No.27 Mary Helen Young



THE youngest of three children, Mary Young was the daughter of Elizabeth Ann Burnett and Alexander Young, a grocer's clerk. She moved to Edinburgh with her family in 1884, after her mother's death.

After school, she spent several years as a dressmaker in Jenners, before training as a nurse at Kingston County Hospital, Surrey. In 1909, after qualification, she went to France as a private nurse. When war was declared in 1914, Mary Young volunteered for service with the Allied forces, working in the British Army zone in France.

After the war she resumed private nursing in Paris, but returned regularly to Scotland. She worked on in Paris during the Second World War, even after the German occupation. In December 1940, she was sent to a civilian internment camp in Besanon but was soon released due to ill health .

Back in Paris, although under Gestapo surveillance, she managed to harbour resistance organisers sent from London and provide a base for radio transmissions. The Gestapo arrested her late in 1943, on suspicion of helping British prisoners escape, and she was sent as a political prisoner to the women's concentration camp at Ravensbrck. Small (4ft 11in), now aged 60, and ill with heart trouble, like thousands of her fellow prisoners, she perished.

When news of Young's resistance work and death reached Scotland in 1945, newspapers hailed her as a second Edith Cavell (the English nurse executed in 1915 for helping 200 Allied soldiers escape from Belgium into neutral Holland). Preliminary investigations revealed she died in early 1945, possibly in the gas chamber; in 1948, the Court of Session adjudged she died on 14 March 1945. Letters produced in evidence referred to her courage and cheerfulness. A fellow inmate said "she always kept her chin up".

• From The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (Edinburgh University Press;