Monday, 8 May 2017

Over the Sea to Pervyse

Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker in the trenches
    A show I used to love on TV was M*A*S*H.The comedy show was based in an army hospital in the Korean War and featured the antics of the staff there. Life always became a lot more serious when they heard the helicopters approaching, it was time to knuckle down and get down to business. The business being to take care of the sick and wounded personnel being brought in from the front line.

    Getting medical treatment quickly was the difference between life and death, helicopters playing an important part in the service personnel's transfer. Otherwise, logistically it would have been more difficult, probably impossible in some instances.

    Thirty-six years before, WWI was being fought and transporting the wounded to receive the medical help they needed was slightly more difficult. It was also important to the cause that  those who had less serious injuries were required to take up their place in the trenches once again. Medical staff therefore had to be stationed as forward on the front line as possible.

    Medical staff being male, as women were expected to keep the home fires burning. However, some women did travel overseas to help, taking up their roles as nurses and ambulance drivers, some distance away from the dangerous battle-field.

        Two women, who became increasingly frustrated at their role's in the war, were Scottish nurse Mairi Chisholm and her English, friend Elsie Knocker. They knew they could help on the front line and did.

The beach, Nairn, hometown of Mairi Chisholm
    Eighteen-year- old Mairi and thirty-year-old Elsie travelled to Pervyse, Belgium, and were the only women on the Western Front. Carrying out their nursing roles under less than perfect conditions, gas attacks, shell and sniper fire, were part of every day life.

    Receiving, seventeen medals between them, including the Order of Leopold II, Knights Cross, awarded to them by King Albert of Belgium, in recognition of their bravery.

    These two women also known as the, Madonnas of Pervyse I wanted to mention because of their contribution to nursing. However, there are many nurses who will never be named, or receive medals for the great job they do each day. That's why we should pay tribute to all of them May,12th #International Nurses Day.

 WW1 image source:

    Interested in finding out more about Mairi, or Elsie? 
 Book by Diane Atkinson 

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