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Andrew Hesketh

Serbian Relief Fund Hospital

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Andrew Hesketh

I'm doing some research into a Dr. Fergus Armstrong. The gist of the part of the story I'm currently interested in is below:

"..later that year he joined the RAMC and was posted to the Welsh Hospital at Netley with the rank of captain. In 1915 he was appointed chief surgeon to the First British Hospital to Serbia. At the conclusion of his contract he joined the Serbian Relief Fund's Hospital. There was fighting in Serbia between the Bulgarians and Austrians and the Serbians suffered severe casualties. Dr Armstrong was taken prisoner, and after being in captivity for six months was repatriated by the Red Cross. While in Rumania he met Queen Marie of Rumania and worked in her hospital."

It would appear that he was released sometime before the middle of 1917, as he went on to work in Romania "serving the wounded soldiers of the battered Rumanian army" and wrote an article for The Lancet concerning abdominal wounds which was published in July of that year. Further research shows his location at that time to have been Lady Paget's hospital in Uskub (Skopje?)

Therefore, I am assuming that he was taken prisoner some time in 1916 when working for the Serbian Relief Fund's Hospital, and further assuming that it's location was overrun. If I'm correct, can anyone tell me it's location and the date at which it was overrun?

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Sue Light

Andrew

The hospitals were evacuated or captured in October 1915 following the fall of Belgrade, although I believe some continued working for a while under the occupation. I'm not at home at present, but the details of the hospitals involved are very well set out in Monica Krippner's 'The Quality of Mercy' (David & Charles, 1980) - I'll have a look through it later.

Sue

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Andrew Hesketh

Many thanks Sue, and for any further information you may be able to provide. October 1915 is slightly earlier than I had guesstimated, but still well within the timeframe. Purely out of my own imagination I had pictured the relief fund hospital as a 'field hospital', able tp pack up and move as necessitated by events. I suppose I ought to be thinking of an actual building.

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Sue Light

Andrew

The hospitals were mainly in barracks, hospitals and other buildings, but all very bare and poorly-equipped before the relief workers arrived. Anyway, it's hard to pin down which was the first hospital that Fergus Armstrong was with, as the very first British medical teams were in Serbia within about three weeks of the outbreak of war, but I think all the evidence points towards him serving with either the First Serbian Relief Fund unit, or the second - both combined under Lady Paget. Some brief notes from the book:

'Meanwhile, press reports and the tireless campaign of Mabel Grujic had resulted in the formation of the Serbian Relief Fund, with its headquarters in London's Cromwell Road. Partly sponsored by the Scottish Women's Hospitals, the early Serbian Relief Fund units were staffed by both men and women, though mostly the latter, but they always had a woman administrator. By mid-November 1914 the first SRF unit, commanded by Leila, Lady Paget, reached Serbia to establish a fine 600-bed hospital on a hill outside Skoplje in the southern part of the country'

The second Serbian Relief Fund Unit, the Wimborne Unit – had already gone out to Skoplje to combine with Lady Paget's unit

By the spring of 1915, the third SRF unit was on its way – went to Kragujevac – extensive hospital under canvas on large open area, formally a racecourse. There didn't seem to be any male medical officers in this unit – there is a named photo of the staff in the book, so it seems that the male medical officers must have been working with Lady Paget.

Belgrade fell 8th October 1915.

Lady Paget went to Salonika to discuss situation with Allies, arriving midday 17th October [1915]. No help was forthcoming, so she returned immediately to Skoplje. Lady P. Continued her work, and on 22 October 1915, when Skoplje fell to the Bulgarians, 'Lady Paget and her staff had the doubtful distinction of being the first British relief workers to become prisoners of war.'

Lady P. continued to run her hospital in Skoplje, treating both civilians and Bulgarians, before finally being repatriated via Sofia, Romania and Russia, arriving in England on 3rd April 1916. She had used her influence and friendship with Queen Eleanora of Bulgaria to achieve this. The book is about women in Serbia during the war, and the men don't get much of a mention, so hard to say if it was just the women who were repatriated in this way, while the men were treated differently - the latter would seem to be the case I think.

