Our Historical Photography Project asks who is the lady in the kilt?

8 February 2017 17:00

Through our Historical Photography Project we are identifying a considerable number of people featured in the photos of our early days in Regent’s Park, but some are proving difficult, and a few are really puzzling us. The photo below is one of these puzzles.

Black and white photo of lady in kilt, unidentifiedIt appears to show a lady. She is holding a walking stick and wearing an army uniform, and a kilt. If this is a woman, then this is all very surprising. She seems most unlikely to have been a blind veteran: we have records of a few women joining us around this time after losing their sight as a result of the war but they either served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service or were blinded whilst undertaking munitions work. At this time women could not join the regular army regiments and did not serve on the front line as such, although the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps provided support to the men that did.

Black and white photo of unidentified VAD sitting on a sofaIn addition, Scottish women would not normally have been seen wearing a kilt. The photograph is one of many in an album which was compiled by one of our Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses, Kathleen Gamble, and after her death kindly donated to Blind Veterans UK by her niece. Kathleen is shown in the photograph opposite enjoying a quiet moment at our headquarters in Regent’s Park. The album does have some names and other information written in it by Kathleen, but the lady in the kilt is not identified, which suggests that Kathleen herself did not know who this person was.
Have we simply completely misidentified the lady in the kilt, and is ‘she’ actually a man? Or could there be another explanation? Could a VAD nurse have been dressing up for some reason? Or might it be a visiting actress, performing as a soldier to help entertain the men?

If you recognise the person in the picture as one of your ancestors or you have any thoughts or suggestions that might help us identify the ‘lady in the kilt’ then we would be very pleased to hear from you. Please contact us at

To see more stories from our Historical Photography Project click here or check our Facebook page weekly for our #ThrowbackThursdays.