Elsie Inglis monument campaign goes to Westminster

Medical pioneer Elsie Inglis
Medical pioneer Elsie Inglis
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Support is growing for a monument in honour of the work of Dr Elsie Inglis and the forgotten medics of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart has called for their “bravery, achievements and hard work” to be properly recognised as the UK prepares to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

We revealed last month how campaigners are aghast at the faded state of historical heroine Elsie Inglis’ headstone.

The pioneering doctor and suffragist – named the second greatest city citizen by the Evening News – risked her life to save those of countless soldiers on the battlefields of First World War Europe.

Today, the name of the Capital’s greatest heroine is barely legible on her headstone in Dean Cemetery and the citation listing her achievements has been completely worn away.

Mr Crockart is bringing the issue to the fore through an Early Day Motion at Westminster which has already attracted cross-party support.

He said: “It’s not just Elsie Inglis, there was a large group of Scottish women who were involved in this and risked their lives.

“When we are marking such a major event as the centenary of the First World War, we should be prepared to mark the efforts of these brave Scots women.

“A plaque within St Giles’ Cathedral is just not sufficient.

“In Whitehall, next to the cenotaph, there’s a huge war memorial recognising women involved in conflict. Something similar in Scotland would be a fitting tribute and I would think there will be a lot of support for this.

“These women were not just trying to help the war effort – they also made a strong political point about equality for women and were by and large involved with the Suffragette movement.”

Born in India, Inglis was 14 when her parents came to the Capital, where she established the George Square Nursing Home in 1899, which eventually merged with the Bruntsfield Hospital to provide a health service for and staffed by women for the first time in the city.

In the First World War, Inglis made sure that the injured and the dying received the basic medical care they would otherwise have been left without.

Tens of thousands were helped by field hospitals she set up in Serbia, Ukraine and Romania, acting with the support of the French and Serbian governments.

Her heroism, said Winston Churchill, would “shine forever in history”, while in Serbia she is a national hero.

Mr Crockart’s Early Day Motion recognises that Dr Inglis persevered with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals despite a lack of support from the British War Office.

By the end of the First World War, nearly £500,000 had been raised and 14 fully equipped field hospitals had been set up. It is estimated that between 1914 and 1918, nearly 1500 women served in the hospitals in Serbia, France, Russia, Romania, Corsica, Corfu and Greece, saving the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Historian Alan Cumming, who runs the website Scottish Women’s Hospitals, welcomed the motion.

He said: “It’s important to remember that what these women did is not just an important part of First World War history – it’s an important part of Scottish history and 
social history. They made huge 
sacrifices.”

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com