A FORMER housemistress at Cheltenham Ladies College, who also served as a nurse in the Second World War, has died aged 96.

Mary Francis, of Painswick, died peacefully at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on Friday, June 22.

Her niece, Emma Nelson, said: "She was a much loved aunt and sister who will be greatly missed by all her family and many friends. She lived an incredibly full life."

Reigh Sutton, 90, a close friend, added: "Mary had a great sense of humour and her memories of her varied and well-travelled past were always vividly told."

Mary was born on April 5, 1916 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

She soon developed an interest in nursing and in 1940 spent four years training at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

After qualifying, she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and was deployed to Belgium and Germany during the Second World War.

Highlights of her nursing career include caring for Russian Prisoners of War in Oslo and being selected to march in the Victory Parade.

She continued to support the war effort through work with the Red Cross, escorting sick prisoners of war back to their home countries and received letters of appreciation for her work from the War Office.

On April 19, 1947, Mary married Colonel Bernard Francis, but the marriage did not last.

In 1951, she went to London to work as a domestic bursar at St Mark and St John’s Teacher Training College in Chelsea before being headhunted by Cheltenham Ladies College in 1958.

Although Mary had no children, she told friends that she had a whole family of daughters at Cheltenham Ladies during her 23 years as housemistress.

Mary retired to Painswick in 1981 and became heavily involved in village activities.

She was a sacristan, a church helper, at St Mary’s Church, Painswick, for seven years and joined many groups including Painswick Amateur Dramatic Society, the WI, Mothers’ Union and the Flower Guild.

Mrs Sutton said "She made a great impact on those who knew and loved her and will be missed enormously."

Her funeral is at St Mary’s Church, Painswick at 12.15pm on Friday, July 6.