Letter to friend in London told of her peril
By a Staff Reporter "I AM not a martyr yet, but I may well be one of these days." In these prophetic words Sister Anthony, the 52-year-old St. Vincent de Paul nun who was murdered in Ismailia last week-end, told of her danger in a last letter to a member of the community at Blandford Street Convent, London.
Her murder by Egyptian terrorists on the steps of her convent has shocked opinion throughout the civilised world.
On Monday, the nuns at the London Convent where she had lived and worked during the war years, received her letter. In it Sister Anthony spoke of the worsening situation and of the ever-present possibility of martyrdom.
Six days later, on Sunday, they learned from a little girl in their school that the papers were already reporting that she had been murdered the previous day in cold blood.
Born in the Bronx district of New York City in 1900, Sister Anthony spent many years in Belgium after taking her vows as a religious of the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul.
1 was told by the Sister Superior of the Mother House at Mill Hill, I ondon, this week : " At various periods she was a teacher at the Sisters of Charity school for the deaf and dumb in Tollcross, Glasgow, at the Holy Family School, Liverpool, aHnidlvat St. Vincent's Orphanage, Mill
During the recent war, Sister Anthony performed a variety of tasks at the Blandford Street school, in London's West End. The Sister Superior there said: " She was a most versatile person, popular with everyone and of a most lovable disposition. Her cheerfulness and readiness to see the humorous side of any situation were a comfort to all of us when the air raids made life uncomfortable.
"The children she taught were always greatly attached to her, and she kept in touch with some of them right up to the time of her tragic death.
"One of the little tasks she personally undertook was looking after the destitute old men who came round to the back-door of the convent. She made a point of collecting cigarettes for them, and this gave her particular pleasure.
"Sister Anthony left for Ismailia about five years ago. But she was a great letter-writer, and her final letter reached us last week. In it she seemed already aware of the perils around her — and resigned to anything that might happen to her."
One of Sister Anthony's former pupils wrote to the Blandford Street school this week, expressing her sorrow at the news of the tragedy. " I shall always be grateful," she said, " for the memory of those happy days, for the excellent education, and for the solid grounding in the Faith."
The writer admitted that girls seldom realised the value of such spiritual benefits until later in life. And she concluded : " I believe that great blessings will flow to the Order as a result of Sister Anthony's heroic death."
Mr. John Ramsay-Fairfax, one of the many Catholic servicemen stationed in the Suez Canal Zone during the war, described the Ismailia convent as " an oasis of spiritual and bodily rest and refreshment to many hundreds of Catholics among the Allied forces.
"Being ' English-speaking,' Sister Anthony quickly endeared herself to all those troops with whom she came in contact, and I can recall how some of them arranged for her to visit the Catholic church at Fayid
itself"lut it wasn't only the local British and French communities who had reason to appreciate the kindness and generosity of her and the other nuns.
" I remember the late Archbishop Hughes telling me of their strenuous and determined efforts to start an infant school for the poorest of the Egyptian Coptic poor who dwelt nearby."
Men of the 16th Parachute Brigade in their red berets combed the Arab quarter of Ismailia on Tuesday this week, continuing their prolonged search for arms and suspects which might lead them to the murderers.
While they moved cautiously from house to house, General Sir George Erskine, British Commander in the Suez Canal Zone, led the official group of officers and men who knelt bareheaded in the garrison cemetery at Moascar as Sister Anthony's body was lowered into its temporary grave.
General Erskine — who was also present at the Solemn Requiem Mass before the funeral in the neighbouring Church of the Holy Family— knew the murdered nun well. His wife, Lady Erskine. was a close personal friend.
" She was a wonderful woman who was well known to all of us." was General Erskine's tribute. " It is a monstrous thing that the people who profess to be fighting us should attack helpless women."
The Mother Superior of the convent, a small house with its own garden. is Sister Yvonne Moran, one of the ten French nuns in a community of 12.
It was Sister Moran who described the shooting in the garden, which led up to Sister Anthony's murder.
" All the afternoon terrorists kept coming into the convent grounds." she said. "The children were put in the cellar. and our native boy went out several times to ask them to go away.
"Then five of them rushed through with bombs in their hands: the fuses burning. Sister Anthony ran out to stop them, shouting ' No, no, no, you won't throw that !' But they pushed her aside and threw their bombs. Then Sister Anthony phoned the British for help.
" Outside the terrorists were screaming for someone to cut the telephone lines. As we heard the tanks coming I saw Sister Anthony begin to open the door. She had heard the tanks and was going out to welcome them.
"'('hen there was a shot and she was finished. She died on the steps. She was good and kind, a hard worker, a very good sister . ."
After clearing the area, British troops stood guard over the convent while the body of Sister Anthony was laid in state, between flickering candles, on a mahogany table. Soldiers, who remembered her friendly smile as she walked daily to and from the garrison school, filed past the body to pay their last respects.
A special British court of inquiry is now sitting, going through the evidence about the murder. Although it is doubtful if Egyption witnesses will come forward, the military authorities are convinced from medical evidence and from statements already taken down, that Sister Anthony was shot by someone inside the convent grounds.
The Egyptian Government, which promised to conduct its own inquiry, has alleged, through its Minister of the Interior, Fuad Serag El-Din, that it was a British bullet which killed her.
The Minister also alleged that both the Sister Superior and Sister Catherine had emphatically denied that there were any Egyptians inside the convent before or at the time of the outrage.
The murder, claim the Egyptians, was a deliberate act of "provocation " by the British to interest American opinion in the AngloEgyptian dispute.
For their part, American diplomatic representatives on the spot are carrying out an independent investigation. And Mr. Jefferson Caffery, United States Ambassador in Cairo, has announced that " appropriate action " will be taken when the full facts have been laid hare.