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The women of Pervyse

Mrs Elsie Knocker, one of the 'Women of Pervyse'  (IWM neg Q 105861)
Mrs Elsie Knocker, one of the 'Women of Pervyse'  (IWM neg Q 105861)
At the beginning of the First World War, 29-year-old divorcee Mrs Elsie Knocker and eighteen-year-old Mairi Chisholm were volunteers with a Flying Ambulance Corps sent to help the hard-pressed Belgian army. Despite their unit's valuable work, they realised the importance of treating the wounded for shock immediately, so they set up a front-line first aid post in the Belgian village of Pervyse, north of Ypres. Elsie was a trained nurse and gave most of the medical attention, while Mairi acquired some nursing techniques but spent most of her time driving the wounded to hospital, often in terrible conditions and under fire. They had to raise their own funds as they were unconnected to any medical organisation.

They were decorated by King Albert of Belgium in January 1915 and, in October 1917, they were each awarded the Military Medal. The women carried on throughout most of the war, until they were badly gassed in March 1918. In 1916, Elsie became Baroness de T'Serclaes after marrying an aristocratic Belgian pilot.

Related items (click on image for larger version)
Scan of the diary of the Baroness de T'Serclaes

Diary of the Baroness de T'Serclaes
(TSERCLAES P404)

Miss Mairi Chisholm, one of the 'Women of Pervyse'. (IWM neg Q 2966)

Miss Mairi Chisholm, one of the 'Women of Pervyse'
(IWM neg Q 2966)

Mairi Chisholm's breeches (UNI 4744)

Mairi Chisholm's breeches
(UNI 4744)

Mairi Chisholm's coat (UNI 4743)

Mairi Chisholm's coat
(UNI 4743)

Mairi Chisholm's veil (UNI 4745)

Mairi Chisholm's veil
(UNI 4745)

Mairi Chisholm and the Baroness de T'Serclaes driving their motor ambulance (IWM neg Q 2660)

Mairi Chisholm and the Baroness de T'Serclaes driving their motor ambulance
(IWM neg Q 2660)

Clock hand from Pervyse (EPH 4154)

Clock hand from Pervyse
(EPH 4154)