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Elsie Inglis

Date of Bith: 1864
Place of Birth: India

Many thank’s to Fiona Foster who compiled this article.

Elsie Inglis was born on August 16, 1864 in Naini Tal, India where her father, John Inglis, worked with the Indian Civil Service shortly after the British Raj began on the subcontinent. She was the seventh of nine children to her Scottish parents and was known to have a close relationship with her father until his death in 1894. In 1878, as a young teenager, her family returned to Scotland and Inglis’ life began to show the pattern of good work she would accomplish in her life.

When her family returned to Scotland, she attended the Edinburgh Institution for the Education of Young Ladies. In 1886, Sophia Jex-Blake, a medical pioneer in Scotland, opened the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, in which Inglis’ enrolled. Elsie Inglis and a cohort of classmates left Jex-Blake’s school in 1889 and founded the Scottish Association for the Medical Education of Women, which opened the Medical College for Women on Chambers Street in Edinburgh. Inglis successfully passed her triple qualification exams in 1892 to become a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Edinburgh and the Licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow.

Elsie Inglis started her medical career in London where she worked as a resident medical officer at the New Hospital for Women. After a year, she went to study midwifery in Dublin and a few months later, she returned to Edinburgh to open a medical practice with Dr. Jessie MacGregor, a former classmate from the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women. The medical practice, known as the Nursing Home for Working Women, opened in George Square and was devoted to the care of women. In 1904, Inglis relocated the hospital to High Street in Edinburgh’s City Center in an effort to reach more women. Renamed the Hospice, the hospital became an important location for gynecology and midwifery.

While in London after finishing medical school, Inglis worked with Elizabeth Garrett Anderson who was involved with the suffrage movement in Britain and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Garrett Anderson’s sister, who served as the President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Working with these women, Inglis began her involvement with the suffrage movement and became the honorary secretary of the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage and later that of the Scottish Federation of Suffrage Societies. Her work as a suffragist never interfered with her medical work, yet when the Great War began her belief in equality of rights and opportunities for women only strengthened the legacy she left in medicine.

When the Great War began in August 1914, Dr. Inglis desired to contribute to the war effort. She offered her services to the War Office in London, who replied “my good lady, go home and sit still.” Knowing she had services to offer, instead of going home and allowing a war to go on without the ability to help, Inglis founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH), an establishment of all-female field hospitals that would serve on the battlefields in Europe treating the wounded.

With the aid of suffrage societies throughout Britain, funds were raised to form multiple hospitals, which would be sent to Western and Eastern Europe throughout the war. Women volunteers from all over Britain came together to staff the hospitals as doctors, nurses, orderlies, cooks, chauffeurs, drivers, and more. By December 1914, two hospitals had been sent to the Western Front and many more followed. Throughout the war hospitals were stationed in Troyes, Salonika, Corsica, Ghevgeli, Kraguievatz, Valjevo, Mladanovatz, Lazarovatz, Ostrovo, Reni, Galatz, Sallanches, Medgidia, Bulbul Mic, Calais, Royaumont Abbey just north of Paris, and some other cities on both fronts.

Dr. Inglis served in Serbia in 1915 and touched the lives of many Serbians whom she treated and developed a strong reputation in the country, which grew to cherish her and the work she did for their country. In October 1915, the SWH units in Serbia had to evacuate from several of their locations as German and Austrian soldiers advanced. After evacuating once, Dr. Inglis refused to evacuate a second time and proceeded to remain to care for her patients in Krushevatz. When the German troops arrived, Inglis and several other women with the SWH who had chosen to remain with the patients were taken as Prisoners of War. The women were released and returned to London on February 29, 1916.

For her service in Serbia, the Crown Prince of Serbia decorated Elsie Inglis with the Order of the White Eagle Vth, the highest Order of Serbia. She was the first women decorated with the Order and had previously been awarded the Order of the Saint Sava, third class, also for her work done in the small nation of Serbia.

