Postcards from the Brunclair collection

This is one of the postcards from the Brunclair collection dedicated to the Scottish Women’s Hospital of Chanteloup.

On the front : the medal ceremony. General de Torcy gives the soldier Camille Guntzburger the Croix de Guerre, for an act of bravery. On the left of the photo we recognize Laura Sandeman, Katherine Harley and Jean Patton Gordon.

And on the back the very moving text that a wounded soldier writes to his son:


"29 août 1915
Mon Polo
[Polo is the emotional nickname given to the child named Paul]

Voici une nouvelle vue. J’y suis. Cherche-moi.

Ton père qui t’embrasse”.

August 29, 1915

My Polo

Here is a new view. I am here. Look for me.

Your father who is kissing you.

Scottish Women’s Hospital truck at Creil

A rare postcard sent to me by Francis Trailleur, of a Scottish Women’s Hospital truck at Creil train station on the outskirts of Paris. The SWH opened a canteen at Creil in 1917. The soldiers would arrive by train, bound for the front line or returning on leave. Often the men had gone days without food. The site of smiling faces with their 1200 litre basins filled with coffee or soup must have felt homely and welcoming, especially for the lads heading to the front. Trains arrived from all over the front, Dunkirk, Soissons and Fismes bringing troops from all over the world, French, British, Canadian, American and many from the French Colonies. Heavy work lugging the boiling cooking pots around, freezing cold as they were largely in the open and clouds of smoke coming from the six stoves usually stoked by the men. During December 1917, 194,000 soups and coffees were served in the canteens at Creil, Soissons and Crepy-en-Valois.

Canada’s Forgotten Heroine: Josephine (Jo) Whitehead (1895-1964):

Canada’s Forgotten Heroine:
Josephine (Jo) Whitehead (1895-1964):
Natasha Stoyce & Alan Cumming


