Despite the obvious tragedy of the First World War, it provided, as great conflicts invariably do, the catalyst for change in many aspects of European life. By no means the least of these was that it necessitated large numbers of men and women of the protagonist nations to take an active part in the war. In England, this elevated the status of women, gave them new rights and led to social and political reforms. Pressure to gain these rights was already being applied by suffragettes on moral grounds, but their case may have lacked the irrefutable justification for change that women’s contributions to the war effort provided. Women were engaged in manufacturing and agriculture on the home front, but were also present on many of the battle fronts of the conflict. Numerous volunteer organisations were created or expanded to concentrate on the welfare of fighting men in all its forms, but, most notably, women stepped forward to act as nurses and in other less qualified medical support roles. One of the lesser known groups was the Stobart Nurses, who came into being due to the vision of Dorset woman, Mrs. Mabel St. Clair Stobart. This team of resolute women doctors and nurses travelled to Serbia in 1915 and provided extraordinary service and care for Serbian forces—most particularly during the catastrophic ‘great retreat’. This good value volume contains two essential accounts of these courageous women and will be an essential addition to any library that includes books on the role of women at war.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Thursday, September 30, 1915.
This morning at 7 o’clock we had an air raid; six German aeroplanes came over dropping thirty bombs on Kragujevatz. Most of the bombs dropped near the arsenal and at the station; they tried to get the magazine, but did not succeed. The bombs did little damage, but six people were killed and several wounded. We brought one aeroplane down; we saw quite plainly and the bombs seemed to drop right on the aeroplane—a great blaze of fire we could see—and the aeroplane fell to the ground only a few minutes’ walk from this camp in the main street, just near the cathedral. It came down quite gently, and as it got to the ground there was a great crash; the men were both Germans; they were smashed to pieces. I have taken two photographs; all the woodwork was burnt away. I have several interesting pieces of the aeroplane. The Germans had their diaries on them; these of course were taken to the Government office. An officer was killed at the arsenal, so they had a military funeral for him this afternoon. The other portion of our unit may go to the front any time now; they are only waiting for orders.
Friday, October 1, 1915.
This morning at 6.45 we had another air raid. We soon cleared the camp of the patients. Three aeroplanes came over in all, and dropped about fifteen bombs on Kragujevatz. Five fell in the arsenal, but little damage was done; several fell round about the station. Several of the station men got into a truck for shelter. One shell fell just outside smashing up the pavement along the line. A piece of the shell went through the truck; no one was injured, and it was given to me afterwards. The air raid lasted about one hour. When all was over Dr. May and Dr. Berry asked me to take them to see the aircraft guns. These were about seven minutes’ walk from the camp on the top of a hill; two of the Serbian camps were also near by. I knew several of the officers at the camp. On arriving we were met by some of them; they took us round and showed us the guns and the shells, explaining and describing all about them. There are three very large guns, and these took the 12 inch shells; they were of French make, and two smaller ones which were captured from the Turks in the last war.
We had only been up on the firing ground about five minutes when the signal was given that enemy aeroplanes were sighted. All men were at their posts in a second, and it was splendid to see the order and discipline.
It was no use our retiring, as it would not have been safe, so we stood by while the firing was going on. The vibration and noise were terrific; one could not see even these large shells coming out of the guns, only fire and smoke. I took a photograph while the firing was going on. Five bombs were dropped in Kragujevatz, one on our camp, which fortunately did not explode. It was only a few yards away from the night nurse’s tent and mine, otherwise we should have had our poor tents in pieces. Two bombs fell on the magazine, destroying lots of our stores; three tents were burnt, but the fire was soon extinguished. Nine 7 lb. tins of marmalade were smashed to pieces; marmalade was all over the floor, windows, ceilings and walls, making the place in the most terrible mess; other stores were also spoilt; pieces of shrapnel were found in the sugar. About eighty shells were fired on the aeroplanes, and it got so hot for them that they soon fled. The air raid was over at 10, so our patients were allowed to return.
In the evening we had a farewell party, given by one of the sisters, as she was leaving for Lady Paget’s hospital, and twenty of our unit were leaving for the Bulgarian frontier with Mrs. Stobart, and they were to go to Perot. They left at 10 p.m., and slept in the train all night; the train left at 7.20 in the morning. They have taken five motor ambulances, three bullock wagons, one kitchen that was captured from the Austrians by the Serbs, a few bandages and medical stores. A Serbian army was supplying all the other necessary medical stores and equipments for “The Flying Field Hospital.” I was to have gone, but owing to having had typhoid was not allowed. It was arranged that the doctors, nurses, cooks and orderlies should change over every month, so that all could get a variety of work.
Saturday, October 2, 1915.
Another telephone message arrived at 7 a.m., to say that three aeroplanes had crossed the frontier. We got breakfast over at 5.30 and the camp was cleared of all the patients, and then we left ourselves. It is interesting to see all the townspeople going out miles into the country for safety. Fortunately the wind got up and the flyers had to return, but they managed to drop their fifteen bombs on another town close by. On our return home to the camp we went by the guns, and I was introduced to the man who brought down the aeroplane on Thursday, September 30. It was the Turkish aircraft gun he was using, quite a small one. We expect air raids every day now; this means breakfast at 5.30. We are clearing this hospital of the old patients, and are getting ready for the fresh wounded, and it will not take us long to be straight.
We can do nothing much in the mornings now, so we work hard all afternoon. The arsenal is also closed in the mornings.
Sunday, October 3, 1915.
It has been too cloudy and too windy for an air raid today, so we have had a day of rest. Pontoon bridges have been passing most of the afternoon on the road by our camp. I expect these are going to the Bulgarian frontier.
A very young student at a village near here was full of mischief, and for a lark he poured a pot of red paint into the holy water. The priest at the early service looked up, and found that all his congregation had red crosses on their foreheads. The priest told us this story, and the boy got into great trouble over it.
The name of the aeroplane that was brought down at Kragujevatz was the “Albatross.” The younger German killed was an engineer twenty-six years of age.
Pieces of aeroplane were found at Ratcher, but nothing else. Another aeroplane was seen to turn over outside a small village, but has not been found.
Monday, October 4, 1915.
The camp was cleared about 7 o’clock, as we received a message that six aeroplanes had been sighted over the frontier; they were prevented from getting to Kragujevatz. The Germans say they will smash up Kragujevatz, also the railway line. A very little damage has been done considering.
We had a card from the other part of our unit which left for Perot, saying that they had arrived safely, and that they liked their position; they were on the top of a hill, and looked down on the enemy.