moriarty, an Indian Civil servant, had died in 1900 when she was five. The Moriartys were Oxford educated, half Irish, born in France and Catholic. Aileen’s uncle, Louis Martin Moriarty (1855-1930) was French master at Harrow School and seemingly the only teacher who Winston Churchill got on with!

The young nurses underwent the same, sometimes gruelling, episodes in the Hospital in Dunkirk, perhaps most notably the complete evacuation of the night of 23 March 1918. Aileen’s fluency in French undoubtedly helped her secure the posting in Dunkirk as this language skill was a requirement. The hospital was not a military hospital and had to serve local civilians as well.

It would seem from her FAU personnel card that she exaggerated her age to get the job – she is recorded on that card as being born in 1892 but all other records would indicate that she was in fact born in 1895.

Immediately after Dunkirk, in December 1918 Aileen worked alongside Molly in the Anglo-Belge Military Hospital in Rouen until June 1919. It would appear that Molly corresponded with Aileen over a long number of years. In or sometime after 1923 she attended the ‘wedding to the church’ when Aileen became a Benedictine Nun at Stanbrook Abbey Worcester.

Church and Monastery, South East, Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester. Aileen Moriarty to Molly Evans postcard, 8 Jul 1923

Church and Monastery, South East, Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester. Aileen Moriarty to Molly Evans postcard, 8 Jul 1923

The above postcard written to Molly Downing in 1923 reveals that Molly was charged with providing shoes for the ‘wedding’ ceremony. From the photos she seemingly attended the ceremony and her daughter Pamela was a bridesmaid.

She died still in holy orders in 1981.

Sources and Notes

  • Molly Downing’s Photo Album (Compilation held by Juliet)
  • Molly Evans’ Wartime Scrapbook
  • The Benedictine Nuns at Stanbrook Abbey moved out to Yorkshire in 2009 and the Abbey outside Worcester became a hotel
  • Friends’ Ambulance Unit Database: See Moriarty entry
  • Molly’s diary for July 1923 reveals a flurry of correspondence with ‘Moriarty’ and a crisis visit to Woodbourne Road of ‘Borwick’, another close nursing friend. It looks as if at this date Aileen backed out of the drastic step of taking the vows only to take them later. Molly talks of the ‘Tragic and dramatic disappearance of Moriarty”