New Theatre Royal archivist Donna Bish worked with Portsmouth Academy for Girls, Priory School and Portsmouth High School in a project to research the role of Portsmouth women as “Temporary Men” during the First World War, funded by Portsmouth City Council and the Armed Forces Community Covenant. The aim was to celebrate the stories of these women’s lives and their contributions to the war through different art forms.

Donna’s research into the lives of these women enabled her to build up a clear picture of who they and their families were, where they lived and what happened to them after the war.

Three women stood out: Hertha Ayrton, the Portsea born scientist and inventor who invented the Ayrton anti-gas fan which was used prolifically in the War; Yvonne Evans, granddaughter of Portsea Alderman Henry Evan and the first Portsmouth woman to register with the WRNS; and Beatrice Hobby, a Portsea lady who worked in the Dockyard for much of the war after her husband was killed in action. Students from Portsmouth High School devised a new performance based on the lives of these women.

Donna looked into the history of the Priory School as the headquarters of the 5th Southern General Hospital. She identified over 100 named TFNS and VAD nurses and support workers, and and helped the students research their own ancestors’ roles in the War.

If you have any stories of your Portsmouth maternal ancestors Donna would love to hear from you. Please email