Scotland commemorated the remarkable achievements of Dr Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the World War I effort at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, during a special event held on Wednesday 29 November.
The service of thanksgiving was conducted by the minister, Rev Calum MacLeod, beginning 100 years to the minute since the start of her funeral in 1917 at the same location.
Hundreds of people from all walks of life attended the service, with a number of special guests paying their respects including HRH The Princess Royal, who laid a commemorative wreath at Dr Inglis’s plaque in the cathedral and gave a reading,
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Lord Lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh Frank Ross also attended.
Officials from some of the nations where Elsie set up hospitals were there including France, Serbia and Romania. A number of Elsie’s descendants and Members of the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland also attended the St Giles service.
The Military Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland marched down from the Castle Esplanade to perform in West Parliament Square, outside St Giles Cathedral, before the arrival of HRH The Princess Royal.
eadings were given by BBC News Health Editor and Church of Scotland elder Hugh Pym, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Dr Catherine Calderwood, Dr Lesley Orr from Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity and descendants of Dr Inglis.
A remarkable contribution
During her life, Dr Inglis made a remarkable contribution to both the allied WW1 effort and the women’s suffrage movement. Seeing Britain’s entry into the war as an opportunity for women to play their part but unable to serve Britain on the front line herself due to restrictions on where women doctors could serve, Dr Inglis offered her services to Britain’s allies leading to the formation of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.
In total, 17 Scottish Women’s Hospitals and a number of satellite hospitals and dressing stations were set up across Europe, to treat soldiers and sometimes civilians. Of the near 1,500 personnel, only around 20 were men.
The Scottish Women’s Hospitals served the war effort from 1914 to 1919 and were not formally disbanded until 1925. 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.
Descendant Patricia Purdom, said: “I am tremendously proud of Elsie Inglis and her achievements, and I am delighted that her memory is being recognised through these services.
“I would have loved to have met her and heard her stories first-hand.
“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.”
The First Minister commented: “Elsie Inglis was a remarkable woman and it is right 100 years on that we reflect on her remarkable achievements.
“A powerful role model for women today she was undeterred by the restraints of society and social norms and she ploughed ahead with her vision to provide medical services during World War One.
“She used her skills to demonstrate what women are capable of, helping women win the vote while looking after men on the frontline.
“And she helped look after both the prosperous and the poor in Edinburgh.”