The book is a very good read, but skips about, and covers all the various units, SRF, Scottish Women's Hospital and others. Many of the relief units and civilians then retreated over the mountains, through the winter, with many deaths on the way. Perhaps Lady Paget, who decided not to retreat, and to stay put in Skoplje, made a good decision at the time. Quite honestly the conditions they endured were so dreadful that it makes nursing in France and Flanders look like a walk in the park!

Sue

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Andrew Hesketh

Sue, very many thanks for taking the time to look up and type up the details above, all of which are most useful and interesting.

It's always nice to put a name to a face, so here he is in 1926 (bald chap on the front row, right), whilst a Doctor in the Rhondda.post-150-051592800 1293644895.jpg

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Sue Light

Thanks Andrew - he must have been in South Wales for a long time as there are so many images of him on the Rhondda website. Quite a difference between Serbia in 1915 and the Festival of Britain 1951!

Sue

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Andrew Hesketh

Yes, that was a lucky find!

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richley

Andrew

The hospitals were mainly in barracks, hospitals and other buildings, but all very bare and poorly-equipped before the relief workers arrived. Anyway, it's hard to pin down which was the first hospital that Fergus Armstrong was with, as the very first British medical teams were in Serbia within about three weeks of the outbreak of war, but I think all the evidence points towards him serving with either the First Serbian Relief Fund unit, or the second - both combined under Lady Paget. Some brief notes from the book:

'Meanwhile, press reports and the tireless campaign of Mabel Grujic had resulted in the formation of the Serbian Relief Fund, with its headquarters in London's Cromwell Road. Partly sponsored by the Scottish Women's Hospitals, the early Serbian Relief Fund units were staffed by both men and women, though mostly the latter, but they always had a woman administrator. By mid-November 1914 the first SRF unit, commanded by Leila, Lady Paget, reached Serbia to establish a fine 600-bed hospital on a hill outside Skoplje in the southern part of the country'

The second Serbian Relief Fund Unit, the Wimborne Unit – had already gone out to Skoplje to combine with Lady Paget's unit

By the spring of 1915, the third SRF unit was on its way – went to Kragujevac – extensive hospital under canvas on large open area, formally a racecourse. There didn't seem to be any male medical officers in this unit – there is a named photo of the staff in the book, so it seems that the male medical officers must have been working with Lady Paget.

Belgrade fell 8th October 1915.

Lady Paget went to Salonika to discuss situation with Allies, arriving midday 17th October [1915]. No help was forthcoming, so she returned immediately to Skoplje. Lady P. Continued her work, and on 22 October 1915, when Skoplje fell to the Bulgarians, 'Lady Paget and her staff had the doubtful distinction of being the first British relief workers to become prisoners of war.'

Lady P. continued to run her hospital in Skoplje, treating both civilians and Bulgarians, before finally being repatriated via Sofia, Romania and Russia, arriving in England on 3rd April 1916. She had used her influence and friendship with Queen Eleanora of Bulgaria to achieve this. The book is about women in Serbia during the war, and the men don't get much of a mention, so hard to say if it was just the women who were repatriated in this way, while the men were treated differently - the latter would seem to be the case I think.

The book is a very good read, but skips about, and covers all the various units, SRF, Scottish Women's Hospital and others. Many of the relief units and civilians then retreated over the mountains, through the winter, with many deaths on the way. Perhaps Lady Paget, who decided not to retreat, and to stay put in Skoplje, made a good decision at the time. Quite honestly the conditions they endured were so dreadful that it makes nursing in France and Flanders look like a walk in the park!

Sue

Dear Sue, (forgive me for being so familiar)

I hope it is OK for me to join in this exchange of wonderful information. I am a new member and am slightly out of my depth in using the Forum. However the information here is so relevant that I'm emboldened to write.

