A-Z of Personnel

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Wilhelmina Ray

Date of Bith: 1885
Place of Birth: Dundee

Wilhelmina was born 13 May 1885 at 26 Mid Street, Dundee to parents Charles Ray, machine fitter and Margaret Craig who were married 29 Dec 1881 at South Shields. In 1915 Nurse Ray traveled to Serbia. Wilhelmina served in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals at Mladenovac. This town, situated about 47 km (29.20 mi) in the south of Belgrade, is a part of the district of the capital city of Serbia. This hospital was under the command of Dr Beatrice McGregor. The hospital was doing a quite fantastic job supporting the Serbs. Then in October, German and Austrian troops attacked Serbia with such huge force that by the 12th of October the unit had no choice but to evacuate the hospital as the town was on the main railway line. They fled south to Kraguievac and regrouped opening an emergency dressing station, 100’s of Serbian causalities poured in. With the Bulgarians joining the assault on Serbia they were forced to move down to Kraljevo and open another dressing station. Finally in early November all hope was gone and the SWH were forced to choose between retreat to the Adriatic Sea or remain and fall into enemy hands. On the 5th of November Dr McGregor and her nurses joined “The Great Serbian Retreat” The retreat as witnessed by Wilhelmina and the band of women was an endless procession of men, women and children, a beaten nation, attempting in the frozen depths of winter with very little or no food and poorly clothed to trek for weeks covering hundreds of miles over the Albanian and Montenegrin mountain. Hundreds of thousands of Serbians poured out of the country, all desperate to escape the invading forces. Well over 150,000 died, killed or were lost along the way. History has few parallels to this mass exodus.
Dr McGregor, Wilhelmina and the others made it back to the UK on the 23rd of December. They too had suffered as nurse Caroline Toughill was killed on the mountains of the Ibar valley.
Wilhelmina died 12 Sep 1970. She was living in Isleworth, London and never married.

Caroline Reid

Date of Bith: 1885
Place of Birth: Glasgow

Born in Glasgow in 1895, Caroline grew up in the family home on Scotia st. Her father David Reid who had been a chemist from Forfar was now a local Doctor. By 1911 the entire family had move south to Blackburn, England. Prior to joining the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Caroline worked as a masseuses at moor park hospital in Preston. She joined Dr Mary Blair’s unit in December 1915 and worked at the hospital in Corsica. She left the unit in May 1916 but later the same year joined the American unit at Lake Ostrovo(now part of Northern Greece. Caroline worked with the unit right up until August 1918. Caroline we think died in 1981 in Glasgow.

Gulielma Richardson

Date of Bith: 1890
Place of Birth: Taunton

Gulielma Ewart Richardson
Gulielma, served in Serbia in ww1 as a driver with the American Unit between August 1916 and July 1917. Born in 1890 in Taunton her father was Henry, and a bank manager. In 1918 she married Captain John T. Witts in Rome, Italy. John Travell WITTS of Little Western Duffield Road, Woodley, Berkshire died 24 May 1954. Gullielma died in Poole, Dorset in 1976.

The American Unit was the 7th Field hospital unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. It comprised approximately 200 tents and was situated near Lake Ostrovo, Macedonia during the First World War under the command of the Serbian Army. It was often called The America Unit as the money to fund it came from America and except for a few dressing stations, it was the Allied hospital nearest the front. During the first 8 weeks the hospital received over 500 case. It was the roll of the drivers to go onto the battlefield and retrieve the wounded. Without question very dangerous and exhausting work.

Gladys Richardson

Date of Bith: 1883
Place of Birth: Edinburgh

Gladys Hermione Stewart Richardson, daughter of Sir James Thomas Stewart Richardson grew up in the family home at Pitfour Castle(photo above) is an 18th-century country house situated on the southeast edge of the village of St Madoes in the Carse of Gowrie, Perthshire, Scotland. At time of her birth her father, James, was 43 and her mother, Harriet, was 42. She had three brothers and five sisters. Gladys never married and lived until August 1966, when she died in Kent. In 1916 she joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals as a driver and traveled out to support the Serbian soldiers as they pushed for home.

