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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Scotland - Serbia link: Dr Elizabeth Ross

A rare Scottish link with the Balkans in the Scotsman newspaper with an article about Dr Elizabeth Ross who died in a Serbian military hospital in 1915.

Dr Ross, was from Tain and one of the first women in Scotland to gain a medical degree. She died of typhus in a military hospital in Kragujevac, Serbia where she had been treating  First World War casualties. 

After qualifying as a doctor, no mean feat for a woman in 1901, she worked in Persia and then as possibly the world's first female ship's doctor. In 1914 there was a desperate need for doctors and nurses in Serbia after the Austrian invasion and with other projects such as the Scottish Womens Hospitals, which were travelling to the region at the same time, Ross borrowed money from an old servant in order to make the trip.

When she arrived in late January 1915, she volunteered to go and work in a typhus hospital in Kragujevac. The place was in a mess when she arrived and there were no nurses. She survived less than three weeks dying on 14 February 1915 aged 37.

She was remembered quietly, both by her family (including a neice who still lives in Tain) and in Serbia. In 1977 the local Red Cross in Kragujevac restored her grave. She is buried next to two British nurses who also died in Serbia of typhus, Mabel Dearmer and Lorna Ferriss. In total 22 British women lost their lives to typhus in Serbia during the First World War, attempting to aid wounded soldiers. In the early 1980s, after the graves had been restored, the town started holding commemorations at the graveside, and over the years they began to gather momentum, attracting bigger crowds, and becoming an important date in the town's calendar. Meanwhile similar celebrations started to spring up across Serbia.

The tradition will continue this Sunday, the 95th anniversary of her death.

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