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Scottish nurses who defied Whitehall to create hospitals on

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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Jun 2008 9:06    Onderwerp: Scottish nurses who defied Whitehall to create hospitals on Reageer met quote

Scottish nurses who defied Whitehall to create hospitals for troops honoured
Monument unveiled at Abbaye de Royaumont to pioneer women medics who tended First World War wounded
Melanie Reid

In 1914, Dr Elsie Inglis, the pioneering doctor so dedicated that she was said to make Florence Nightingale look like a part-timer, defied the British Government and opened a hospital on the Western Front.

According to a contemporary account by a Scots medic, Royaumont Abbey Hospital was initially overwhelmed. “Dying men lay huddled so closely together on the floor that they touched each other. Others sat up gasping and blue in the throes of pneumonia. Blood and pus oozed from the wounds. A few patients feebly extended their hands but most of them were too ill to care what happened.”

For all their noted fortitude, Elsie Inglis and her team of female medics from the Scottish Women's Hospital Committee must have had moments when they doubted their ability to cope with this vision of Hell.

But they restored order and saved lives, and this Friday a monument to the women is to be unveiled at a ceremony at Abbaye de Royaumont, 40 miles north of Paris, to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the war.

The French have always been keen to acknowledge what Dr Inglis did for humanity. At home, her spirit was less appreciated. When, at the outbreak of war she offered her services, she was told: “My good lady, go home and sit still!” Undeterred, Dr Inglis's reply was: “We will have hospitals of our own!” The French were delighted to accept her help. She created medical units, staffed by women, and first set up the 200-bed hospital in the 13th-century Royaumont Abbey, helped by other renowned female medical professionals - Evelina Haverfield, Ishobel Ross and Cicely Hamilton.

During the First World War, Dr Inglis went on to set up 14 medical units. These included organised women's medical units in Serbia, Salonika, Romania, Malta, Corsica and Russia. In Serbia, Dr Inglis is credited with saving many lives from typhus by tackling hygiene. In 1915 she was captured in Serbia and then repatriated.

In August 1916, the London Suffrage Society financed Dr Inglis and 80 women to support Serbian soldiers fighting in Russia. One government official who saw them working said: “It is extraordinary how these women endure hardships. They work like navvies. No wonder England is a great country if the women are like that.”

In 1894, she opened a maternity hospital and midwifery resource centre for the poor in Edinburgh High Street. This became the Elsie Inglis Memorial Hospital - also known as “Elsie's”. It closed in 1988. Dr Inglis often waived the fees for medical services and paid for patients to convalesce by the sea.

She advocated women's rights, and helped found the Scottish Women's Suffrage Federation. When war broke out, she knew she was suffering from cancer, but neverthless created her medical corps. Two days after her return from the Russian front in 1917, she died. She was buried with full military honours at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. Winston Churchill said of Dr Inglis and her colleagues: “They will shine in history.”

The French ceremony at Abbaye de Royaumont will be attended by relatives, politicians and serving soldiers.

Ian McFarlane, curator of the Scottish Women's Hospital Trust, said: “There were many, many thousands of women volunteers, many of whom lost their lives in the First World and have been entirely forgotten.”
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