Gladys in August 1916 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.
She traveled out to Salonika and then onto Lake Ostrovo where she worked for the next six months driving the ambulances. The field hospital at Lake Ostrovo( Northern Greece) was very close to the fighting in the mountains of Macedonia. Gladys duties were to transport the wounded Serbian soldiers from the battlefields and onto the hospital at Lake Ostrovo or the various dressing stations. A difficult task as these hospitals were often under attack from aircraft and artillery fire. Flies, wasps and earwigs were a constant nuisance at the camp and out breaks of malaria common place. The drivers were under immense pressure, the roads up and down these mountain passes were treacherous. The fords would boil as they made there way up the mountains and brakes would snap on and off on the way down. Hairpin bends with sheer drops made for difficult journeys. Gladys left the unit in January 1917.

Agnes Rolt

Date of Bith: 1885
Place of Birth: London

Agnes Annie Louise Rolt was born in Regents Park, London, in 1885 to Frederick Rolt who was a solicitor. Prior to serving with the Scottish women’s Hospitals, Agnes was living in Penrith and working at Penrith’s Auxiliary Hospital. In November 1915 she joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and headed to Royaumont Abbey 30 miles outside Paris. Agnes enlisted as a cook,but due to her ability to perform in almost any condition worked as an auxiliary nurse for most of the war. The hospital at Royaumont worked continuously from January 1915- March 1919. During the battles of the Somme and the final push of 1918 the hospital experienced a huge amount of casualties. Soldiers would be brought in with near fatal wounds at every hour of day. In July of 1917 Agnes also supported a canteen unit at Soissons. These canteens would help feed the thousands of French troops heading to and fro the front line. The women often gathered fruit and vegetables from the gardens of the empty shelled homes. Agnes returned home in February 1918. Twenty three year later during ww2 Agnes returned to France, she had hoped to perform the same great deeds as during ww1. This, however was a very different situation and France was retreating. Agnes was alone and after making her way some weeks later to the spanish border she made her way home. She never married but did return to Penrith. Agnes died in 1966.

Jean Bruce Rosie

Date of Bith: 1891
Place of Birth: Wick, Caithness

Jean grew up on a farm at Nybster, a scattered rural and crofting township, situated in Caithness and is in the Scottish council area of Highlands. Her father George was a farmer and road surferman. Jean had 7 brothers and sisters.

In May 1915 a Scottish Women’s hospital was established by the ‘Girton and Newnham’ Unit, in tents, near Troyes. Its doctors included Laura Sandeman, Louise McIlroy and Isabel Emslie Hutton. Jean went out in July 1915 as a cook, not an easy job in war time with over 250 patients and staff to feed 3 meals a day. By October 1915 the unit was invited to join The French Expeditionary Force in Salonika and they accepted as the hospital at that time had been quiet for a few months. In late October they sailed from Marseilles to Salonika where the unit worked in a 1000 bed hospital. The Unit was instructed to proceed to Geuvgueli, just across the border in Serbia where the French were forming a large hospital centre. An empty silk factory was given to the Unit and used for staff accommodation, the operating theatre, X-ray room and the pharmacy. Marqee-ward tents were erected for the patients – all French soldiers, many of them Senegalese.
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. Jean returned home in April 1916.

Ishobel Mark Ross

Date of Bith: 1890
Place of Birth: Isle of skye

Ishobel Mark Ross was born on 18/2/1890 in Broadford,Parish of Strath,Isle of Skye.
Daughter of James Ross(Hotel keeper) and Eleanor MacKenzie,who married 15/6/1881 at Strath.

1891 Census of Strath,Isle of Skye has the family living at the Broadford Hotel.
James Ross 45 b.Edinburgh Hotel keeper
Eleanor 29 Wife b.Edderton,Ross-shire
Margaret 7 daughter b.Strath
John 5 son b.Strath
Leila 4 dau b.Strath
Isabel M.Ross 12months dau .b.Strath
There was also one boarder and eight staff in the hotel including a Nurse and a Governess.

Although Ishobel’s father,James,was b.in Edinburgh he was the Inn keeper at Strath Hotel(probably Broadford) in 1881. 1871 census has him as a farmer in the Parish of Strath on the Isle of Scalpay. His mother was born in Edinburgh and his father,John ,was b.Strath. John(Isobel’s grandfather)was Innkeeper at 4 Bank Street,Portree in 1861. Ten years earlier,the 1851 Census shows him as Innkeeper and farmer at 2 Church Street,Portree..

