Canadian exhibition- The Women Who Went to War


The Serbian Heritage Museum in Windsor, Ontario, Canada is planning an exhibit on the women who played an integral part in the Great War in Serbia.  Our exhibit, The Women Who Went to War, a Time for Recognition  – Heroines of the Great War in Serbia, is scheduled to open on June 8, 2017.

The amazing women of the Scottish Women’s Hospital (SWH) played a major role in Serbia during World War I.  Our committee is very grateful to Mr. Alan Cumming for providing us with important information and documentation regarding the staff of SWH.  His extensive knowledge of this topic has inspired our exhibit. 

Alan Cumming’s many travels to Serbia culminated in a wonderful documentary about the SWH which introduced us to people like Dr. Elsie Inglis and numerous others. These women had the courage to come and help the people of Serbia during this crisis.  Many Serbo-Canadians were not even aware of this history and the profound role of SWH.  Thank you Alan for enlightening us!

We hope to bring together both the Scottish-Canadian and Serbo-Canadian communities with this upcoming exhibit as we honour the brave women in Serbia during the Great War.

Its hoped that Alan might find the time to attend the exhibition. 

Cathy Diklich

Rare Royaumont Photo Albums new home.

Today, I enjoyed a special privilege,  the opportunity to glean through  rarely seen photo albums of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals unit at Royaumont Abbey. roy10

Royaumont Abbey is located  30 miles outside Paris, France. From January 1915 to March 1919 the Abbey was turned into a voluntary hospital, Hospital Auxiliaire 301 and operated by Scottish Women’s Hospitals(SWH), under the direction of the French Red Cross.


The hospital opened in January 1915 and remained open until March 1919.  Best remembered for its huge endeavours during the Battles of the Somme and the final push of 1918.  It’s astonishing to think that out of nearly 11,000 soldiers and civilians  treated only 157 died. 


 The albums belong to Duncan MacPherson  whose great Aunts, Betty and Jean MacPherson had served at Royaumont as an orderly and cook.  Duncan contacted me to see if I would be interested in having the albums to help promote the story and safeguard the albums for future generations.  Clearly I would have relished the idea of owning them, but history belongs to the people.  

This collection of photos is unique and of real importance.  We both agreed that the albums should be part of a collection and available for all to see. 

The albums have been entrusted to the Glasgow City Archives in the Mitchell Library. The City Archives already hosts an extensive collection of files, documents and photos albums relating to the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.  They are a joy and a big thank you to Duncan MacPherson for donating part of his family’s history to the nation.  


Alan Cumming 

Commemoration event in London

Third Annual Commemoration On Saturday the 4th of March 2017 the third annual commemoration was held in the Serbian Orthodox Church St Sava, in London for courageous women who, in various medical missions, risked and sacrificed their lives in Serbia and on the related fronts during the Great War. The event was organized by St Sava church and the Circle of Serbian Sisters Kosovka Devojka and was supported by Serbian organizations – Serbian Council of Great Britain, Serbian Society, Serbian City Club, Britic and the Embassy of Republic of Serbia. alan1

The service, Pomen, was held in English and Serbian. Amongst the dignitaries from the Embassy of Republic of Serbia and various Serbian organizations, was Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina. 

After the service the commemoration chaired by Olga Stanojlovic, Serbian Council of Great Britain, continued in the Bishop Nikolaj Community Centre. Zvezdana Popovic displayed fifteen panels with photographs and archive documents from her research about women in various foreign medical missions in Serbia during the Great War. Alongside these, there were panels presenting Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont Abbey and Corfu.

Members of the Serbian community together with British guests observed the exhibition and enjoyed delicious canapé prepared by the Serbian Council of Great Britain and the Circle of Serbian Sisters. As this event is during Lent, all the food was completely vegetarian.

Olga Stanojlovic opened the commemoration highlighting the spirit of community and the interwoven ties that hundred years ago profoundly connected British – Scottish and Serbian people.

In her short speech Zvezdana Popovic informed the audience that during the Great War women served in various organizations, such as Serbian Relief Fund hospitals, V.A.D.s , FANYs, Mabel Stobart’s hospital, Scottish Women’s Hospitals, Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, St John’s Ambulance Units, British Red Cross, or they came as individuals mostly because they were too late to enrol for a particular medical mission and they desperately wanted to contribute to the war effort.

