A PURPLE Plaque has been unveiled for a “pioneering and courageous” Gwent woman who helped form the first nurses' union and volunteered to help the wounded in the Spanish Civil War.

The plaque, for Thora Silverthorne, was unveiled today, Friday, outside Abertillery Museum in her home town.

It becomes the ninth unveiled under the Purple Plaques scheme.

Thora Silverthorne was the daughter of a miner who spent her early life in Abertillery.

Her father, an National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) official, was sacked after the general strike of 1926, forcing the family to leave Wales as he sought new work.

Ms Silverthorne's daughter, Lucy Craig, said that her mother was "a very brave woman".

"I miss her every day," she said.

“I’m so excited – and proud – that my mother is being honoured with a Purple Plaque in Abertillery.

"She was born in the town and lived there for the first 17 years of her life – years in which the culture and values of Wales had a profound impact on her.

"Her lifelong socialist beliefs were honed not just by her very politically aware family, but by that wider community.”

Such were her socialist beliefs that Ms Silverthorne earned the nickname 'Red Silverthorne'.

Sue Essex, chair of Purple Plaques Wales, said: “After training as a nurse at the Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, Thora courageously volunteered to go to Spain with other British medics – this was despite speaking no Spanish and never having left Britain before.

"During her time as a matron in Spain she assisted with operations in bombed out buildings and sometimes without even basic medical supplies like anaesthetics.

“Not only this, but on her return to the UK, Thora went on to found the first truly grassroots union for nurses, the Association of Nurses, which was only the second nurses’ organisation in Britain. It later merged to become part of UNISON.

“I would like to thank Blaenau Gwent council and UNISON for their help in making possible this plaque to mark Thora’s achievements.”

Ms Silverthorne also had a hand in history as a founder member of the Socialist Medical Association – she led a delegation to meet then-prime minister Clement Attlee and his health secretary Aneurin Bevan during the formation of the NHS.

The plaque has been funded by her family and was made by potter Julia Land from Chepstow.