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Marion Nicholls

Date of Bith: 1876
Place of Birth: Holloway, Middlesex.

Marion Nicholls was born in 1876 at Holloway, Middlesex. Her father Edward was a furniture maker. After leaving school Marion trained as a chemist and in 1911 was working in Burton on Tent as a dispenser to a local Doctor. April 1915, Marion she joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals as clerk and departed to Serbia. She met her new colleagues including four Doctors for the first time on Cardiff docks where they were regaled to the song of “Long way to Tipperary” and boarded the SS Ceramic and headed for Salonika(Greece) where by train they would travel to Valjevo in Serbia. On board with her were Chief Medical Officer Dr Alice Hutchinson, 25 nurses, a sanitary inspector, matron, clerk(Marion), 2 cooks, four orderlies and two handymen ( the only males of the unit). The voyage took a detour and docked at Malta for around 3 weeks at the request of the Home Office. Soldiers mainly from Australia and New Zealand were pouring in from Gallipoli many with serious wounds. The unit began working immediately at the Hospital of the Knights of St John, however they were ordered by the SWH to move on to Serbia and keep on programme.
Valjevo was a small town, 80 miles south of Belgrade. Lying in a sleepy green valley Marion would have felt at home, however only a few months earlier Valjevo had looked very different. The big guns boomed day and night, men fell in their thousands, civilian’s were rounded up and often massacred and the dreaded Typhus raged through Serbia, uncontrollable and without mercy. The mortality rate in Valjevo was 70% and as a result they lost a huge number of Doctor’s and nurses.
By the time the unit reached Valjevo things were improving however there was much to be done, Valjevo had been on the front line and with the summer heat and all the rotten flesh from man and animal, the flies swarmed in their millions bringing diseases.
The hospital was under canvas, the 40 tents pitched on the hillside over looked the town and by and large up until August there were few serious cases. Their was still plenty to do, many wounds had been untended and cases scurvy and malnutrition required urgent attention. However by mid August the big guns were back. This time it was the Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and Bulgarians, and Serbia stood alone encircled by 500,000 fighting men. Also making an unwelcome comeback was Typhus and sadly nurse Sutherland succumbed to the deadly disease. Mary left Serbia in September 1915 and only just in time as by October the entire nation was thrown into chaos. All the units in Serbia faced the agonizing dilemma, stay and effectively become a Pow or go with the retreating army into Albania. In the end some stayed and some went. Marion choose to stay. In fact most of the women were very loyal to their CMO’s and Marion was no different. After a hungry, cold and frustrating two months under guard the unit returned to blighty in February 1916. After returning home Marion continued her war in France working for the French Red Cross
By 1919 she was worked as a dispenser at the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, Southampton. Marion never married but enjoyed a busy life right up until she passed away in 1952.

Ruth Nicholson

Date of Bith: 1884
Place of Birth: Newcastle

Ruth Nicholson was born on 2 December 1884, the daughter of the Rev. Canon Nicholson. She was educated at Newcastle-on-Tyne High School and the Universities of Durham and Dundee, taking the degrees M.B., B.S. in 1909; B.Hy., D.P.H. in 1911 and M.S. in 1923. After graduating in 1909 she worked in a dispensary in Newcastle before going to Edinburgh where she became an assistant to Dr Elsie Inglis in the Bruntsfield Hospital. Prior to the war she worked in Gaza in Palestine. With the onset of war she returned home and after being turned down for a voluntary medical unit she was accepted by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and became an Assistant Surgeon at Royaumont Hospital, December 1914-February 1919. Ruths younger sister Alison was at Royaumont with the SWH. After the war she specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology and became Gynaecological Surgeon and Clinical Lecturer at the University of Liverpool and was one of the earliest Fellows of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She became the first woman President of the North of England Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and played a prominent part in the Medical Womens Federation. Dr Ruth Nicholson died in Exeter on 18 July 1963.

Alison May Nicholson

Date of Bith: 1893
Place of Birth: Newcastle

Alison May Nicholson was the daughter of Rev. Canon Nicholson and youngest sister of Dr Ruth Nicholson. She served as an Orderly in the Royaumont Hospital; entering France in September 1916 and working as an orderly until March 1919. Orderly’s took on all hard and often unpleasant work, mopping up blood and carrying stretchers up and down flights of stairs, were very much normal day to day choirs. Maude volunteered to do this work as orderly’s were not paid, only board and lodgings were paid for along with the uniform. Maude went through some very tough times at the Abbey, including The Battle of the Somme, when she would have worked day and night carrying the wounded from ward to ward. And of course much worse. Train loads of men arrived at the Abbey each day, men peppered with bullet holes or suffering from gas gangrene, amputations were all to common. They worked until exhausted, sleeping was a luxury, often the women became sick from all the endless hours of contentiousness work. Her medals are in the photo above.

Edith Nicol

Date of Bith: 1885
Place of Birth: Glasgow

Born in Glasgow, her father James from Fettercairn was a ship owner. Mary joined SWH as a cook. Her enrollment date of October 1915 means that she would have participated in the redeployment of the Girton and Newnham Unit from Troyes, France to Macedonia. Firstly to the improvised hospital in a disused factory in the border town of Geuvgelia and then, with the retreat in the face of the rapid Bulgarian advance in the winter of 1915/1916, to the city of Salonica in Greece. .The hospital as Geuvgelia was in a disused silk worm factory. The Allied attempts at saving Serbia were, however, too late and the hospital had only been fully operational a short time before the Unit was commanded to retreat along with the Allied forces to Salonika. Here, the Unit re-established the hospital on a piece of swampy waste ground by the sea – the only place they could find in an area overflowing with refugees and retreating army

The summer in Macedonia in 1916 was very hot and brought with it the attendant problems of dysentery, flies and, worse of all, malaria. The nursing duties would have been very heavy indeed. The demands on the cooks were also challenging. The one advantage at Salonika was it was a port and supply ships were pretty reliable . The hospital unit also grew vegetables and raised some livestock easing the pressures. In November 1916 Edith returned home, most likely for a break. She joined her unit again in February 1917 and left service in November 1917.

Margaret Nicolson

Date of Bith: 1880
Place of Birth: isle of skye

Margaret Nicolson was born 6/5/1880 at Strolomus in the Parish of Strath,Isle of Skye. Margaret’s parents Alexander and Ann(McRae) were also born in the Parish.
1881 Census of Strath has Maggie (10 months)living with parents and siblings Roderick (6),Samuel(5),and Kate(3).All of the family were born in the Parish,where Maggie’s father was a crofter.

1891 Census of Strath show the family living at 17,Strolomus. Alexander’s occupation is given as “Ground Officer”.Maggie,now aged 10,was a scholar living with her parents and six siblings.

1901 Census of Strath show the family now living at 12,Strolomus but Maggie wasn’t present on that Census night.

1911 Census of Strath,has the family living at Strolomus Lodge. Thirty years old Maggie is at home, occupation given as “Hospital nurse”, living with her parents, two brothers and aunt. Her father is a farmer and one of her brothers, Samuel,is also working on the farm. Her younger brother,27 years old John,is a Schoolmaster. The census also states that parents Alex and Ann had been married for 38 years and have seven living children..

Not much is known of maggie, she joined the SWH on the 21st of December 1916 at the same time as Mary Mackenzie, they seem to have been friends( have a photo of the two of them in uniform), however Maggie headed to Royaumont Abbey out side of Paris she worked there as a nurse until 2nd of January 1919.

Catherine Nicolson

Date of Bith: 1878
Place of Birth: isle of skye

Catherine Nicolson was born 6/5/1877 at Strolomus in the Parish of Strath,Isle of Skye. Catherine’s parents Alexander and Ann(McRae) were also born in the Parish.
1881 Census of Strath has Kate(Catherine)(3)and Maggie (10 months)living with parents and siblings Roderick (6),Samuel(5).All of the family were born in the Parish,where Maggie’s father was a crofter.

1891 Census of Strath show the family living at 17,Strolomus. Alexander’s occupation is given as “Ground Officer”.

Catherine in February 1915 got the train from station at Kyle of Lochalsh and headed to Edinburgh where she met up with her unit and headed for Serbia, Via Southampton and Salonika. Catherine served with the SWH as a nurse with Dr. McGregor’s unit in Mladenovatz in Serbia from 1st July 1915 when the tasks were both treating war injured and dealing with a severe typhus epidemic. The Serbian army’s medical capabilities were woefully inadequate (their army medical service had a mere 300 doctors to serve half a million troops) and there was little commitment to maintaining appropriate levels of hygiene and sanitation in the army. As a consequence infectious diseases, especially typhus, took a heavy toll on the army and on the civilian population.

The Serbian army were forced into retreat in the second half of 1915 and marched through south Serbia and into Albania and Montenegro where, after enduring indescribable hardship, the survivors were picked up by the Italian and French navies and taken to safety in Corfu. The SWH and other British military, medical and relief missions joined the retreat and endured the same hardships as the soldiers. Catherine with her friend Mary Mackenzie made this epic journey. Enduring the freezing temperatures, the walking for days and days over the mountain passes and the huge suffering of a people now starving, homeless and without hope. Catherine returned home a few days before Christmas 1915.
Undaunted by these experiences and clearly determined to help the Serbian people, Catherine in May 1916 joined the SWH again as a nurse and sailed to the island of Corsica. The unit at Corsica was formed in December 1915 as a result of Serbian refugees pouring into Salonika, Serbia had been completely overtaking by invading forces. Catherine and her unit were responsible for the welfare and recovery of mainly children during that time. The hospital at Ajaccio was based at the Villa Miot and the grounds were also required for tents to house the sick. Catherine left the hospital in March 1917, her sister Maggie was still working at Royaumont in France but Catherine decided to again help the Serb’s who were now pushing their way back in their homeland. In September 1917 she was reunited with her highland friends Mary and Florence Mackenzie who were working with the American unit at Ostrovo Lake 30 miles north of Salonika. On 30 September 1918 the unit received news of the armistice with Bulgaria and on the morning of 23 October the unit started for northern Serbia with a convoy of nine vehicles on a 311 kilometer trek. All the staff made the trip and the unit was set up in an abandoned army barracks in Vranje, Serbia. The scenes at Vranje were awful, the entire city was one huge unattended hospital, disease, soldiers requiring urgent attention and homeless women and children often dying with starvation and frostbite. The hospital at Vranje was a large ex army barracks and packed with hundreds of patients with a hole manner appalling conditions, pneumonia, pleurisy and serious surgical cases. Sadder still was one of women’s account of the children ” the injuries are terrible, we have had several poor little hands to amputate and often they have terrible abdominal wounds” The unit was closed at Vranje in the summer if 1919. Catherine was awarded the Serbian Cross of Mercy. An astonishing lady who served with the Scottish Women;s Hospitals through the very worst of times. Brimming with courage and ability her contribution was indeed vast. Thankfully there is a monument at Mladenovac to reflect on the work theses women did during that time.

Photo is of the station at Kyle of Lochalsh in 1914

Annie Noble

Date of Bith: 1875
Place of Birth: Glasgow

Annie Morrison Noble
Born in Glasgow in 1875. According to the 1981 census, Annie was raised by her mother Susan who worked with needle work and was also a housekeeper.
In 1911 Annie was working in Runcorn and was now assistant matron.

In 1915 Annie joined the Scottish Women’s Hospital’s at Royaumont Abbey close to Paris. Annie served as a nurse between August 1915- August 1916.
From January 1915 to March 1919 the Abbey was turned into a voluntary hospital, Hôpital Auxiliaire 301, operated by Scottish Women’s Hospitals(SWH), under the direction of the French Red Cross. On arrival the staff found that the buildings were in a deplorable condition. They were dirty; there was a shortage of practically every amenity that they would need to run an efficient unit. There were no lifts; water had to be carried to where it was needed. By dint of much hard work the hospital was eventually given it certificate by the Service de Sante of the French Red Cross. Their work was unremitting, the winters bitter and I was left with unstinting admiration for this very gallant band of doctors, nurses, orderlies ambulance drivers, cooks, who gave so much to their patients throughout the war. The hospital was situated near the front line and nursed 10,861 patients, many with serious injuries. The fact that the death rate among the mainly French servicemen was 1.82% is a testimony to the skill, endless compassion and boundless energy shown by the women.

In 1921, Annie was appointed Matron. She was trained at the North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple, where she was Night Sister, Day Sister, Assistant Matron, and Matron. Annie Morrison Noble never married and died in 1944. She was living in Croydon and on the 25th of February 1944 she was injured but died in the General Hospital. Recorded as a civilian death during ww2.

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