Inglis Family members visit Serbia

Inglis Family members visit Serbia Elsie Inglis died on 26th November 1917 and we are fast approaching the centenary. To celebrate this, and to make a connection with the many Serbians who still harbour fond memories of Elsie and her contribution to Serbia during the first world war, around a dozen relatives will be making the journey to Belgrade by land or air during September, to coincide with the annual memorial held on 15th September. I was born in 1944 and Elsie was my grandmother’s aunt. She was spoken of frequently and fondly by my grandmother Isobel, great aunt May and by numerous cousins. The most direct connection I remember was with Elsie’s niece Violet Inglis, who helped to look after me and my brother in St Andrews after my father died when I was four. We stayed a lot with my grandmother then and I remember V (as we called her) often taking us to the beach and playing games. She didn’t tell us about Elsie though, nor about her having trained to be a pilot nor about her own visits to Serbia and to other Scottish Women’s hospitals. Perhaps we were too little? And there is another story about this time which I have just been given by my cousin Daphne, daughter of my father’s brother Richard. The three brothers Richard, Jack (my father) and Jimmy all grew up in St Andrews and were a lively and outgoing trio of boys. Richard recorded his own mother’s tales (told to him at the end of her life) about the brothers and one relates to Elsie, who visited St Andrews often (this must have been early in the war) – ‘Elsie used to visit us in this connection [Scottish women’s Hospitals]. The three boys were still at the nursery stage and going in to seen them playing with their toys, Elsie asked one of them what the name of his horse was. The one who answered was about four at the time [?1914] and he said at once – ‘my horse is called women’s suffrage’. So, the boys had been strongly influenced by the talk of the times – or perhaps wanted to please Elsie.. The family group includes many of the relatives who still live in Scotland, some who have moved to London, and a group of Inglis relatives from Cornwall. For all of us, Elsie has been a great influence and the more I learn about her, the prouder I am to be a descendant. Through the remarkable achievements of historical research by Alan Cumming I have discovered rich details about the women who courageously followed Elsie’s lead to join the hospitals in Serbia, France and other countries and provided solace and care at a dreadful time of war. We can learn so much from this: about the powerful role of women in the early 20th century, about the long fight to gain the vote, and about the importance of international solidarity in times of conflict. There is great resonance for these messages at this time of great turbulence in our society and in Europe. What do I hope to learn and bring back from the exciting tour to the sites of the women’s hospitals in Serbia? First, direct contact with the places that Elsie worked in and hopefully some local historical perspectives. Second, meeting the Serbians and making new friends whilst learning about the country. And thirdly, building a united family which hopefully can work with Alan and the Scottish Government to ensure that Elsie has a strong legacy for the next 100 years … Tony Waterston 7.5.17