Part 2




The connection of two peoples with great hearts, Scots and Serbs, has lasted for a century now. However, this friendship was built in difficult moments for Serbia, in the Great War. When a third of the Serb population went to battle. When enemies attacked us from all sides. Then, as a beam of light in a dark tunnel, Scottish nurses appeared and brought hope to the Serbs. As a Serbian proverb says, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” the noble Scottish people showed unprecedented humanity by helping the Serbs in a seemingly hopeless situation, and such humanity is something that is never forgotten.

Fighting in the First World War, Serbia suffered immense casualties. The news of the sufferings of the brave Serbian people was spread worldwide. The Allied states wanted to help a people who went through such perils. Touched by this situation, a Scottish woman- a doctor, a human rights activist, Elsie Inglis, feeling the need to help, soon raised money and set up field hospitals with the intention of sending them to Serbia, “Where they are most needed,” as she used to say herself. For no other reason but human compassion and nobility, Elsie Inglis decided to save the Serbs whose population was getting smaller day after day. She also encouraged other women to join her and thus instigated over 600 nurses to go to Serbia. None of these Scottish women wanted to think about their own lives, they did not know the country they were traveling to or what awaited them there, demonstrating enormous courage, superhuman selflessness and sincere sacrifice. They showed what it means to be a doctor, but more importantly – what it means to be human.

Serbs are a people who believe in miracles, and just on Christmas 1915, a miracle came true. In Kragujevac, the first Scottish Women’s Hospital was opened. Dedicated nurses dressed the soldiers’ wounds and nursed them, and as the epidemic of typhus spread in Serbia at that time, they also treated the sick civilians. Soon hospitals were opened in Lazarevac, Valjevo, Mladenovac, Vranje, Vrnjacka Banja, and during the retreat to the south, a hospital was opened in Krusevac as well. The example set by Scottish women was followed by other allies and friendly countries. It is very likely that if Elsie Inglis had not launched this humanitarian operation, the decimated Serbian soldiers who were further weakened by the typhus would not have survived, Serbia would have been forced to surrender to the enemy and then be destroyed. That’s why this help from Scottish friends did not last only during the war, but lasts to this day. There were significant consequences for the future, the survival of a whole nation was at stake. The gratitude the Serbian people feel for Scotland is unique in the world and it is difficult to describe it in words, because the words belong to this world, and the nobility and humanity of Scottish friends is certainly something beyond it and worthy of admiration.

The circumstances in Serbia during the epidemic of typhus, which affected the whole country, were terrible. The nurses worked day and night, not only threatened by the attack of the enemy, but also by the possibility of succumbing to fatigue or typhus infection. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. The Serbs who bid them the last farewell did so with respect and sorrow. Their names are eternally recorded on monuments, and in cities where they performed their medical duties streets were named after some of them. All these monuments throughout Serbia show what a significant place in Serbian hearts belongs to the Scotts. Books on medical missions, primarily Scottish women in Serbia, were written, and the fearless Scottish nurses were forever preserved from oblivion.

The nurses and doctors from Scotland showed their heroism once again when they retreated to the Thessaloniki front along with the Serbs. They did not want to leave the Serbs even then, when their own life was in even greater danger, and when everyone else would have given up, they showed how noble they were. In the toughest moments, they revived the soldiers and gave them faith in people. They tried to cheer up soldiers and encourage them to fight to the end for their homeland. The

wounded greatly appreciated and respected them, treated them with gratitude and tried to be “super patients”, according to the chief doctor of the Scottish women’s hospital on the Thessaloniki front, Isabelle Emsley-Hutton. Soldiers who survived everything and returned to their homes undoubtedly praised these extraordinary women.

And once again the Scottish people proved their humanity by refusing to return to safety, and thus leave the Serbs waiting for the allied armies who would help Serbian soldiers and join forces with them to win one of the decisive battles – at Kajmakčalan. They are the ones who raised the Serbs from the ashes and helped them to heal and become stronger than before. The role of women, nurses in war is completely equalized with the role of men, soldiers.

Elsie Inglis succeeded in two of her missions: to help the Serbian people and to fight for the equality of women and men. Unfortunately, she did not make it to the end of the war, she died on December 26, 1917. of a disease that advanced as she treated the Serbs, not thinking of herself for one moment. For her good deeds, she was decorated with the Order of the White Eagle, thus becoming the first woman to receive this highest decoration of Serbia. How deeply respected by the Serbian people she was, and still is, is best shown by the fact that they wanted to declare her a saint, thus emphasizing her charity.