Dr. Inglis returned to the war in 1917 where she ran the Russian Unit, a flying field hospital unit that accompanied Serbian military divisions that were attached to Russian units on the Eastern Front. She served throughout the Dobrudja Front for a year, which sadly was the last year of her life. Illness took hold of Inglis while she worked along the Eastern Front, and her health greatly weakened in September 1917 and continued to decline the following months. The unit finished their service on the front and returned home on November 25, and Dr. Inglis succumbed to her illness the following day. The exact cause of her death is ambiguous as sources vary from peritonitis to cancer, however, her death certificate lists chronic gastro enteritis and the perforation of the bowel as the cause of death.

Florence Elsie Inglis

Date of Bith: 1887
Place of Birth: India

Florence Elsie Inglis was born 14/1/1887 at Rawal Pindi,Bengal,India. She died 27/12/1960 at Trelew Guest House,St Justin Penwith,Cornwall.Her address was 9,Levant Road,Pendeen,Cornwall and she left her Effects of £590.13.6d to her sister Violet.

Dr Florence Inglis Qualified as a Doctor in Edinburgh, 1914, niece to Elsie Inglis, she joined the SWH in September 1917 and worked at both Royaumont Abbey and Viller-Cotterets. Florence joined her two sisters, Etta and Violet who also worked there. Florence left the Abbey in April 1918.

Etta Helen Maude Inglis

Date of Bith: 1889
Place of Birth: Croydon,Surrey

Etta Helen Maude Inglis was born October 1889 in Croydon,Surrey. In 1901,she was a boarder along with her younger sister Violet,at 60 Promenade,Portobello.She had a governess in the house.Etta died 3/1/1947 in Newbury,Berkshire

Etta went out to Royaumont Abbey near Paris in January 1915. Etta started out as an orderly but was promoted to Auxiliary nurse. She choose to work at the Abbey and Villers-Cotterets until it closed in 1919. At Villers- Cotterets. She was involved in the evacuation of staff and patients from the hospital when the German advance took place, and forced them to make there way back to Royaumont to safety. Life had been hard at Villers-Cotterets and she described the winter of 1917 in here diary ” Our breath froze to the sheets, our hair to the pillows,our rubber boots to the floor, our sponges would have seriously hurt anyone if by chance we had used them as bombs, and hot water spilled on the floor would in five minutes be frozen solid. The camp was under snow for three months and huge icicles hung from the roofs of the huts”. At Soissons in 1917 Etta was involved with the setting up of a canteen, this was to support the troops coming and going to the front line. Valuable and worthwhile, these canteens provided hot drinks, meals and a friendly face as the men went back and forward to the front line, which was only a couple of miles away. For this work Etta was decorated with the Croix de Guerre.
In 1939 a small group of ex members made an attempt to get the SWH back doing what they had done so well. Etta went to France to provide a canteen, and for a short time she worked as its manager in Paris.

Violet Inglis

Date of Bith: 1893
Place of Birth: India

Violet Alice Harrietta Inglis was born 1893 at Abbottabad,Bengal,India.Daughter of Ernest and Florence Mary. From Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificates we learn that, on 15/9/1933,Violet’s address was c/o 28,Oakley Cres;Chelsea,London.She was an Arts Mistress. On 7/11/1938,Violet,an Artist was residing at 2,Station Approach,South Nutfield,Surrey. Violet died in 1992 at Truro,Cornwall.

On the 15th of May 1915 Violet joined the Girton and Newnham unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and traveled to Troyes in France. Violet a niece of Dr Elsie Inglis served as an orderly a job known for its hard and often unpleasant work. It seemed Violet enjoys Troyes remaking “its great fun fun going in there”. Violet and the other members of the unit were allowed to visit Troyes in there days off. The Chief Medical officers for the unit were Dr Louise Mcllroy of Northern Ireland and Dr Laura Sandeman from Aberdeen and staffed with around 40 other women who worked as Nurses, orderly’s, cooks and drivers.
The hospital was stationed in the grounds at Chanteloup. 250 beds were erected under large marques and tents and by June they were full. These tents would be used in the next part of the story. In October 1915 the unit sailed from Marseilles to Salonika, aboard the SS Mossoul. The unit left France on a voyage through the Mediterranean seas, a dangerous journey at the time with submarines lurking in the waters.On arrival in Salonika, Greece, she would have went straight to work as troops were pouring into the camps many with horrendous injuries. Determined to aid the Serbian troops they pressed on to Guevgueli a hospital on the river Vardar. Violet wrote ” we are all going about in Balaclava caps and look like a Polar Expedition”. Not only was the cold a problem but by this time Serbia was on the back foot and the women were face to face with all the horrors of war, the wounded, the dead and the feeling of hopelessness. The women did everything possible but with the guns of enemy fire getting closer each day the decision was taken to retreat back to Salonika. In April 1916 Violet returned home stopping off at Royaumont Abbey on her way. In September 1917 she returned to the Abbey where she saw the war out working as a orderly until March 1919. Violet was a well liked member of staff.

