The story of a Narberth district nurse and her possible career as a Nazi spy is told in the new Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society; also the history of Pembroke’s ‘Tin Tabernacle’.
In July 1938, a district nurse in Narberth calling herself Elsie May Kearns failed to return from a week’s sick leave. Within a couple of weeks, telegrams were received by nursing colleagues informing them that the nurse had died, and she was never seen in Narberth again.
In fact, Elsie Kearns died in 1943 - and in unusual circumstances, her body being found in a field near Wantage. She had changed address and name several times since leaving Pembrokeshire.
Some years later a national newspaper article appeared, portraying her as a wartime spy who passed vital information about military sites around Britain to the Nazis. This awakened memories in Narberth, where there was speculation that Nurse Kearns had used a wireless transmitter hidden in Blackaldern Woods to send nightly reports to Germany about pre-war Pembrokeshire military bases such as Trecwn and RAF Pembroke Dock.
The story of the life and death of Nurse Kearns is told in detail by Christine Davies in the recently published 2023 Pembrokeshire Historical Society Journal.
It is just one of a number of fascinating articles in this year’s 128-page Journal, the first in the annual series to be compiled by new editor Keith Johnson.
Among the articles in the journal is a well-illustrated description of the construction and early history of Hobbs’ Point pier in Pembroke Dock, while Pembroke historian Linda Asman has contributed an account of the century-old ‘Tin Tabernacle’ in the town’s East End.
The often harsh lives of working women in the Narberth area in Victorian times, both above and below ground, is the subject of an essay by Mary Houseman, while the life story of Penally-born Mormon missionary Daniel Williams is recounted by Jill Morgan. Other articles feature shipwreck archaeology, a hitherto unrecorded ancient trackway north of the Preselis, and the links between Pembrokeshire and Ireland in Elizabethan times.