Scottish friends helped Serbia the most during the First World War, when women doctors and nurses rescued the lives of thousands of Serbs, while Scottish men also fought on the side of Great Britain, the ally of Serbia. This year, when we mark the centenary of the death of Elsie Inglis, the focus of attention is the help of the Scotts during the Great War. As long as the Serbs remember their sacrifices during the First World War, they will not forget the nobility and humanity of Scottish friends, but will keep them forever in the memory of the Serbian people.

Jovana Dinić


Literary Works by Serbian School Students. Part 1

In Krusevac, the organisers of our visit held a literary contest among the schools in the city.  The young people of the city did Serbia proud.   Thoughtful and emotional the winners were awarded a certificate as a prize and both students received a standing ovation.   Rightly so, as we were all very moved. 


The Nobility and Humanity of Scottish Friends Remain in the Eternal Memory of the Serbian People

Sometimes there is a bright spot in the darkness, good fortune in times of hardships, it comes unexpectedly. As your gaze is lost in the void of the street along which a friend must come to you, the streetlights of hope are lit in another place, brightening your face suddenly. Do not forget that selfless help, genuine friendship. There is no profit there, no pretending , that friend is God’s gift.

War is a state unnatural to the human spirit, the time when irrational thinking is imposed on man. Then you realize what life is like, a couple of significant smiles, some tears and a moment when one loses all of it. A random jerk of a rifle and nothing more. Did we ever exist? There are those, however, whose reason is not blurred by the evil and the immorality brought by war. They are scarce, but they are worthy.

If I am to speak honestly, I did not know much about the friendship between Scotland and Serbia in the First World War. This is because we are preoccupied with the terrible events and great losses of that time, the killing of the innocent people, which is incomprehensible to us today, and it will always be. When I found out about the heroism of Scottish doctors and nurses I was surprised, but also confused. What was the trigger for Dr. Elsie to leave her people and take a steady step on the path of a humanitarian mission to help the Serbian people? We cannot say that religion and tradition are what binds us to Scotland, or customs either, our homelands are far from one another. Now I realize that these differences will never set us apart. Love is what connects us, the love that emerged from immense respect and gratitude for Scotland. Doctor Elsie crossed Albania along with the Serbs. She watched the last sparks of human lives die away beneath snowflakes. Despite the fear of disease that decimated Serbian people, she persevered in her mission. Kragujevac, Valjevo, Lazarevac , Vranje, Mladenovac and Kruševac are all towns which remember Scottish women’s hospitals and will remember them forever. It remains our duty to continue building bridges of friendship. Our army even had a female officer from Great Britain. Those who survived the Albanian Golgotha, 27 Serbian boys, received help and refuge in the country of noble people, they got a chance to live. Far away from death and enemies, they found friends in Edinburgh, Dundee, and Glasgow. New friends who taught them how to play rugby, how to live a normal life. They did not speak the same language, but that was just a small thing which did not prevent them from loving the people of Scotland the way they loved their own, and when they walked on Scottish land, it didn’t make them feel alienation, but love and belonging . That is a great deed, those are saved lives. We do not know the number of lives that the women from Scotland saved. They knew that their lives were hanging above the abyss of destiny, which can send a wave of severe disease at them at any moment. They must have felt deep love for the Serbian people. The course of events in the history of our people would certainly not be the same without them.

As the years go by, so history fades away. Our duty is not to let that happen, but to talk to the generations to come about the brave women who gave their hearts to Serbia. We must remember the friendly hand that led us from hopelessness to life, when it was most needed. We must constantly

renew the friendship between our two countries, because some of us, Serbs, would not be here now if it hadn’t been for them and their humanity. As long as the Serbian people live, the women of the Scottish hospitals will live forever in our hearts!

Marija Jevtic

On to Kragujevac and Krusevac

Tuesday 19th September

By Tony Waterson 

Kragujevac was the site of the first SWH hospital in Serbia, headed by Dr Grace Eleanor Soltau between January and June 1915. At that time, the city was the temporary seat of the Serbian government. The hospital faced three typhus epidemics and handled up to 600 patients. Elsie later joined the staff with a team of trained nurses and nursing aides and took over the charge of the fever hospitals.