My aunt, Miss Agnes Mary Richley sailed to Kragujevatz from England on Oct. 8th 1915 with the Wounded Allies Relief Committee. I have never been able to find out what she did there. Is this the same organisation you mention? in May 1916, she sails again, this time to Corfu, still with the W.A.R. Committee. I hope it is-- for you describe the hospital. I will try and get the book from the library. Thank so much.

Sophie

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MartinWills

Sophie,

It sounds as if she was involved in the Serbian retreat - a number of female medical staff of one sort or another supported the Serbs in retreat and they did ultimately regroup on Corfu.

There are a number of tests about the medical efforts in the Serbian retreat and a number of women are to the for, not least Lady Harley.

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ForeignGong

My aunt, Miss Agnes Mary Richley sailed to Kragujevatz from England on Oct. 8th 1915 with the Wounded Allies Relief Committee. I have never been able to find out what she did there. Is this the same organisation you mention? in May 1916, she sails again, this time to Corfu, still with the W.A.R. Committee. I hope it is-- for you describe the hospital. I will try and get the book from the library. Thank so much.

Sophie

Hi Sophie The following appaers in the Royal College of Nursing Journal

P312, Oct 16 1915

The following nurses left England on Friday,

October 8th, en route for the Wounded Allies

Relief Committee's hospital at Kragujevatz,

Serbia :-Miss Elizabeth Kennett (late housekeeper

at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital)

Miss Mary Agnes Buse (late Royal Free Hospital),

Miss Elizabeth Ogilvy Rogers,!Miss Agnes Richley.

This hospital has now been constituted by the

Serbian authorities the Third Base hospital for

the army and has a capacity of 600 beds.

P415, May 13, 1916

Six more nurses and a doctor have gone out

this week to Corfu, under the auspices of the

Wounded Allies Relief Committee, of Sardinia

House, Kingsway, W.C., to the relief of sick and

wounded Serbian soldiers. Dr. Philip Gel1 Garrett

is the doctor, and the nurses are the Misses Agnes

Richley, Edith Wedderburn, Jean Miller, Ellen

Brimson, Alice Aitchison Brown, and Jessie Edith

Borlase.

There is an MIC for Agnes Richley of the French Red Cross, could be same lady

http://www.nationala...1&resultcount=1

Peter

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Guest C.F.P.Chapman

Andrew,

This may be a little late for this posting, but my father, Eustace Pleydell Chapman, was a member of the Lady Paget Relief Force and spent some time in Salonika and later at a hospital possibly in the countryside. He and a number of his colleagues were imprisoned by (I think) the Bulgarians but together walked out of the prison camp (to the relief of their guards who no longer had to feed them) over the mountains and into the hands of the German Army (I seem to remember talk of them carrying the body of a colleague who had died on the way). Anyway they were eventually repatriated through the good offices of Queen Marie of Roumania and came home having stayed with the Norwegian Royal Family. Dad certainly became firm friends with a Doctor whilst he was in Serbia (and had a hand-written letter 'qualifying' him as an anaesthetist - a skill learned in Serbia - signed by a Doctor). Needless to say the letter has long been mislaid. However, if your Dr Armstrong was a doctor at Great Ormond Street Hospital in later years - my father was his friend!

Kind regards.

Colin

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Sue Light

Andrew

Resurrecting this again! I'm just transcribing the Serbian Relief Fund Medal Roll (WO329/2324) and it shows that Fergus Armstrong served in Serbia with the SRF from 5 September 1915 until 3 April 1916, so different dates from those 'supposed' above. And the end date does fit in perfectly with the date that Lady Paget arrived back in England, so it rather looks as though Fergus Armstrong was with her throughout.

Sue

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Guest martingevans@gmail.com

Sue, very many thanks for taking the time to look up and type up the details above, all of which are most useful and interesting.

