Feature Articles - The Life of Evelina Haverfield - Supporting Serbs from London - and Women's Suffrage

Evelina Haverfield With no new assignment on the eastern front, and unable to return to Serbia because of the enemy occupation there, Evelina turned to organizing support for the Serbian soldiers and civilians.

With Flora Sandes, another English veteran of service in Serbia, she organized The Sandes-Haverfield Canteens.  In a few months, in 1918, they served tea and lemonade, and distributed cigarettes, to more than 150,000 Serbian soldiers.  In addition, they delivered more than 30,000 pieces of clothing to the Serbian regiments serving in Macedonia.

Evelina also organized a Serbian Red Cross Society in Great Britain, and served on the executive committee which governed it.  And frequently she made public speeches in different parts of England, on behalf of Serbian relief.

The effective work by British women serving overseas, in the early years of the war, gradually won them increasing recognition from the public, and parliament.  As news of the work of British women serving in overseas battle areas became widely known, the British Government gradually realized that these women had demonstrably earned the vote.

Whereas all efforts to win the vote for women, before 1914, had been ignored and suppressed by the British Government, by 1916 the wartime administration recognized the justice of their claim, and initiated plans for including women.

By January 1918, a Bill granting voting rights to a large group of women, passed successfully in Parliament, and in the House of Lords, a tribute to the impressive war service of thousands of women who were replacing men in industry, agriculture, and other necessary vocations.

But especially admired and respected were the several hundred women who had volunteered for overseas service with the Red Cross, the S.W.H., and other humanitarian missions.

As soon as the tide turned against the Central Powers on the western front, in the summer of 1918, plans were finalized for an Allied effort to drive out the enemy invaders from Serbia.  In September an attack was launched along the Macedonian-Serbian border, and the largely Serbian force, fresh and well equipped, drove steadily north into their homeland.

Bulgarian resistance ceased by the end of the month.

The Austrians and Germans retreated northward until by November the whole country was cleared of the enemy.  Behind the liberating army, two S.W.H. units moved in to the devastated country to alleviate the suffering of the population, which was swept by typhus, pneumonia, and Spanish flu.

As soon as the Serbian authorities could permit visitors into Serbia, Evelina returned as a Commissioner of the Serbian Red Cross Society in Great Britain, to supervise the shipment and distribution of supplies to needy Serbians throughout the country.

When this task was completed in early 1919, and she had returned home, she began to plan for the care of some of the many Serbian children orphaned by the war.  She found some volunteers for the project among the former S.W.H. women.

Next - 1919-20: Final Years in Serbia

One in five of the Australians and New Zealanders who left their country to fight in the war never returned; 80,000 in total.

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Evelina Haverfield