Isabella Irvine

Date of Bith: 1882
Place of Birth: Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Isabella Macleish Irvine

Ellas parents married in March, 1875 at Aberfeldy. Her mother’s name was Cecilia Small Drummond and Father Thomas Graham Irvine …he was an Ironmonger and Grocer.
Ella was born in 1882. She was baptised on the 8th February 1883 at the Free Church, Aberfeldy.
In 1891 she was living with her family at Moness Rd-East (Nessbank) Aberfeldy Perthshire. Family listed below.
Thomas G Irvine 44 Cecilia S Irvine 50
Maggie D Irvine 14 Annabella G Irvine 13
Cecilia M Irvine 11 Elizabeth M Irvine 10
Isabella M Irvine 8 Robert I Irvine 6
Christian Campbell 19

In August 1916, Ella as an orderly joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. On the 4th of August 1916 Ella joined her unit and sailed out of Southampton. Their main objective was to support the 2nd Serbian Army who were fighting the Bulgarians in the Moglena mountains. The bigger picture was to support a huge force of Serbians.From 1916-1917 Ella would have worked often at times day and night and all under canvas. The conditions were very hard going. Cases of malaria, gas gangrene, amputations all a common sight, at times quiet then hundreds of injured men pouring in. Mosquitoes,flies and wasps were also a huge discomfort. The hospital which was under canvas was also frequently under attack from bombings. A field hospital with 200 beds, consisted of twenty rows of tents. It started its operation with the intention to be a surgical hospital (160 beds for surgery and 40 beds for recuperation), but with an increase in cases of malaria, they also accepted the malaria patients. It contained: a surgery, hospital wards, x-ray, bacteriological laboratory, out-patient department, reception, with all accompanying services such as a storage for medical supplies, kitchen and laundry. In July 1917 Ella, after nearly a year departed the region and headed home.

Isabella(Ella) McLeish Irvine died on the 17Th Feb 1964 at the Hospital Bridge of Earn.
Her usual address was Stonecroft , Birnam Perthshire

She was 81 years of age single and a retired housekeeper.

Frances Ivens

Date of Bith: 1870
Place of Birth: Harborough

From January 1915 to March 1919 the Abbey at Royaumont outside Paris was used as a military hospital by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, under the direction of the French Red Cross. Chief Medical Officer for the hospital was Miss Frances Ivens CBE MS(Lond) ChM(Liverp) FRGOG.. Frances accepted the position in December 1914 and ran the hospital until the end in March 1919. The unit soon started to receive serious casualties; shells, machine guns, shrapnel and flame throwers caused horrific injuries.The work was exhausting, often the women worked around the clock. Death from gas gangrene was a particular problem, something that Royaumont went on to successfully reduce. There were no antibiotics, amputations were common and the chances of survival were slim, but the hospital gained a reputation for saving men’s limbs. Sphagnum moss, a known antiseptic, was sent out from Scotland to dress the wounds. The number of beds soon grew; from 100 in 1914 to 600 by the end of the war. By the end of the war Royaumont had saved the lives and nursed back to health some 11,000 soldiers astonishingly only 159 of these men died. Frances before and after the war gained a string of awards in medicine in London, Liverpool, Dublin and Vienna. For her service with the Scottish Women;s Hospitals in France she was awarded membership of the Légion d’honneur. After the war she returned to Liverpool where she was a hugely influential in the city in all areas of medicine. At the age of sixty she married and later retired to Truro, Cornwall. She died in 1944.

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