It's always nice to put a name to a face, so here he is in 1926 (bald chap on the front row, right), whilst a Doctor in the Rhondda.attachicon.gifArmstrong Fergus 1926 crop.jpg

Fergus Armstrong was our family doctor in the Rhondda up through the late 1950's when we moved to Cardiff (I was 19 at the time)

My most vivid memory is his recounting the story of one of his colleagues in Serbia, an American I believe, who being isolated had to operate on himself to remove his own tonsils. Is there any record of that in the histories. I believe this gentleman also wrote a book about his Serbian experiences. Leads would be welcome

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Andrew Hesketh

Goodness - I've missed some updates since 2011!!! My sincere apologies.

Sue - many thanks for the information from the roll, which is enormously helpful.

Martin - amazing. Thank you for commenting.

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corisande

If I can resurrect this thread once more

We were staying this week with some friends, and his father ARTHUR CLOUDESLEY SMITH served with the Serbian Relief Fund

I am trying to establish the dates

He was a medical student born 1892, and almost finished his medical studies, for reasons I cannot understand volunteered for the SRF work.

I have seen a photo of 6 young medical students in Malta en route for Serbia. The notes ACSmith left his son said the other men died in Serbia

He then appears to have been involved in treating the various diseases rampant there, retreated to Albania, and eventually got back to UK. Where he finished his medical studies in literally a few months, and went into the RAMC as a Lt, and later Capt in a Stationary hospital in Salonica

He has. Serbian Red Cross medal which I have seen

Can anyone give me any details of AC Smith's time with SRF

Also I do not understand why this group of almost but not quite qualified, medical students chose to go to join SRF and not finish their studies, or join RAMC as enlisted men

There is a report in the Birmingham Morning Post of 4July 1916 , with a report and a letter from Lady Paget, which gives details of a St John Ambulance unit that went out with her, under a Professor Morrison of Birmingham University. The list includes ACSmith

Any help appreciated, as to a certain extent I am trying to establish exactly what he did do

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Veronique Chatenay-Dolto

I would be very grateful for any information about the Serbian Relief hospitals in Saloniki and further north near Monastir.My grand-mother Barbara Stirling, trained as a nurse but working as an ambulance driver, arrived in Saloniki in september 1916 , she stayed for several weeks ( or months?) in Saloniki  and was sent on the macedonian front , she served in the Monastir battle.Would anyone know where was the hospital in Saloniki, or where women ambulance drivers were stationed.I went to Bitola (ex Monastir)  a month ago , I visited the trenches in the mountains but I am not sure that this was where the Serbian Releif fund served Any information would be helpful...Barbara Stirling was awarded the Karageorgévitch cross , We kept the letters but the medal has been lost.

Thanks 

Véronique chatenay-Dolto

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ForeignGong

Hi Véronique

I have Barbara Stirling awarded a Serb Samaritan Cross as a Driver, Serbian Relief Fund under the Foreign Office File: FO 372/1322 Correspondence (Roumania, Russia, Serbia)        1919. (Gilt Cross below)

I have Barbara Edith Stirling awarded a Serb Medal for Bravery, Silver as a Volunteer Driver, Serbian Relief Fund under the Foreign Office File: FO 372/1483 Treaty: Decorations, Balkans  1920. This could be either a Karageorge Cross (Cross with Swords below) or a Milosh Obilich Silver Medal for Bravery.

Neither of these are in the London Gazette, they had approval to accept and wear by the general permission given by the War office to such organizations as Red Cross, St John, YMCA, etc and so do not appear in the London Gazette.

 

I don't know if these are the same lady or not, if she is please let me know so I can adjust my database to suit.

Either way both or one of these ladies were very brave as these medals were handed out for acts of usually extreme gallantry.

Cross of Mercy or Samaritan Cross, Obv.jpg

ajaxhelper[1].jpg

Obilich Bravery medal, silver, Obv.jpg

Edited by ForeignGong

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ForeignGong

Hi again Véronique

The British Red Cross Register of Overseas Volunteers, 1914-1918 has two hits for Barbara Edith Stirling.