Born and raised on the Isle Of Skye. Ishobel had a happy childhood and one of her fondest memories was spending time with her sisters putting the Gold labels on the bottles of Drambuie at Broadford Pier. A drink her father had perfected and was now selling worldwide.

After her fathers death the family moved to Edinburgh. Ishobel attended Edinburgh;s Ladies School and qualified as a Teacher of Cookery. Her life took an unexpected turn when one evening she went along to hear Dr Elsie Inglis talking on the work the SWH were doing in Serbia and they were looking for volunteers. Ishobel grabbed this opportunity, happy to serve her country and experience some adventure.
Ishobel Ross on the 3rd of August joined the SWH as a cook, 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. When Ishobel arrived in Salonika she was incredibly excited at the prospect of working at the Hospital. She also felt at home remarking ” the Serbs are singing their weird songs very like Gaelic”. Even to her the Serbs talking sounds so like Gaelic” Ishobel also felt the local landscape was a lot like Skye.
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 , French and British to reclaim Serbia and push back the Germans, Austrians and Bulgarians. From 1916-1917 she 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 in the summer and cold in the winter. Ishobel worked at Lake Ostrovo, 80-100 miles north of Salonika. The cooking was done from a wood burning stove and meals would have been very basic, cooking whatever they could get at times. Ishobel enjoyed her roll as cook as it involved plenty of trips to the towns and village to buy provisions, something she very much enjoyed. By July 1917 Ishobel was home. The book, The Little Grey Partridge, gives an excellent account of her time in service.

Elizabeth Ness Ross

Date of Bith: 1878
Place of Birth: London

Elizabeth Ness Macbean Ross was born on 14th February 1878, in London. Her father, Donald, was a banker, and the family made Tain their home. When Elizabeth went down to Glasgow to study medicine at Queen Margaret College, she was 18. This was in 1896, just two years after the first woman medical graduate, Marion Gilchrist, had her degree conferred. Elizabeth was one of the pioneers for a generation of determined, often very bright young women doctors who had to put an extra effort into acquiring their education in the face of many obstacles.

Elizabeth rose to the challenge. She was a good student, earning second class certificates in Chemistry and Anatomy in her first year, and in later stages, a first class certificate in Midwifery, and second class certificates in the Practice of Medicine, Insanity and Ophthalmology.

She graduated MB in 1901. Hers was a medical family. Her sister Lucy graduated in Medicine and her brother James Ness MacBean Ross graduated MB ChB from Edinburgh – later he would serve gallantly as a Naval Surgeon and win a Military Cross (MC).

Immediately after graduating Elizabeth took up a post in the East Ham area of London and was also a Medical Officer on Colonsay for some months. Later she obtained a post in Persia as an assistant to a Medical Practitioner, before setting up her own practice. In preparation for her journey, she had studied tropical medicine and on her return during a spell of convalescence she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine.

She was an unconventional person and highly resourceful. She had many adventures, and was once lost in the desert and robbed by brigands, requiring Government assistance to reach safety. It was said that she was made a chieftain of one of the tribes. Her work in Persia was interrupted for only brief periods, once for a short convalescence at home, and once to take up an appointment as a ship’s surgeon, travelling to the coast of India and Japan. Persia called her back, however, and she returned to work there until the outbreak of the Great War.

At the beginning of the war, at the invitation of the Russian government, she volunteered to serve in Serbia. She worked in shocking conditions at the fever hospital in Kragujevac, with two Greek doctors and no trained nursing staff. There she contended with dirt and unwashed patients, sometimes two to a bed. Working intensely on the typhus ward, she was exhausted, and contracted the fever herself. She died on her 37th birthday, 14th February 1915. She was a free and independent spirit, greatly missed by all who worked with her, amongst them the women of the Scottish Women’s Hospital.

