The Scottish Women's Hospital
Wimbledon provided much needed support for the Scottish Women's Hospitals, established by Dr. Elise Inglis. In August 1914 she had the idea of developing hospitals units staffed entirely by women. Supported by the Scottish Federation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the idea was warmly welcomed by many but the British War Office and the Red Cross refused to sanction the initiative. This was partly due to traditionalists who were opposed to the idea of women doctors.
Appeals in Wimbledon had generated financial support, volunteers and equipment and Dr. Inglis therefore approached the French and Serbian authorities for whom gender was less of an issue. A contingent of medical staff was initially sent to a hospital at the old Abbaye de Royaumont near Criel. The women treated French and Serbian troops at the 100 bed unit, proving both their skill and judgement. French forces sent more and more patients and in 1917 a second Scottish Women's Hospital was organised.
The women were not afraid to place themselves in danger. In 1915, some of the SWH recruits, including Edith Webster, Cicely Ellis and Annie Begg, were sent to serve as medical orderlies closer to the front line. They were of particular assistance following the Battle of the Somme ( 1 July - 18 November 1916 ).
Several SWH units were also sent to Serbia in 1915, working at a 400 bed hospital in Mladanaovatz. When German forces invaded this area in July, two SWH units stayed behind to treat the wounded and were captured. A third unit was seized by Austrian troops - all the women were eventually released.
Anniue Begg went on to treat the wounded in Salonica, Greece and also worked at a Corsican refuge for Serbians, including many young men suffering from Tuberculosis. Two SWH units were also sent to Russia in 1916 at the request of the Serbian army.
In total, the Scottish Women's Hospitals treated 9000 troops and 600 civilians during the war. Although their services had been rejected in their home country, the women continued to be held in high regard across Europe.