Regardless from which organization they came, from which countries and continents, whether they were rich or poor, highly educated or not – they were all in Serbia when Serbia needed their help the most. They were nurses, doctors, orderlies, ambulance drivers, cooks, administrators…

Many of them died from typhus in spring 1915, including Madge Neil Fraser, Louisa Jordan, Augusta Minshull and Bessie Sutherland from Scottish Women’s Hospitals, Dr Elizabeth Ross from the First Reserve Military Hospital in Kragujevac, Mabel Dearmer and Lorna Ferris from Stobart Hospital in Kragujevac, and their graves are scattered in Serbia .

The same fate was met by many Serbian women. Ljubica Lukovic died in Nis and Nadezda Petrovic in Valjevo– both founding members of the Circle of Serbian Sisters. One of the first Serbian woman doctors – Draginja Babic – died in Valjevo in February 1915.

Caroline Toughill, from Scottish Women’s Hospitals, died during the Great Retreat. Mabel Stobart and all the members of her hospital survived the horrible exodus. In January 2015, during the Serbian Month, we had an opportunity to show the powerful exhibition from the Dorset County Museum – A Dorset Woman at War – about Mabel Stobart’s hospital unit and the Great Retreat.

It would be wrong to remember only those who died in Serbia; only those whose graves are in Kragujevac, Valjevo, Bajina Basta or Nis. What about those who survived the perils of Serbia and died in Greece or France, like Katharine Harley and Mary Burt – both buried at Military Cemetery Zeitinlik, Thessaloniki?

What about those who survived typhus and continued to help Serb soldiers and civilians, like Flora Sandes, Emily Simmonds, Dr Katharine MacPhail and Lady Paget? Lady Leila Paget, Dr Isabel Emslie Hutton and Dr Katharine MacPhail continued to support the Serbs even after the war had ended. Evelina Haverfield set up an orphanage in Bajina Basta and died there in 1920.

We also remember courageous Flora Sandes and Serbian women soldiers – Milunka Savic, Sofija Jovanovic, VasilijaVukotic and others.

We cannot let these brave women be forgotten. Remembering them we remember and honour, not only them, but our own past too. 2017 marks the centenary of death of a remarkable woman – Dr Elsie Inglis – who was Scottish, British and Serbian heroine.

Dr Elsie Inglis was the first woman to receive the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Order in Serbia, in recognition of the work done by her and her units in Serbia. The Crown Prince personally presented this medal to Dr Inglis in April 1916, while Nikola Pasic, the Serbian Prime minister, wrote a letter to the Committee of SWHs:

“Dear Madam. In the name of His Royal Highness The Crown Prince, in the name of the Serbian Government and the whole Serbian nation, I have the honour to convey through you the expressions of our highest gratitude to the noble daughters of the great British nation who have risked their lives and sacrificed their freedom for the health and the good of the Serbian soldier and Serbian people.

I avail myself of this opportunity to tell you how much we appreciate the help rendered to Serbia by the Scottish Women’s Association, who sent so many and so splendidly organised hospitals to our country, and who are still continuing to help our people as much as they can. The Serbian nation will never forget what Scottish women have done for them.”


This letter in the best way summarises the feelings of Serbian people have for Dr Inglis and women from Scottish Women’s Hospitals and other medical missions who were in Serbia when they were needed the most. Therefore, we were very happy to greet our special guest, Alan Cumming, who told us more about Dr Inglis and Scottish Women’s Hospitals and showed his documentary film Scottish Women’s Hospitals. The audience were captivated by this interesting and poignant story. They were impressed by Alan’s knowledge and passion, particularly when they heard how many times he had visited Serbia. Many of the present Serbs did not know much about Scottish Women’s Hospitals and Dr Inglis or have not visited any of the particular historical locations mentioned in the film. Talking about plans for commemoration of the centenary of Dr Inglis’ death, we loved the idea of taking Dr Inglis’ descendants to Serbia. In September this year Mladenovac will organize this important event in honour of Dr Elsie Inglis. The questions that followed and praises from Princess Katarina and the others showed how fascinated and grateful we all were for the work done by Alan.


Hundred years ago Dr Inglis, women from the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and women in many other medical missions showed to the world what humanity and courage, sacrifice and altruism really meant. Humanitarian work did not end hundred years ago and we concluded the commemoration with an information about two contemporary British charity organizations – Blazing to Serbia and Hospice of Hope – both active in Serbia.