Josephine (Jo) Whitehead first came to my attention whilst reading the unpublished
Serbian diary (1915) of Dr Catherine Louise Corbett for my doctoral thesis on the all-female,
Great War medical organisation: The Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH). At the time,
the sole pieces of information that I had about Jo were that she was a ‘a young Canadian girl
of about 22, who [had] enlisted as a man in the Serbian army,’ and that she was to ‘guard’
the stores and belongings of SWH members from the many plunderers present at the time in
then-enemy occupied Serbia . I did not know Jo’s name and could find no information about
her. In Dr Corbett’s diary, she was simply referred to as ‘W.’ Yet, thanks to the inherently
feminist interests of my thesis, this mysterious, nameless figure peaked my curiosity. It was
thus, that I enlisted the help of my friend and fellow SWH researcher, Alan Cumming, to find
the illusive ‘W.’ This biography is the product of both my initial interest in ‘W.’ and Alan’s
hard-work and thorough research.
On the 26th February 1895, Leslie Joy Whitehead (a.k.a. Josephine; Joy; Jo) was born
to Charles Ross Whitehead, a cotton manufacturer from Montmorency, Quebec, and
Winifred Thomas Stevenson. Quite possibly a tom-boy growing up, Jo’s pursuits in adult life
centred largely around what would have been deemed traditionally male activities. She took a
keen interest in shooting, driving, and the great outdoors, and prior to the start of the Great
War spent a significant amount of time living alone in the Canadian wilderness. According to
an article from 8th January 1916 in the Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Jo lived an ‘outdoor
life’ for ‘a couple of years […] in the Laurentian mountains at Val Morina.’
1 On 7th January
of the same year, The Toronto Daily Star reported that ‘Miss Whitehead’ was ‘extremely
fond of outdoor life, wore semi-male garb on her tramps through the woods, and could handle
1 “Canadian Girl is a Prisoner in Bulgaria”, Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Saturday January 8th 1916, p. 21.
a canoe or shoot better than most men.’2 It is unsurprising, then, that when war broke out on
the 28th July 1914, Jo was single-minded in her pursuit of getting to the front.
Though her true desire lay in getting down to the action of the frontlines, where she hoped ‘to
get fixed as a motor transport or ambulance driver,’ Jo initially started her war-work in
London, England. It was there that she, alongside ‘a batch of young ladies from Canada,’
busied herself by ‘working long hours over the card index and the typewriter in order to,’ as
the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the 3rd June 1915, ‘keep the people of’ her ‘own
country informed of the condition of the wounded among the Canadian contingent.’3 This
newspaper described ‘Miss Whitehead’ as ‘a lady volunteer of a very different kind’ because
she could ‘do almost anything in the out-of-door life’, and was ‘desirous of putting her
handiness at the disposal of the military authorities.’4 For women during the Great War,
however, the Western Front was completely forbidden. Conflict zones were deemed far too
dangerous a place for the “weaker sex” to be, with some even considering it an abomination
that the female life-giver should enter the battlefield, where she stood to witness brutal and
unrelenting loss of life. The few females that did get to this front were, either branded “campfollowers”
(prostitutes) or, as in the case of Sapper Dorothy Lawrence, the only English
woman to cross-dress as a soldier and to gain access to the Western Front in this capacity,
sent back to England in a state of disgrace. Jo was, however, determined in her goal and so,
like the women doctors of the SWH, decided to offer her services to Britain’s Balkan Allies
in Serbia. Following this country’s acceptance of her help, Jo became a volunteer engineer
with the Serbian Relief Fund in July 1915.
Once in Serbia, Jo found herself more able to live the life of a man than ever before. Her time
with the Serbian Relief Fund, however, was to be cut short when on the 8th October 1915
Serbia fell to Central Power forces. By the 3rd November 1915, Jo was working under
occupation in the central Serbian city of Krushevatz (Kruševac). According to Dr Catherine
Corbett of the SWH’s Valjevo unit, this female engineer had been ‘sent’ to Krushevatz ‘with
the [Serbian] army’ within which she had ‘enlisted as a man.’5 According to contemporary
newspaper sources, Jo was ‘acting as a lieutenant in the Veterinary Corps of the Serbian
2 “Canadian Nurse Bulgar Prisoner”, The Toronto Daily Star, Friday January 7th 1916, p. 2. 3 “Lady Volunteers From Canada”, Yorkshire Evening Post, 3rd June 1915. 4 Ibid.
5 Catherine Louise Corbett, Diary in Serbia, unpublished, p. 9-10.
Army, having given up hospital work’ so ‘that she might get closer to the firing line.’6 Under
occupation, Jo’s gunmanship and outdoor skills were to prove more vital than ever before and
came in particularly useful for the Valjevo and Mladenovac units of the SWH. Finding
themselves frequently targeted by thieves in the form of desperate locals, prisoners of war
and enemies alike, the SWH recruited Jo as a ‘guard’ in the hopes that she would help to
deter the near-daily pillaging of resources and supplies. Her handiness did not go unnoticed
by the enemy and by the 24th November 1915, Jo found herself under the employment of ‘a
German doctor,’ for whom she tended to ‘some large and complicated disinfectors.’7
It is unclear what exactly happened to Jo between November 1915 and the end of 1916, but
by the 7th January 1916, both The Toronto Daily Star and The Globe reported that ‘Miss Joy
Whitehead, a Quebec Athletic Girl’ had been ‘locked up’ by the Bulgarians. 8 At the time of
being made a prisoner of war, The Globe newspaper cites Jo ‘was captured by the Bulgarians
while serving with a British veterinary corps in Serbia’ – a division she had joined ‘owing to
her knowledge of horses.’9 At some point after her capture circa 1916/1917, Jo fell in love
with and married a lieutenant of the Serbian Army named Vukota Voyinitch from the city of
Užice. The pair returned to Canada where Jo gave birth to her first child, a daughter named
6 “Canadian Nurse Bulgar Prisoner”, The Toronto Daily Star, Friday January 7th 1916, p. 2. 7 Catherine Louise Corbett, Diary in Serbia, unpublished, p. 9-10. 8 “Canadian Nurse Bulgar Prisoner”, The Toronto Daily Star, Friday January 7th 1916, p. 2. 9 “Three Ricers Girl Taken By Bulgarians”, The Globe, Friday January 8th 1916, p. 5.
Mira, in October 1917. The couple went on to have a second child in 1923, by which time the
young family had travelled together to Naples in Italy, as well as to Patras, Greece. By the
1930s, Jo’s marriage to Vukota had broken down and the pair were divorced. By 1937 she
had re-married a man named George Andrew Vaughan, with whom it is plausible that she
had more children. The pair were married until George’s death. Jo passed away in Princeton,
Vancouver in 1964, aged 69. She was a widow and her final occupation has been noted down
as a rancher.
Both Alan and I would ask that any relatives of Jo, Vukota or George who may hold more
information about this incredible woman and/or her war-time story contact us via email at
the following address:

