Vera Holme to Alick Embleton

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter on Scottish Women's Hospital Unit-headed paper, 2 sheets. Describes her day-to-day work in Serbia. Transcript:

Mladenovatz [Mladenovac], Serbia, 14 July 1915

My darling Alick

I am sending you another account of my journeyings. I often wonder how you are dear and think all the things you would have me think. It has been most awfully hot up here. We came the other day from Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] in the motor car, a 35hp Studebaker (not the ambulance). You will see on another page all the adventures we had in it, also an account of a most beautiful picnic we went yesterday. You would think that we were doing nothing, but we seem always to have between 100 and 200 patients. Thank goodness they are not bad cases (mostly old wounds I believe). I have been busy doing a bit of carpentering. I have not had a card since I came out and it is over five weeks since I left England. I would rather like you to send me a newspaper now and again if you would, or a picture paper. We hear absolutely no news here, except that someone had a letter to say that a great deal of damage had been done in Newcastle and Hull. It would be nice after the war if you and Celia could come out and join us in a tour. What Eve and I want to do is tour about Serbia after the war, in a covered cart with horses. Motors are not at all the things for this country. I do wish you could see the roads. They are at their very best now, but oh lord! You think you are going to kingdom come every now and again as there are deep cross gutters sometimes a foot deep and ?? wash outs and ruts about a foot deep, with the sides as hard as brick bats. But directly rain comes they all get soft and the wheels sink in up to the axle nearly. Eve looks much better and we are very happy to be together. She is just the fellow for an administrator as she speaks foreign languages so well. Eve and I sleep out and I have rigged up our moskito [sic] net in quite a swell manner. It is lovely looking up at the stars and feeling the first rays of the sun and the breeze. We have met a great many Serbian officers who are too nice for words to us, and they always want to do everything to make us enjoy ourselves, and when we tell them we came out to work and not to play they always say 'let us all enjoy ourselves while we can, because we may have very hard work later' - anyway, they could not be dearer than they are. Most of them speak excellent French as well as German so I get on quite well, as I understand very well tho' my French is very halting. I have have to finish this tomorrow as I have promised to fix up a bed outside for the matron. Dr Elsie Inglis is a perfect dear but she is at the headquarters at Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] not with us at Mladenovatz [Mladenovac] in camp with us. But I go down every now and again to escort bagage up which is extremely difficult as everything goes wrong as a rule. It is extraordinary to arrive with everything quite in order. My best love to Celia and consider yourself properly kissed dear.

Yours as ever VH

Poor Mrs Percy Dearmer died last Monday of typhoid fever. The Stobart camp also lost one of their nurses last week.

Do write to me a real ?? letter…

I enclose two other pages - please keep them for me will you?

Eve sends her fondest love to you both

Diary June 23rd 1915

One has no idea of dates or days, but I believe this is the 23rd of June. I am sitting on the box seat of the motor ambulance which is placed on the top of an open railway truck, quite a good way of seeing the country. We are now journeying to Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] from Nish - the country is beautiful and there are no traces of war in these parts (except that the line is so well guarded by sentinels), as the women have cultivated the land in an excellent manner. I have now left the 2nd Farmer's Unit with some of whom I had become very great friends and I am very sorry to have had to say goodbye to Ida Gill and Mrs and Mr Grey, Joy Whithead and Mrs Miller. It seems strange and interesting to be on this journey by myself not speaking a word of the language and very few of the people speaking French (most of them speak German as a second language). I found a man called Robert ?Pau at Nish who helped me a lot. He was an Irish man who had enlisted in the Serbian army and he told me some very interesting things about the war - he could speak Serbian, but was an Irishman. Yesterday I had to go to Sir Ralph Page's and there I met a charming man Captain Petranovitch. In the afternoon I had to go there again and had tea and smokes with Capt P. I also had to go to the Foreign Office where I saw Gronitich and the Minister of Finance. Was also introduced to ten very nice officers who spoke French perfectly and we had a long talk about Women's Suffrage - they told me the women have just got the vote in Denmark and can sit in both houses. We all had Russian tea there. While at Nish I was put up at the Druja Reserva (which is the ?2nd military hospital at Nish. The head was Dr Melonavitch, an extremely nice man who spoke English perfectly. (The 2nd Farmer's Unit was also put up there and we slept 20 in a ward, it was most awfully amusing the whole thing. After dinner in the evening one of the Austrian prisoners came and played the violin to us. He played beautifully, then one of the Russian Drs sang - and then Miss Barton sang. ?Nurse Lawrie and we harmonised the refrain which the Serbs seemed to like very much. One of the Serbian women also sang. The music of the Serbs is extraordinarily plaintive - and gay. There are two kinds and they sing very much like the Russians (at least the tenors have the same timbre of voice - they are excellent musicians - the guard who sits on a little dicky at the end of the truck has just come round and is trying to make me understand a conversation in Serbian which is rather a failure. When about half way up to Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] Dr Percy Dearmer came up and sat with me in the car also Mr Bryce (?Anna Bryce's son) they were both awfully nice and I made lunch for us all - cooked hot coffee etc.

Oh how glad I shall be to see Eve again. Have [having?] arrived at Kragiejevatz [Kragujevac] Eve met me at the station. I also met two women on the train, Dr McGregor and ?Miss ?Pares (sanitory inspectors). They were to have come on the boat with me, but came over land. It is topping to see Eve. We have quarters with the rest of our staff at the old house of the Serbian Crown Prince. A few days before I arrived a bomb burst just at the corner of this street and the next house but one has pieces knocked out of it. Some of our Hospital people were the first on the scene and rendered first aid. I believe about 4 people were killed. We have thunderstorms every day. I am so glad to be with Eve again.

End of transcript.