Katharine Furse (1875-1952), WRNS Director
Born on 23 November 1875, Katharine was the youngest of fourr girls born to poet, literary critic and historian John Addington Symond ds and Janet Catherine North, the sister of botanical painter Marianne North.
She was brought up in London, Switzerland and Italy, and educated at home by her mother and various governesses. In 1900, she married English portrait painter Charles Wellington Furse, with whom she had two sons, but he died from tuberculosis after just four years of marriage.
She joined the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1909, and headed up the first unit sent to France on the outbreak of the First World War. Her work was recognised with an order of the Royal Red Cross in 1916, and a GBE – the highest t class of the Order of the British Empire – in 1917. That same year, she was appointed Director of the newly formed WRNS and remained in the post until the service was disbanded in 1919.
After the war, Furse headed the Sea Rangers and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Her autobiography, Hearts and Pomegranates, was published in 1940. She died in London on 25 November 1952.