26th November 1917 - Death of Dr Inglis

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26th November 1917 - Death of Dr Inglis

​On 26 November 1917, the suffragist and founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH) – Dr Elsie Inglis – passed away at the Station Hotel in Newcastle.

On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, she had offered her services as a trained doctor and adept administrator to the War Office and was rejected. Undeterred, she approached other allies with her offer of mobile hospital units and sent out the first two to France and Serbia in November 1914 and January 1915 respectively. Over the course of the war, fourteen medical units were sent to seven locations throughout Europe and also to Russia. The hospitals were staffed by women who worked as doctors, nurses, orderlies and drivers as well as other occupations. The units cared for both military and civilian casualties whether they were sick or wounded. 

Glasgow City Archives holds the financial records of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Below is a selection of documents which illustrate the contribution of both Dr Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the First World War. 

Photo of Dr Inglis (TD1734.19.1.44)small.jpg
​This image of the founder of the SWH is one of 150 lantern slides which were used during the organisation’s fundraising tours. The SWH employed two women to travel overseas to America, Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand. Their talks were illustrated by lantern slides depicting life in the hospitals: essentially, these were publicity shots of staff, patients, operations and hospital buildings. 
Exec Committee Extracted Minutes (TD1734.1.1.1)small.jpg
​This extract documents the creation of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. While it was the SFWSS which had originally supported a hospital scheme, this was the meeting at which both the name and involvement of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) were confirmed. As the first proposed name was a bit of a mouthful (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies Scottish Federation Hospital), a shorter title was recommended. The Scottish Women’s Hospital for Foreign Service was established.
Photo of Royaumont Abbey (TD1734.19.1.1)small.jpg 
.The first French Unit was the first to be sent out and was established at Royaumont, an early thirteenth century Cistercian abbey. Royaumont was notable for a number of reasons. Its staff included surgeons, bacteriologists and radiologists who worked together to prepare diagnoses and devise treatments for patients. In addition, part of the unit’s equipment included a mobile X-ray car which had its own dark room with independent water and electricity supplies. Finally, during the summer months, patients were wheeled in their beds to sit in the cloisters where the sunlight and fresh air helped their wounds to heal
Photo of Operation at Kraguievatz (TD1734.19.5.1)small.jpg

​​Each unit was led by a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) supported by an administrator. The first Serbian Unit was led by Dr Inglis as CMO. Their original mission was to help with the outbreak of typhus amongst both the wounded soldiers and the civilian population after the first invasion by the Germans. When Serbia was re-invaded by the Austrians and Germans in 1915, the unit had to be evacuated. Some of the personnel and patients escaped but the remainder (under the leadership of Dr Inglis) continued to care for their patients and were taken prisoner. After several months’ captivity, the staff were eventually released and reached London early in March 1916.
Letter re funeral (TD1734.

​The funeral of Dr Elsie Inglis was held in Edinburgh’s St Giles’s Cathedral on 29 November. Members from the royal families of both Britain and Serbia attended to pay their respects to her. In this letter, Mrs Laurie comments that she is sure “no woman in Scotland ever had such a funeral” and describes how the coffin was covered with the flags of both countries. Members of the public lined the streets from the cathedral to the city’s Dean Cemetery where Dr Inglis was laid to rest.
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