A bit more info for you.

stirling be.JPG

Stirling.JPG

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Gardenerbill

Hi Veronique,

Have a look at this topic

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Maureene

There are a number of online books linked from the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Salonica and the Balkans (First World War)

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Salonica_and_the_Balkans_(First_World_War)

 

Some that specifically mention the Serbian Relief Fund are

Experiences in Serbia, 1914-15 ... Reprinted from "The Lancet", November 6, 1915. by James Thomas Jackman Morrison. 1915. British Library Digital file. He was with a British Hospital Unit with the Serbian Relief Fund.

The Flaming Sword in Serbia and Elsewhere by Mrs St. Clair Stobart 1916 Archive.org The author organized and directed a hospital for the Serbian Relief Fund

My diary in Serbia, April 1, 1915-Nov. 1, 1915 by Monica M Stanley, attached to the Stobart Field Hospital in Serbia. 1916 Archive.org

Letters from a Field Hospital by Mabel Dearmer 1915 Archive.org. The husband of author Mabel Dearmer was appointed as Chaplain to the British units in Serbia, so she volunteered as an orderly with the Stobart Serbian Unit. She died at Kragujevatz of typhoid fever July 1915.

The Retreat from Serbia through Montenegro and Albania by Olive M Aldridge 1916. The author was with the Serbian Relief Fund under Mrs Stobart from July 1915, until she reached London in December 1915. Archive.org

"The Great Retreat In Serbia In 1915" by M. I. Tatham. (Scroll down). First published in Everyman at War: Sixty Personal Narratives of the War edited by C. B. Purdom 1930. Miss M I Tatham served (1915) with Stobart Field Hospital (Serbian Relief Unit), Kraguyevatz, Serbia. edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk, now an archived web page. Also at firstworldwar.com.

With our Serbian Allies by Lady Paget 1915 Archive.org. Report of Lady Paget’s Hospital, Serbian Relief Fund at Skopje c June 1915.

"Letter from Skopje Dec 18, 1915" by George B Logan, an American volunteer at Lady Paget’s Hospital, then in enemy hands. Pages 456-457 The Princeton Alumni Weekly, February 23, 1916. Google Books

A Farmer in Serbia by Ellen Chivers Davies. 1916 Hathi Trust Digital Library, accessible to those in some areas such as North America. An account of the nursing (not agricultural) experiences of the 2nd British Farmers Unit [so called because of the funding], Serbian Relief Fund. The author became a prisoner.

 

Also

Report by Sir Ralph Paget ... on the Retreat of Part of the British Hospital Units from Serbia, October-December, 1915 with a Map. British Library Digital file. Also available on HathiTrust Digital Library

 

Cheers

Maureen

 

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Veronique Chatenay-Dolto

dear all, thank you very much for these references and for the information about the medals Barbara Stirling was awarded in Serbia.Unfortunately the medals were lost , probably during the second world war when she was in the resistance , the Germans put the family house on fire and a lot of things burnt then.I am going to check the references about the hospitals in Serbia, I have written a paper about them after my trip to Macedonia  ,but it is  in French, I will let you know when it is translated into English.

Véronique Chatenay-Dolto

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La_lloutre

Sorry to jump in, but I am seeking information on two sisters in my family who served in the Balkan as nurses and am trying to find any information about their war work. 

 

Kitty (Katherine Edith Ogilvy, later Sokolovitch when she married a Yugoslavian doctor in 1931) served in the Serbian Relief Fund and was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1917 (and later the Order of St Sava for her work at the Anglo-Yugoslavian children’s hospital of which she was matron). I have no idea when or where exactly she served and would love to know more. 

 

About her sister Lizzie (Elizabeth Marion Ogilvy) I have a bit more info, she served in the Scottish Women’s Hospital, Girton Unit, and went to Salonika as a night superintendent in 1916. She was awarded the Victory medal and the British medal. I found a file on her in Glasgow City Archive but it contains mainly financial documents relating to pay, rather than to her war service. Any advice or leads would be gratefully received!

Edited by La_lloutre

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La_lloutre

I am currently reading The Quality of Mercy by Monica Krippner as referenced above, and it’s certainly makes for interesting background reading.

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