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SEC named after WW1 nursing hero

by Saul Leese

The SEC Centre, which is currently being transformed into a 1,000 patient Nightingale Hospital, will be named after nursing sister Louisa Jordan.

Jordan, Scottish Women’s Hospital, was born on 24 July 1878 at 279 Gairbraid Street, Maryhill, Glasgow, was the only daughter of Henry Jordan, a White Lead and Paint Mixer, and Helen Jordan, of 30 Kelvinside Avenue, Glasgow.

In 1901, she was employed as a Mantle Maker, then after she qualified as a nurse she went to work at Crumpsall Infirmary in Manchester and returned to Scotland to work in Shotts Fever Hospital. Before she left for Serbia she was living and working in Buckhaven, a mining community in Fife as a Queens nurse (district nurse).

She signed up with the SWH as a nurse on 1 December 1914 and joined the 1st Serbian unit under the command of Dr Eleanor Soltua. They departed from Southampton in mid-December at a time when Serbia had lost the opening battlefield exchanges of WW1, but by time they arrived in Salonika, the Serb’s had gone on the offensive and pushed back the Austrian/Hungarian forces, claiming the first victory of WW1.

On arrival at Salonika the unit were sent up Kraguievac a city 100 miles south of Belgrade. Although the fighting at that time was minimal there was still a massive amount of work to be done, Serbia was well short of medical facilities.

Louise Fraser wrote:

Some of the men looked barely human, they were so wasted with fever, and all were terribly filthy and verminous, All had poisoned wounds, but the worst of it was that, the bed sores they got from neglect were worse than the original wound.

Despite the work load Louisa wrote in her diary “we are quite a happy family” – the early days generally seemed to be easy going.

However by February typhus had broken out. Typhus is a cold weather disease, spread by body lice and thrives in overcrowded, dirty conditions. Kraguievac met all the requirements for this killer. By the middle of February a typhus ward was up and running and Louisa, who had some experience having worked in Shotts Fever Hospital, was in charge. Also working with typhus in the wards at Kraguievac was Dr Elizabeth Ross. She was not a member of the SWH and had travelled to Serbia alone when war broke out and had been assigned the typhus wards of a Military Hospital. Louisa and Elizabeth knew each other well and when Elizabeth became ill with typhus she helped nurse her but sadly Elizabeth died on February 14 1915. “We really felt we had lost one of our own” wrote Louisa. Sadly, this would be one of last entries in her diary as a few days later she died of typhus, soon after Madge Fraser and Augusta Minshull also succumbed to the epidemic.

She died of typhus in Serbia on 6 March 1915, age 36, is buried in Chela Kula Military Cemetery, and commemorated at Wilton church Glasgow and on the Buckhaven War Memorial.

The people of Serbia have never forgotten the remarkable courage and self-sacrifice shown by these women and today at Kraguievac they are remembered each year with dedicated ceremony.


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