Account of the work of Evelina Haverfield in Serbia

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      GB 106 7VJH/3/2/04
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Manuscript report, 5 pages. Detailed account of Haverfield's work, including chronology, and list of staff involved.


The Hon Evelina Haverfield

The Hon Evelina Haverfield is well known in Serbia and Great Britain for her work connected with the Serbian people. It was in the year 1915 (and whilst she was engaged in war work in England) that she read in one of our daily papers of the terrible distress that there was in Serbia, and how the nation was struck with the terrible plague typhus - and a plea for help - she felt she must help and at once began to make inquiries and in the month of April she left England for Serbia with Dr Elsie Inglis. The typhus ravages had greatly subsided and hospitals were opened for the Serbian soldiers whose wounds had not healed, and for the numerous cases of fever which were still prevalent in the country. In April she was asked to go to Mladenovatz [Mladenovac] and arrange a camp hospital, and when I joined her in May 1915 she had already begun to speak a little Serbian, and the camp hospital was opened - in that hospital Mrs Haverfield acted as administrator and as 'Zcanoma'. In the month of September, she was asked to go to Lazaravatz [Lazarevac], as the Scottish Women's Hospitals of which she was a member were asked to take over 6 'Kafanas' and run them as hospitals, and Mrs Haverfield and I were finally given charge over all the English stores which Sir Ralph Padget [sic] sent up from Nish. Just when everything was organised, and a splendid magazine arranged and everything unpacked, the order for retreat was given. Everything was packed and nothing left at Lazaravatz [Lazarevac] except the top of an old tent. It was difficult work as all our Austrian orderlies had been sent away, so all the work fell on to the small British staff. For two days they journeyed until at last they arrived at Krushevatz. On their arrival they felt that there were already too many people in that town. The wounded were pouring in, but having no hospital we could give very little help. At last a building was given to us, the Magazines[?] of the Hospital Tzar Lazar, and Mrs Haverfield at once applied herself to trying to get the stores to this building from the station. She and several others organised a canteen at the station to give the wounded men at least a cup of tea. The washing was a thing which had sadly been neglected and for a considerable time every day Mrs Haverfield herself used to go and wash clothes for the wounded men. Shortly after we arrived in Krushevatz which was on 21st October 1915, we had the option of making the retreat as it became evident that the town must fall. Mrs Haverfield at once said she could not leave all the wounded and about 12 of the unit to which we were attached decided to stay.

Mrs Haverfield used every day to walk to Bivoli to get all the milk she could for the wounded as they had nothing of that kind when the Doctors ordered a special diet. And at times the soup in the hospital was very bad. She met the Serbian priest who was looking after that department of the hospital and told him what she thought about it, and finally herself used to go and see that it was made better than it had been before. On Nov 6 the town was bombarded and after the bombardment was over Mrs Haverfield and Doctor Catharine Corbitt [?] went into the town to help those people who had been wounded by the shells. The next day the Germans arrived and we were all ordered to remain in the hospital. After a few days however we were allowed in the town, where Mrs Haverfield visited the wounded every day and dressed their wounds. There was a great deal of looting going on after the retreat of the army and before the [text missing?] came into the town. Even the Serbian Red Cross magazine was being robbed of its stores. Mrs Haverfield herself was one morning sitting at the door of these stores with a loaded revolver, as it was the only way to keep the thieves away. When she was called away she asked me to take her place, and we succeeded in keeping the would-be robbers away until the proper authorities came and thanked us, and took them over.

After 3 and a half months as prisoners of war we were sent to England via Austria, where we were detained one week. We were all glad that to the end of the time we were allowed to work in the Hospital Tzar Lazar for the Serbians. On our arrival in England Mrs Haverfield with Dr Inglis and Dr Churchin?? at once began to work up Serbian propaganda, and one of the chief means toward this was to make a great demonstration all over our country on Kossovo Day. Mrs Haverfield and myself lectured a great deal all over England and Scotland.

In the month of August 1916 we started off for Russia as we had been asked to go out and find hospitals and transport for the Jugoslav troops in the Dolinja/ Drobrudja [?]. Mrs Haverfield was the Commandant of the transport column and nearly killed herself with the work of getting the cars and drivers, every thing arranged.

