Achievements of First World War doctor Elsie Inglis to be marked 100 years on

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The achievements of a woman doctor in the First World War are to be remembered a century after her death.

WW100 Scotland is to commemorate the contribution of Dr Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals to the war effort.

On the outbreak of the conflict Dr Inglis was told by the War Office to ‘ go home and sit still’ as women doctors and surgeons were not permitted to serve in front-line hospitals.

Instead she offered her services to Britain’s allies and on their acceptance formed the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

Seventeen hospitals were set up across France, Corsica, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia to treat soldiers. Of almost 1,500 personnel, only 20 were men.

Together with colleagues and associates from the suffragist movement, Dr Inglis helped raise the equivalent of £53 million in today’s money to buy equipment and get their stations to the front line.

Suffering from cancer, she died on 26 November 1917, the day after she arrived back in Britain.

A private ceremony will be held at her grave in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, on November 26, while a larger commemoration will take place at St Giles Cathedral three days later, a century after mourners gathered for her funeral there.

Amateur historian Alan Cumming began researching Dr Inglis’ story after seeing a plaque dedicated to her in Serbia.

The doctor spent most of the war years there and is affectionately known as the Serbian mother from Scotland.

Mr Cumming said: “At the age of 50 and with cancer, a health issue she kept from her colleagues, she set off on a remarkable journey – often distressing and dangerous – to support her beloved Serbs wherever they needed her.

“A vigorous campaigner for votes for women, by this cause she also knew she would demonstrate the capabilities of women while doing her bit for the war effort.

“It is very appropriate that we remember on the centenaries of her death and her funeral the amazing achievements of Elsie and her 1,500 colleagues that served with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.”

Patricia Purdom, whose great grandmother was a cousin of Dr Inglis, said: “I am very proud of Elsie Inglis and what she achieved and I am delighted that her memory is being recognised in these services.

“I would have loved to have met her and heard her stories firsthand. I remembered my father recalling her remarkable achievements when we would look through the family album and I’m very privileged to still have these photos today.”

Clea Thompson, Elsie’s great, great, great niece, said: “It is a privilege to be involved in the commemorative events here in Scotland and it was an honour to recently be invited to Serbia to mark the astounding achievements of a remarkable person.

“Elsie worked relentlessly with fortitude in highly traumatic circumstances to save lives throughout her life. It is very meaningful to me personally and, as I continue to learn more about her life, I find her courage extraordinary and inspiring.”

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