Presentation at St Andrews University

2018 Year of the Woman

To celebrate the 2018 Year of the Woman, the Open Assocation presents a series of eight fascinating talks.

These talks will also celebrate the centenary of WWI, along with the suffragette movement. They will also look at the lives and work of (primarily) Scottish women of the past, whose names are virtually unknown, but who made a significant contribution to scientific knowledge. Some of these talks will be accompanied by an academic within the relevant subject area.

2 November 2018

Presenters: Alan Cumming and Ailsa Clarke

Lecture information

Dr Elsie Inglis qualified as a doctor in 1892. It was an unconventional career path at that time for women, who were very much discouraged and discriminated against. Elsie studied medicine in both Edinburgh and Glasgow and it was during this period in Edinburgh that she founded a medical college for women. After qualifying, she choose to work among the poor and was a pioneer in maternity services in Edinburgh. A mover and shaker in Scotland’s suffrage movement, Elsie was not averse to picking her battles.

When WW1 broke out in 1914 Elsie inquired at the war office if women doctors and surgeons would be permitted to serve in front line hospitals, she was dismissed with the words, “My good lady, go home and sit still”. Dr Elsie Inglis was clearly not the type to accept the words of some puerile official. If Britain did not want the services of these highly gifted women then perhaps Britain’s allies did.

In 1914 Elsie founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. These hospital units served in France, Serbia, Greece, Romania and elsewhere. Staffed almost entirely by women, nearly 1500 women from all over the UK and beyond joined the units as Doctors, nurses, orderlies, ambulance drivers, cooks etc. These brave, stoic women, not only endured the horrors on the battlefields but faced typhus epidemics, outbreaks of malaria, starvation, bitter cold winters and entire nations on the move. Elsie herself became a POW in Serbia and witnessed the throes of the Russian revolution. Sadly, Elsie who had been suffering from cancer throughout the war died on 26 November 1917, the day after returning home from the Russian front.

There will be a 40 minute film which follows Alan Cumming as he researches the work of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Scotland, France and Serbia during WW1.

“The Years That Changed the World – World War I in History and History”


