Cumnock History Group

Recently we we asked to look into the service of Agnes by the group, here’s our findings.

Agnes Kerr Earl was born on the 31st of March 1886 in Townhead, Cumnock, her father William Earl was a joiner. Agnes mother Jane Purdie passed away early in her life and was brought up by her father. At the age of 25 she was living in Louden street Machline with her father.
On December 1916 she joined the Scottish Womens Hospitals as a nurse and set sail from Southampton to Salonika(Thessaloniki) a two week journey in them days and fraught with dangers from submarines, mines and Zeppelins over head. She joined the American unit, the units name was a result of the donations that had poured over the Atlantic Sea. The unit was made up of 60 women, not just from Scotland but England, Wales and Australia. Agnes Chief Medical Officer was the brilliant Dr Agnes Bennett and from Australia. Their main objective was to support the 2nd Serbian Army who were fighting the Bulgarians in the Moglena mountains the bigger picture was to support a huge force of Serbians , French and British to reclaim Serbia and push back the Germans, Austrians and Bulgarians. From 1916-1918 Agnes would have worked often at times day and night and all under canvas. The conditions were very hard going,Cases of  malaria, gas gangrene, amputations all a common sight, at times quiet then hundreds of injured men pouring in, very hot summers and cold winters and on the more as the front line moved back and forth. Agnes worked for periods at Salonika, Lake Ostrovo, Mikra Bay and a number of small field dressing hospitals. By November 1918 the Serbs were on the march home and Agnes moved to Vranje in Serbia working this time under Dr Isobel Emslie. The hospital at Vranje was a large ex army barracks and packed with hundreds of patients with a hole manner appalling conditions, pneumonia, pleurisy and serious surgical cases. Sadder still was one women’s account of the children ” the injuries are terrible, we have had several poor little hands to amputate and often they have terrible abdominal wounds”
Cold weather came to Vranje and with it typhus, Agnes by this time was the sister in charge and had being doing a fantastic job and the death rates were very low. However while dressing a gangrenous limb she got a scratch which turned septic and two later she was dead. Mary Green remarked ” she had done heroic work in the typhus ward, never sparing herself in any way, a handsome girl, tall and strong and with a splendid character”
 The Serbs were very sad at the news and rich and poor came bringing flowers, it was noted that vast crowds lined the streets for her funeral. British tommies formed the firing party and sounded the last post. A monument was erected by the  Serbs as she was a favourite with them all.
Today Agnes’s remains are buried in Nis in Serbia along with 5 other SWH members, am happy to say the grave and cemetery are well looked after and she is not forgotten among the Serbian people.   She was awarded The Serbian Cross For Mercy and Silver Medal For Devoted Service In War.