Lazarevac Visit 2017


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.  y3mhapduxp7y6x2qexvgaen9zcnfks2xfv1__wp7gh1z_zgzuu3kja15cx-k_l6qmfjnqms9xlnvf9llwwwmb5dbhtst3may2ndohyyywbgkgcniqpulhmc_ffyevhw8dzocw78uu2we9sfxlfmudg4qvi9fxzjdxgr-w2tdlqktka

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!

Valjevo visit November 2016

Valjevo, is one of the city’s in Serbia that will have a fountain built and hold an exhibition for next years commemoration.


 Valjevo is located  80 miles south of Belgrade and during the  winter of 1915 went through its own personal hell. Thousands of its citizens and thousands of soldiers had perished in the typhus epidemic  that destroyed huge parts of Serbia and in particular Valjevo.  The city had itself been turned into one large field hospital and many, many men lay wounded and untreated due to the deaths of the Serb Doctors and nurses.  Dr Elsie Inglis ensured the city received a Scottish Women’s Hospitals unit to firstly aid with the suffering and secondly to provide a blocking hospital for the winter to come.  Under the command of Dr Alice Hutchinson the unit worked around the clock, nursing the wounded soldiers and helping to contain the typhus epidemic.  The unit that served in Valjevo are fondly remembered.  And I was delighted to do an interview for the local TV channel.    

snapshot5 Velibor Vidic has done a vast amount of research and has already held an impressive exhibition in the city’s hospital.  I have known Velibor for a few years now, firstly when he contributed to the film “The Women That Went To War” and last year when he invited me to Valjevo’s international conference. He is a wonderful ambassador for his country and a dear friend.  

Elsie Inglis House Belgrade

Last March the British Residence in Belgrade was fittingly named after Dr Elsie Inglis by Ambassador Keefe. s1100089
Ambassador Keefe said that day, “Elsie Inglis was one of the first women in Scotland who had finished high education and was a pioneer of medicine. She fought energetically against prejudice, for social and political emancipation of women in Britain. She was also a tireless volunteer, courageous organiser of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and a dedicated humanitarian. Unfortunately Elsie Inglis didn’t live long enough to see the triumph of some of her ideas, but she has had a tremendous influence on social trends in our country. In Scotland she became a doctor, in Serbia she became a saint.”


Needless to say, that when i received an invitation to attend Elsie Inglis house and meet with Ambassador Keefe i was delighted. The plaque is mounted at the front door and the corridor is decorated with photos, paintings and letters of not just Elsie but of various women doctors that served in Serbia during WW1. Its impressive and is a very fitting tribute to an incredible lady. Ambassador Keefe was most helpful and completely supportive of the plans to bring Elsie’s relatives over to Serbia next September. We agreed that a visit to Elsie Inglis House during that time would be ideal.