Her fellow students at the University paid a handsome tribute to her and this is an extract from the Glasgow University Magazine of 1915;

“Of brilliant intellectual attainments, and exceptional originality, Dr Ross was a personality seldom to be met with. Careless of conventions, yet at the same time giving evidence of refinement and culture of upbringing, she was slow to make friends but once made, she was loyal and steadfast in her friendships, once made never broken, she was much beloved by those who knew her well. Numerous literary articles have appeared from her fluent pen. Her outstanding quality was courage in the face of any danger, and although possessed of a frail and delicate physique, she would enter where even a man might hesitate, in the enthusiasm for her work. It was the great power and influence of her mind which led to heights which others only dreamt of from afar. Her sister, Dr Lucy Ross, and her brother, a naval surgeon, shared her studies and interests.”

Dr Elizabeth Ross’s life and sacrifice are commemorated on a brass plaque in St Duthus Church and in an annual service held in Kragujevac, south of Belgrade.

Although not a member of the SWH, she was a remarkable lady and worked along side the SWH.
Many thanks to the University of Glasgow for this article.

Winifred Margaret Ross

Date of Bith: 1885
Place of Birth: Polmont, Stirlingshire

Winifred Margaret Ross was born on 5th August 1885 in Polmont, Stirlingshire. Her father, William, was a clergyman. Winifred was eighteen when she began her medical studies at Queen Margaret College in 1903. The family lived close by the University, at St. Mary�s Manse, Partickhill. Winifred seemed to take her medical studies in her stride, although it was a challenging environment. It was less than a decade previously, in 1894, that the university had begun to confer degrees on women and the first woman doctor, Marion Gilchrist, had graduated.

Queen Margaret College was a separate women�s department and not necessarily an equal one in every respect. Numbers were growing, however, and by 1907-1908, of the 631 women students at Glasgow, 60 were students of Medicine. Winifred did well. Her name appeared frequently on the prize list. One curiosity is that, despite gaining the Medal in the Practice of Medicine in her graduating year, she failed this subject in her Finals in March 1909 and had to re-sit it, which was quite at odds with her records. She had also been the medallist in Physiology in second year. In addition, she had a long list of second class certificates, in Physics and Chemistry in her first year, Anatomy in both junior and senior classes, Botany, Practical Physiology, and in the class of Medical Jurisprudence and Public Health. In Midwifery, she attained a first class certificate. She graduated MB ChB in 1909.

After graduation, Winifred was a resident surgeon in Paisley Parochial Hospital, and, unusually, treated male patients. She was one of the original group of young women medics who set up the Scottish Women�s Hospital at Royaumont at the beginning of the Great War, and she became a mainstay of the place. She was a great team-player, and formed lifelong friendships with her colleagues there. At home on a short period of leave she was interviewed by the Scottish Women�s Hospital Committee at headquarters, and described Royaumont as a ‘perfect paradise’ compared to similar institutions at home.

Winifred Ross came home to her family at St Mary�s Manse at Partickhill when the war ended. Then she moved north, to the Manse at Abernethy, Nethy Bridge, continuing her medical career. She was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services and lived for more than twenty years at Auchendeen, Dulnain Bridge, Inverness-shire. She died at Granton-on-Spey, the date unrecorded in General Council records.

Many thanks to the University of Glasgow

Constance Jessie Millar Rowan

Date of Bith: 1890
Place of Birth: Ayr

Constance was brought up in her home town of Ayr, firstly living at Park Circle and later moving to the Savoy cottage in 1901, she attended school in Ayr. Her father David was a shipowner from Greenock, a man of some means as Constance joined the Scottish Women’s Hospital as a driver.

Joining the Scottish Women’s Hospital in November 1917, she served with the American unit as an ambulance driver. The drivers were a rare breed, often maverick in there approach to life. They came from wealth family’s who had encouraged them to drive and embrace life to the full. Constance was no different. The work was often full of dangers hurling back and forth to the front line, collecting badly injured men and racing them back to the hospitals on roads that were treacherous, particularly in winter. Shells rained on them night and day, the “fords” often getting stuck in the mud and snow. Fuel was always an issue and they commandeered petrol at every opportunity. Elsie Inglis wrote of the drivers ” Their nerve never failed them, they never lost their courage, and they never forgot to gentle”. Serbia had little in the way medical transport, relaying on mules and ox. These ambulances were vital in the saving of lives and getting the wounded back to safety. Constance worked at Salonika, Lake Ostrovo and Vranje supporting the Serb forces as they pushed their way home. She left the SWH in April 1919. Constance was awarded The Serbian Red Cross.

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