Feature Articles - The Life of Evelina Haverfield - England - and Service on the Eastern Front
In January, rumours kept circulating that the Scottish Women would be interned because their work in Krushevatz was running out. In 1916, that could mean years of imprisonment.
Because the women felt that there must be a great need for medical care among the Serbs further south, three of them planned to avoid internment and stay on in Serbia until the Allies returned and liberated the country. They included one doctor, one support staff, and Evelina.
They rented a room in a private home where they thought they could live and work without being detected by the enemy. They planned to take medicines, medical supplies, and some staple foods, when the time came for the other women to leave. After that, they hoped to live and work underground with the aid of Serbian friends.
But without warning, on February 11, all the Scottish Women were summoned at ten o'clock at night, and ordered to leave immediately with only what they could carry. They were put on a train and taken to Belgrade, then sent on to Vienna, where their release was arranged by the American Ambassador.
When she reached her home in North Devon, Evelina took a much-needed rest after the strenuous ten months she had spent in Serbia. She was very thin, and her appearance haggard from the poor diet, overwork, lack of enough sleep, and some illness.
When she recovered her normal energy, she responded to requests for interviews from the press, and speaking engagements on behalf of Serbian relief. When Dr. Inglis invited her to participate in another S.W.H. overseas operation in support of the Serbs, she immediately agreed to go.
Dr. Inglis had been asked by the Serbian Government for S.W.H. units to support two Serbian regiments who were fighting on the eastern front with the Russian and Romanian armies. She recruited about 75 women, all of whom had previous overseas experience with the S.W.H., to form two hospital units and a transport section.
This new addition consisted of ambulances, lorries, kitchen cars, and touring cars; eighteen vehicles in all, to be serviced and driven by women. She asked Evelina to head this new section. The ambulances were American Fords, and the heavy-duty lorries were British built.
In 1916, all types of automobiles were sometimes hard to start; they had to be cranked by hand to start them, and tyres were subject to frequent blowouts. So drivers had to be able to do some basic maintenance on their own vehicles. In addition, there were no automotive service stations in rural areas of Romania, where the fighting was raging, so the drivers had to be practical and resourceful. They had to carry with them most of the automotive supplies they would need.
At the end of August the contingent left by ship for the northern Russian port of Archangel, and from there they travelled by train through Russia to the battle area in the Romanian province of Dobrudja.
This was the most easterly part of Romania, an area bordered on the south by Bulgaria, on the east by the Black Sea, and on the north and west by the Danube River. The area was agricultural and was dotted with a few towns and some smaller villages. These were connected by dirt roads suitable for use by farm animals.
During the wet autumn season these roads became so muddy that the S.W.H. vehicles sometimes got mired, and Evelina would have to get the help of enough soldiers to push the vehicle out of the mud, or farm animals to pull it back on to firm ground.
The southern border of the Dobrudja was defended by a combination of Romanian, Russian, and Serbian divisions. The opposing Bulgarian Army was strengthened by Austro-German technical troops, and was led by a senior German staff officer. This combination soon proved to be superior to the Romanian defences.
The Allied troops were outclassed by their better trained and better equipped adversaries, and in the military disaster which resulted in the southern Dobrudja, the Serbian divisions found themselves completely unsupported by their allies. The Serbs suffered such heavy losses of killed and wounded that they had to be retired from action and moved back into Russian territory to recover.
A "biff" was a Bristol fighter plane.
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