Lazarevac is a town and municipality located in Serbia around 50 miles to the south of Belgrade with a population of 25,526. Its name stems from the name of medieval Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic.
The Scottish Women’s Hospital hospital at Lazarevac, was in the summer of 1915, commandeered by Elsie Inglis. Although the summer of 1915 was a relatively quiet spell, Elsie wanted to be ready to combat any further typhus epidemics that would almost certainly hit Serbia in the coming winter. Lazarevac therefore, was to set up as a blocking hospital. Under the command of Dr Hollway, the SWH took over an existing hospital in the town. Evelina Haverfield would take over the running of the hospital. The unit took over the hospital after the battle of Kolubara. The village as it was then, was showered in bullet marks and many of the buildings had been shelled. A school that over looked the village was converted into a fever hospital. Other buildings were made into medical,surgical and convalescent wards. As patients began to flock to the hospital, two more hospitals were opened. The unit eventually took over the laundry for all ten of hospitals in the area. The staff were located in one of the few two- storey houses while others camped in tents on the hill. On October the 19th, ten days after Belgrade fell, the hospital was ordered to evacuate. In fact they had under ten hours to shift the entire hospital. The patients and hospital were taken to Arandelovac and boarded the trains to head south to Mladenovac. Over the next few months some of the women would become POW’s at Kurushvac, while others would join the the Serbian retreat.
Lavarevac, is another Serbian town that plans to be involved in next years centenary plans. The town is beautiful and full of charm. We were invited to the mayors office and, after a successful meeting, I was asked to lay a wreath at the towns hospital.
A plaque dedicated to Elsie Inglis and the SWH is located at the hospitals entrance. I was surprised by the large turn out of local people and also by the large presence of the media. I am genuinely, as always, astounded with the way Serbs view me.
We were shown around the church of St. Demetrius, built in the memory of Serbian and Austro-Hungarian army soldiers that were killed at the Battle of Kolubara. Its impossible not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of loss. Finally we were treated to a tour of the local library. I will over the next few months furnish the library with documents, photos and details of the SWH in Lazarevac in order for them to display the findings as an exhibition.
TV news clip, maybe not my finest moment! https://vimeo.com/190601865