Alongside Ethel Moir’s two handwritten diaries from her time serving as a Scottish Women’s Hospital nursing orderly, there is also a photo album full of black and white images. Some of the photographs were presumably taken by Ethel herself, each one telling its own story.
The handwritten title page reads simply:
“Scottish Women’s Hospital”
Dr Elsie Inglis’ Serbian – Russian Unit
Rumania – Russia
August 1916 – April 1917
(and in the corner) E. M. Moir S.W.H
All the photos and cuttings have written descriptions, the very first is of “The Chief” Dr. M. Elsie Inglis. There is no doubt that this is what Ethel and her fellow SWH colleagues thought of her. In another, Dr. Inglis is surrounded by a group of nurses and orderlies and pride of place in the middle of the group is one of the camp’s pet dogs!
Turning over the pages, we scrutinised each photo, hoping to find a photo of Ethel. We had been doing so much research into her story and background; we now really wanted to see what she looked like. Unfortunately as with most photographers, they seldom, if ever feature in any….oh for the advent of selfies!
It would only be much later, that we discovered what this woman, looked like. We had found a couple of photos in one of the diaries, but none that were really clear. It was only when Ethel’s great-niece Maureen handed in the photos she had found, there among them some ten odd years after her time with the SWH, was Ethel smiling happily at the camera.
The first few pages are taken up with photos of the journey to Russia, group photos taken on board the troopship all posing together at the start of their long journey. Others in the camp introduce us to her fellow “campers”. There’s “Murphy” and “Fawcett” holding aloft two dogs that they had presumably adopted, another showing a more serious task, kit inspection, everyone lined up alongside their meagre belongings.
Some of the photos in the album could have been taken by a tourist. They show a market day where children sit in among piles of vegetables for sale, others the true reality of war. Halfway through the album there are some photographs of history in the making, taken in Odessa, they show the first days of the Russian Revolution, with troops piled on the roofs of trains and marching through the city, rifles and bayonets at the ready.
These were all memories that Ethel brought back home to Scotland with her and carefully pasted into the album, perhaps to take out and look at now and again.
You can see all the pictures from Ethel’s scrapbook on Capital Collections.
Read the other posts in this series about Ethel Moir and the Scottish Women’s Hospital: