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Catherine Bride O Rorke

Date of Bith: 1890
Place of Birth: County Clare Ireland

Catherine was raised in County Clare, her father Cornelius was a Sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Catherine joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in October 1915 and worked as a nurse at Royaumont Abbey France until April 1918. Sister Catherine in August 1915 had underwent the alarming experience of being arrested with, Miss Edith Cavell (in whose home she was working) by the Germans in Brussels.She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. Edith Cavell was found guilty by the German court and shot.

At the Abbey Catherine was known as hard working and always keen to muck in, she was a well liked and a valued member of staff.
In January 1919 she headed to Serbia where she took the appointment as sister in charge at Vranje working with the American Unit under the command of Emslie Hutton. Latter she joined the American Mission in Serbia and in 1921 she joined the team of Katherine McPhail children’s hospital in Belgrade. Miss O’Rorke was awarded by the French Government the Medaille Militaire, and by the Serbian Government the the Order of St. Sava.
She also received the Croix de Guerre of France, and the Cross of the Red Cross Society, Belgrade. Catherine died in a Swiss hospital in 1932.

Elspet Officer

Date of Bith: 1863
Place of Birth: Edinburgh

Elspet Officer was born in Edinburgh, her father William who was originally from Stonehaven was a solicitor, the family lived in Stafford rd Edinburgh.
In the summer of 1917 three canteens for the French soldiers were opened by the SWH. The one at Soissons was connected with Royaumont, and was part of the work undertaken by the hospital. The two at Creil and Crepy-en-Valois were under the supervision of Miss Jack. It was at Crepy-en-Valois that Elspet volunteered to work in the canteen from October 1917-September 1918. The canteen at Crepy was located right in the train station and it was common for 15,000 troops per day to be on the move. The object of the canteens was to provide the soldiers with a hot drink or a quick bite to eat. The soldiers would arrive by train, bound for the front line or returning on leave. Often the men had gone days without food. The site of smiling faces with their 1200 litre basins filled with coffee or soup must have felt homely and welcoming, especially for the lads heading to the front. Trains arrived from all over the front, Dunkirk, Soissons and Fismes bringing troops from all over the world, French, British, Canadian, American and many from the French Colonies. Heavy work lugging the boiling cooking pots around, freezing cold as they were largely in the open and clouds of smoke coming from the six stoves usually stoked by the men. During December 1917 194,000 soups and coffees were served. The authorities embraced the idea warmly and for the Poilu an important respite. Major German offensives took place during the summer of 1918 and Crepy was shelled and the town blown to pieces. All that remained of the canteen was a sign hanging on a post ” Cantine des Dames Ecossaies” service in September 1918. Elspet died in Edinburgh in 1951

Lilian Margaret Oliver

Date of Bith: 1889
Place of Birth: Pembrokeshire

Lilian Margaret OLIVER was born in Talbenny, Pembrokeshire, Wales on 11th June 1889 and baptised in Talbenny Church on 17th July the same year. Her father George was the local blacksmith. She was working as a nurse, at the Savernake Hospital in Marlborough in 1911.

At the time of Lilian joining the SWH in 1918 there were eight SWH hospital units working in the field. Lilian joined the unit at Ajaccio in Corsica. The unit at Corsica was formed in December 1915 as a result of Serbian refugees pouring into Salonika, Serbia had been completely overrun by invading forces. Elizabeth with 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. When the unit arrived in Corsica it was a very different picture. The hospital had opened on Christmas day 1915 and instantly got to work as over three hundred refugees had traveled with them. Within days another ship with over 500 refugees arrived. The hospital closed n 1919 and did a magnificent job of caring for the thousands of Serb civilians. Many of whom were children. Between April 1918 and October 1918 Lilian served as a nurse. Unfortunately little more is known of what became of Lilian.

Alexandrina Onslow

Date of Bith: 1868
Place of Birth: Wales

Alexandrina Maria Onslow

Alexandrina joined the Scottish women’s Hospitals in 30-Aug-16 1-Mar-17 and 26-Jun-17 24-Nov-17. She served as a driver on the russian front.

Alexandrina Maria Onslow was born in January 1868 in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, the child of Harington Campbell and Helen J, wife of Harington Onslow. Her father Harington was a captain in the Royal Navy.
Joining Elsie Inglis London unit, donations where sent from London and that’s why the name. On August 31st 1916 the unit sailed from Liverpool aboard ” The Huntspill” a small boat described as being extremely unhygienic condition with a very drunken crew. The ship followed a zig zag course well into the Arctic Circle. At that time there was evidence of mines in the North Sea and The Channel. The greatest danger was from the highly mobile submarines . Germany had already sunk 51 merchant ships in July and early August. There was an attempt on board to study a language which could prove useful. They studied Russian and Serbian , Russian was the primary choice. 16 automobiles and a great deal of equipment were included in the cargo. The nurses at this time remained in ignorance of the ships final destination . After 9 days at sea the ship arrived at Archangel. Here grim news awaited them. The joint Serbian and Russian army fighting in Romania had lost 100 men. The Russian unit, mainly went out to support the Serbs who were fighting on that front, but assisted and administered medical where and when it was required. They were split into two field hospitals. The hospitals were during that period always on the move due to the intense fighting that took place in the region. The hospitals worked not only close to the front line but also between the lines. Witnessing two huge offensives that resulted in the loss of many lives, three retreats that cost the lives of many, many civilians and broke the hearts of many of the women. They also observed and at times were hindered by the uprisings and revolutions in Russia during 1917. Alexandrina played a pivotal roll returning home in December 1916 to drum up more drivers.In the book “Between the lines” you can read huge amount of detail on her life. In 1918 she met the famous Croatian painter Nasta Rojc. She died in Zagreb in 1950.

Details of her post war years are on this site. http://www.slobodnadalmacija.hr/scena/kultura/clanak/id/232005/nasta-rojc-slikarica-ispred-svoga-i-naseg-vremena

Rotha Beryl Orman

Date of Bith: 1895
Place of Birth: London

Born as Rotha Beryl Orman in Kensington London, she was the daughter of Charles Edward Orman, a Major from theEssex Regiment, and his wife, Blanch Lintorn, née Simmons. Her maternal grandfather was Field Marshal Sir John Lintorn Arabin Simmons. She would later adopt the name of Rotha Lintorn-Orman.

Rotha on the 3rd of August joined the SWH as an ambulance driver , she boarded the Dunluce Castle ship at Southampton and with her unit(the American unit) set sail for Salonika. The journey to Salonika was a nervous affair. While the women of the unit spent the 10 day journey learning languages and keeping fit, the ship was in constant danger from mines, submarines and Zeppelins overhead. . 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 Florence 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. Very hot summers and cold winters and on the move as the front line breathed back and forth. Rotha worked for periods at Salonika, Lake Ostrovo, Mikra Bay and a number of small field dressing hospitals. Rotha left the SWH inJanuary 1917 and remained in Salonika working for the Women’s Reserve Ambulance and was decorated for her contribution at the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917.

Rotha was a controversial character and on her return was an early British fascist and was the founder and sometime leader of the British Fascisti, the first avowedly fascist movement to appear in British politics.She died in March 1935 at Las Palmas, Canary Islands, with her organisation all but defunct

Agnes Estcourt Oswald

Date of Bith: 1875
Place of Birth: Suffolk

Born in Gipping, Suffolk in 1875. Agnes joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals as Doctor and Bacteriologist. Agnes worked at Royaumont Abbey 30 miles outside Paris. 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. Agnes served at the hospital between November 1915-May 1916 and again in the autumn of 1916.

Agnes died where she was born in 1965.

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