A history-based review that is not based on scientific knowledge is detrimental and leads to the repetition of historical errors, the participants of the two-day International Scientific Conference dedicated to the First World War, which is being held at the Andrić Institute in Andrićgrad.
Member of the organizing committee of the conference entitled “The Years That Changed the World – World War I in History and History” Svetozar Rajak said that this conference is important not only by the number of participants, but also by the topics it deals with.
“Today’s day has demonstrated to what extent this conference is important, not only by the number of participants, but by the fact that issues that are often not triggered by the First World War are raised,” said Rajak, a professor of economics at London’s school.
He emphasized that many aspects of these issues are not present in the history of the First World War in our country, but also in the world.
Rajak says that the panel on the beginning of the war spoke about some new knowledge, and to what extent Serbia could be considered the guilty for the beginning of the First World War.
“In the panel dealing with the war in the Balkans, we had the opportunity to listen to analyzes that were the result of research in the Hungarian archives, which historians from Europe did not specifically deal with. In the panel on civilian victims of war, prisoners, and sufferings, we heard terrible data on the position of civilians during the occupation, a topic that is almost not present in the history of the First World War, “Rajak noted.
He said that “living history” was presented through the panel on Versailles, the end of the war and the consequences of the First World War.
Historian Velibor Vidić from Valjevo spoke about the Valjevo hospital and its importance in the First World War.
“The twentieth century was not only a century of starvation, but also migration, and these large migrations began with the persecution of Serbs in BiH and Srem. According to official data from the Ministry of Finance of the Kingdom of Serbia, over 200,000 people have been expelled to Serbia, of which 33,000 have been expelled to the territory of the region of Uzice, while the rest has all gone to the vicinity of Valjevo, Vidic added.
He pointed out that this was a tragic event because it was a great emigration of the people, who did not want to go far to the interior of Serbia, because he thought that the war would end soon and that it should be as close to home as possible.
“The war has extended, and Valjevo has received a large number of inhabitants, regardless of the people who have moved away. In the first attack by the Austro-Hungarian army, great and terrible crimes against Serb civilians were committed, such as hanging out, murdering children and the like, “Vidic emphasized.
He added that the Serbian people were killed on both sides of the Drina River, and pointed out that, after the fall of Valjevo, the Austro-Hungarian forces placed their sick and wounded in that town.
Historian Borivoje Milošević spoke about the situation in BiH after the end of the First World War.
“At the beginning of November 1918, the Serbian army crossed the Drina River and gradually began to liberate one city in BiH. Wherever she came, the Serbian army was solemnly welcomed by Serbs, Croats and Muslims. There was a three-state mood among the majority of the population, “said Milosevic.
He added that the time that was coming brought new disappointments to both the Serbs and other nations.
The international scientific conference dealing with the issues of the First World War gathered 26 renowned historians from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Great Britain, USA, Scotland and Ireland.
The conference was attended by historians from abroad, Dr. Oleg Ajrapetov (Moscow State University of Lomonosov), Dr. Sean Brady (Trinity College, Dublin), Marko Gasic (London), Dr. Fjodor Gajda (Moscow State University of Lomonosov), Dr. Jovan Zametica (Great Britain) , Dr. Gordana Ilić Marković (Vienna University), Alan Cumming (Scotland), prof. Bruce Mening (University of Kansas), Dr. Svetozar Rajak (LSE London), Dr. Dmitar Tasic (University of FedericoII, Napoli), Dr. Marvin Benjamin Frid (LSE London), Dr. Aleksej Timofeyev (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade), Mile Bjelajac Institute for Recent History of Serbia), Velibor Vidić (Historical Archives of Valjevo), prof. Dr. Aleksandra Vraneš (Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade), prof. Dr. Jovan Delić (Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade), Dr. Dalibor Denda (Institute for Strategic Research, Belgrade), prof. Dr. Ljubodrag Dimic (correspondent member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts), Dr Bojan Jovic (Director of the Institute of Literature and Art), prof. Dr. Miloš Ković (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade), Predrag Lazetic (Aeronautical Museum, Belgrade), Goran Miloradović (Institute for Recent History, Belgrade), doc. Dr. Borivoje Milošević (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Banja Luka), Dr. Vojislav Pavlović (Director of the Balkan Institute, Belgrade), Dr. Radoslav Raspopović (Director of the History Museum of Montenegro, Montenegro) and Dr. Miroslav Perišić (Director of the Archives of Serbia and Manager of the Department of History of Andrić Institute).
This scientific conference gave a new contribution to the knowledge of the First World War. Within it, the issues of the beginning of the war, the First World War in the Balkans and in Southeast Europe, the occupation, the civilian victims and the prisoners of war were discussed, the end of the war and the consequences of the Versailles Conference, as well as the lessons that could have come from such a history, is how and to what extent the First World War left a trace in history, cinema and literature.
The Proceedings from the Conference itself will be published by the end of the year.
The conference organized by Andrić Institute ends today.

“I sing out the fact that Serbian doctors, together with prisoners of Austro-Hungarian physicians, treated Austro-Hungarian soldiers with their command, and Serb soldiers and wounded people, while only 10 kilometers further Austro-Hungarian soldiers committed horrific crimes against Serbian life”
Miroslav Perisic

Tel: +387 58 620 912
Address: Trg Nikole Tesle bb, Andrićgrad