Vera Holme to Alick Embleton

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter, 3 pages. Detailed description of life as a driver with the Scottish Women's Hospital Unit in Serbia. Transcript:

My very dearest Alick

I am afraid I missed writing last week. I have no excuse. Did I tell you that the first drive in a motor I had was to drive Eve and two others from Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] to Mladenovatz [Mladenovac]. We sailed along merrily all the wrong way, and then had to go through a most beautiful ?gorge with an awful road which did not only slant to the precipice side but had the most awful gutters cut right across it. We got through this and then came to a place called ?Sta.. where the road was washed right away for about 40 yards with no way of getting over it, so we tried to go round the way some carts had ploughed through. The car stuck and the engine stopped. We started again having put stones and sticks along the way, then in a series of jerks I got the car into a most perilous position, but just over the worst the engine stopped and one of the Serbian peasants started the engine again, but she stopped again.

The then most awful calamity befel us - the key to start the engine broke and we could not push or pull her to start so we all had to camp out for the night, Dr Laird, Sister ?Holway, Eve and I. It was most awfully jolly in a beautiful spot and we told two soldiers who passed to telephone to Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] when they got to a village and tell someone to come from the Arsenal with things to mend it. They arrived about 4.30 in the morning and we got gaily back to Mladenovatz [Mladenovac] about 8 having had breakfast on the mountain side. My second drive was to go to a place called Valaka Plana which (I should say is about 30 miles from here). It was the most appalling road for a motor I have ever seen - sometimes it was so bad that the track which had been made in fields was better - so I took it - finally I got stuck and had to get 2 bullocks to pull the car out. I had to collect Sir Ralph and Lady Paget, Captain ?Petroavitch and ?Mr Grundy and take them to a place called ?Pojaravatz. Instead of arriving at Valaka Plana at 1.30 I arrived at 4 - however they were waiting and I made splendid way for about 20 miles (the best road I had struck in Serbia, but the last 10 miles before we reached our destination was just awful - at last we arrived quite safely and I was much congratulated. We went to the Hospital of the 2nd Farmers Unit (who came out on the boat with me) they were awfully pleased to have a meeting agin and I stayed the night and enjoyed myself very much. The next day I came back to Mladenovatz [Mladenovac] bringing ?Mrs Gill with me to stay for the night. There had been a conference at Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] of Drs and ?Mr Grey-Parsons-Linsel and Miller had been to it and they were going to call for Mrs Gill on the way back to ?Pojarovatz. They like us lost their way and instead of arriving for lunch at 12 o'clock they did not get here till 5pm, so we put them all up for the night, and it was good fun. Eve was awfully pleased with the games - they arrived quite safely, also the papers are forwarded every week and we enjoy them very much indeed. We just love getting letters and things from England. Did I tell you that we had a most lovely picnic to [sic] a battlefield about 15 kilometres from here. It was fought last Nov 28 and lasted for 5 days. The Austrians approached from 3 sides and succeeded in getting to the top of the high hill, but were beaten right back by the Serbs. We were with a lot of officers who had fought there and it was vastly interesting. I picked up a part of a skull and lots of cartridges and the end of a bayonet. We saw lots of poor fellows' skulls and bones, which was rather gruesome.

I believe I am going to motor to Belgrad on Wednesday for a day or two. The Ambulance has a lovely engine but the body is far too low on the ground and I am awfully afraid that sooner or later there will be serious damage if the roads are bad. It is lovely sleeping out under the stars every night. We do sleep in a tent if it rains. Last Saturday we gave an entertainment tableaux: Elizabeth and Sir W. Raleigh, Queen Victoria and 2 courtiers 'I will be good', ?? in 5 acts, Red Riding Hood, Jack Sprat and his wife, The Four Seasons, and a charade. We had some of the people from the other camp and a lot of the Serbian officers, then we had dancing afterwards in our mess tent. I do quite a lot in the singing and ?reciting line, but there is no ?accompanist. You must have had a most awfully exciting time with the Zeps - I ought to have been there to hold your hand!!! The 2nd army to which we are attached lend us horses every day - and Eve has taught all the nurses to ride and they go out in their off-time in turns. I had a lovely one last night. There is one most awfully jolly nurse here (voluntary) she rides and hunts at home, but worse luck she is going to another hospital soon. I am awfully sick as we get on rather awfully well.

I simply love having your letters. I have had 3 since I came out. You know that poor John Eve's eldest son has been killed in the war - she is awfully cut up about - poor lamb. I should like to tell you far more only the censor reads letters and one does not like to discuss one's private busines.. A year ago tomorrow since England declared war and no nearer the end it seems. ??………….. to Mr Wary.

My very dearest love to you both

Yours devotedly


If you address me On Active Service you can send letters for 1d.

Love to the boys from their uncle

End of transcript.