We met the mayor and as usual played the pipes and listened to speeches, and heard about the collapse of the automotive industry in the town leading to high unemployment. We visited the grave of Elizabeth Ross another SWH staff member, laid white roses and Marsali recited a McDermott poem The White Rose of Scotland.

Next came a moving encounter at the Red Cross which is now carrying on vital socially supportive work with children and the elderly. At their offices we met a large group of elderly people there for a weekly social, and played the bagpipes. Marsali followed this with the song John Anderson and much roused, they proudly and heartily sang us a traditional city song.

After hearing more of the work of the Red Cross we travelled to a memorial park on the edge of the city which commemorates a grim episode in the second world war in 1941. Partisan units had killed 10 German soldiers and in reprisal, the Germans shot 3-500 local citizens including children and their teachers from a local school. The monument is in the shape of a V which represents 5th Grade (at school).

Whilst this visit was outside our primary mission – it certainly showed up the horror of war and the dreadful atrocities which are induced in such circumstances and which are seen time after time.

2 hour drive to our next city Krusevac, where we arrived after 3 and left at 6.45 – a short visit but packed full of interest.


‘With the occupation of Serbia, the SWH hospitals in Mladenovac, Lazerovac and Valjevo had to be evacuated at short notice. The staff from the first two moved to Kragujevac where Elsie was in charge but after a few days had to move south to Krusevac. From then on, SWH divided into two groups: one joined the great retreat via Kraljevo, the other stayed in Krusevac with Elsie and Dr Hollway: despite orders from British Military Command to leave Serbia.

‘The units left at Krusevac however were the fortunate units. To them fell the honour of caring for the Serbian wounded through the first three tragic months of the foreign occupation.’

First, to a beautiful hall faced with mosaics in the town hall where there was a fine set of speeches from top officials. Then to an exhibition of materials on the SWH and a visit to the former hospital building for a tree planting. Finally to the museum for a buffet lunch and a superb display of music and dancing, with bagpipes too. This was followed by the award of prizes for an essay competition on the SWH for school children – very high quality. Then finally a tour of the museum showing Serb history and a focus on Prince Lazar.

Evening drive to Vranje and the wonderful hotel high on the hill overlooking the town. From here we could see Bulgaria, Macedonia and Kosovo –

News clips from the both city’s.

On to Valjevo

By Tony Waterston

After a great day at Bajina Basta we headed to Valjevo where we were taken to a magnificent old traditional restaurant/hotel – perfect for a run in the rain up the river – and then a lovely fish meal with dancing, music and singing and Scottish dancing. This time, Velibor was the recipient of a Quaich.


Monday 18th Sept

Clea and Rob left us at 0730.

Leisurely start at 1100 am, time for a lovely walk with Liz up the river and coffee at a little café on the river bank.



A town of great importance where Elsie founded the SWH hospital headed by Dr Alice Hutchinson. Alice like Elsie was born in India where her father was a medical missionary. Before the Great War she worked as a doctor in the Punjab, and was one of very few SWH members who had tropical disease experience. The SWH hospital consisted of 40 tents and was situated in the foothills above the township.

Our first visit in Valjevo was to view the exhibition at the archive centre (set in beautiful grounds) which Velibor established. A really remarkable exhibition of the unspeakably terrible things that happened in Valjevo in 1914-15 when women were hanged by the invading army and huge numbers of refugees came into the city, followed by typhus. The Scottish women are greatly admired for their work for Serbians in the city which was turned into a huge hospital.

After this I spoke, played the pipes whilst a tree was planted and then was presented with a peasant’s cap and we drank slivovitz and ate dried plums.

Back to our hotel on the river bank for late lunch and off for the final visit of the day, to an orthodox church where there was a special service lead by the Bishop in quite magnificent robes and a crown. He spoke movingly of the SWH and welcomed us warmly. Then he introduced the children’s choir and the church choir who sang – again an extraordinary and beautiful experience which made us feel humble.

We spoke with the Bishop who is a kind and wise man with the common touch and a long white beard, and then with two of his priests.


Finally at about 5pm we started the long drive back across the mountains to Kragjevac, stopping at Lazerovac to check for my hat which could not be found, though others of our articles were at the desk.

Crisis no 5: I left my blue hat in Lazerovac..

We eventually arrived at our city centre hotel Zelengora in Kragjevac about 8pm, dinner with our rather smaller party and two municipal officials to whom I presented the 5th Quaich – only two left now! We are getting to know our Serbian friends more closely and greatly enjoying their company.

News clips from Valjevo