In the month of October 1916 really before we were properly organised we had a terrible retreat with the army in the Dolinja /Drobrudja [?], so near were the enemy troops, that we had to leave two of our motor cars as something had gone wrong with them and they could not be mended in time.

After the retreat and having worked for a few weeks in Bricla [?] and Galatz [?] what was left of our division was collected at Ismiel where Mrs Haverfield and the transport division joined them. Shortly after this the Division was removed to Odessa. The Russians then asked the Serbian Commander if he would lend them the transport column, as at that time the Serbs were not in need of it, as they were for the time being out of action. So Mrs Haverfield went back to Codulak [?] and Batadak [?] where they conveyed wounded Russians from Codulak [?] to Batadak [?] and from Batadak [?] to Tulcher [?] on the Danube. This work only lasted for a few weeks as there was another retreat, and Mrs Haverfield and her unit conveyed wounded from the hospitals to the barges.

In the month of March Mrs Haverfield went back to England to get some more motor drivers, but as things were so unsettled she did not returned but worked in England, speaking and doing all she could to spread the Serbian cause in our country. Shortly after Mrs H returned from Russia she had started a fund for the Serbian soldiers, as they had no one in their country who could send them anything. Thousands of socks and shirts were dispatched between 1916-18.

After the Armistice Mrs Haverfield again came out to Serbia in the month of Dec 1918. She at once started to do relief work in the way of distributing stores to the starving and clothes to those who were in rags. This work took place on those towns near the Danube, also at Kra [?] She was asked by the Serbian Red Cross of Great Britain to be their Commissioner and acted in that capacity for some time. Her idea was after this relief work was started to run a home for disabled soldiers and to have them taught trades, but on taking the matter on she found that the men did not care to go to any institutions but preferred to go back to their own homes. The crying need now seemed to be the children of Serbia who had been left fatherless and motherless during the war. She was asked to go to the [text missing ?]as nothing had been done in that quarter. She reorganised a Dom at Uzice and after working there for two months she started the Dom at Bajina Bashta [Bajina Basta]. She had worked very hard and the strain had told severely on her health. After she had been Bajina Bashta [Bajina Basta] only six weeks she went out in the snow to translate for an American doctor (as by this time her Serbian was fluent though not grammatical). When she came home she complained of not feeling very well, she was put ot bed, and the next day we found that she had caught pneumonia. On Mar 21 1920 she died. Throughout her illness she had been talking and thinking about how her work could best be carried out and even in delirium she was always saying 'what can we do for the Serbian people?'. Her last words to me were 'What will become of the children?' and those of us who were working with her said they would go on with her work. What she wanted, and what we have tried to do, is to bring up the sixty children who we have had in our care as good Serbian citizens. We are all sorry more than sorry that our work has come to an end in this your beautiful country, but if some of the seeds which we have sown bring forth good fruit then the memory of Evelina Haverfield will still live to be blessed by the coming great Jugo Slav nation.

Workers who Mrs Haverfield left at Bajina Bashta [Bajina Basta]:

· Miss Margaret Campbell Greenlees, who was with the Scottish Women's Hospitals at Ostrovo and Vranje, 1917, 18, 19, whose official position in the Haverfield Mission was 'Blajanik' & [?] 'Ekonoma'

· Miss Bertha Mary Armstrong, who had worked in the Scottish Women's Hospitals in the Dobrinja?? and in Macedonia and Serbia 1918-10, whose official position in the Haverfield Mission was Matron of the 'Dom'

· Miss Margot Gordon Smith, who helped in all departments of our work

· Miss Margaret Ker, who has helped us for about 18 months and latterly has been acting 'Blajanik'

· Miss AM Onslow, who worked with the Scottish Women's Hospital transport column in the Dobrinja [?] 1916-17, and afterwards was sent out on a commission to Serbia (Sarajevo), Chairman of the Haverfield Fund for Serbian Children - who has taught gymnastics and sports to the children etc

· Miss Vera Holme, in Serbia with the Scottish Women's Hospitals 1915-16, Lecturing in England and Scotland & Dobinja 1916-17, Lecturing 1918-22. Administrator of the Haverfield Fund for Serbian Children

End of transcript.