On this day in history : 21st March 1920 – The death of Evelina Haverfield, the British suffragette who during WW1 began to devote herself to helping the Serbian people….

Portrait of Honorable Evelina Haverfield by B. Cundy – The Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0

Evelina Scarlett, the daughter of William Frederick Scarlett, 3rd Baron Abinger and Helen Magruder Scarlett, was born at Inverlochy Castle, Kingussie, Scotland on the 9th of August 1867…. She grew up in London and Inverlochy before going to school in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880….

On the 10th of February 1887 Evelina married Royal Artillery Major Henry Wykeham Brooke Tunstall Haverfield – she was 19-years-old, he was 20 years older than her…. They had two sons, John Campbell Haverfield in 1887 followed by Brook Tunstall Haverfield in 1889…. The family made their home in Sherborne, Dorset….only Henry was to die only a few years later in 1895….

Evelina remarried on the 19th of July 1899 – another Royal Artillery Major, John Henry Balguy, a friend of her late husband…. She kept her house in Sherborne – and continued to use the name Haverfield, changing it back by deed poll just a month after the marriage…. She accompanied her new husband to South Africa during the Second World War…. Being an accomplished horsewoman herself she formed a retirement camp for horses…. After 10 years Evelina and Balguy went their separate ways as it was not a happy union, although they never actually divorced….

After joining the Sherborne branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Evelina attended a rally at the Royal Albert Hall…. Inspired she then in 1908 joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Emmeline Pankhurst…. She was arrested several times, once with Emmeline during a demonstration, another time along with 200 other suffragettes for smashing windows and in 1910 for assaulting a police officer…. She reportedly claimed in court that she had not hit him hard enough and “next time I will bring a revolver!” She eventually found herself in Holloway serving a two week sentence after attempting to break through a police cordon outside the House of Parliament…..

In 1911 Evelina began a relationship with Vera ‘Jack’’ Holme, also known as the Pankhursts’ Chauffeur……it was a friendship that was to last for the rest of her life…. They soon began to live together, quite possibly as a couple – and Vera made Evelina the sole heir in her Will….

Not a lot is known about the early life of Vera Holme…. She was born on the 29th of August 1881 in Birkdale, Lancashire to parents Richard and Mary Holme…. She may have been educated in France before becoming an actress…. Vera was known to be a lesbian, she tended to dress in masculine clothes and adopted mannish mannerisms…. She joined the WSPU in 1908, soon becoming an active member, working alongside the likes of Annie Kennedy, Clara Codd and Elsie Howey…. It was in 1909 that a wealthy supporter of the WSPU bought Emmeline Pankhurst an automobile that Vera was appointed her chauffeur…. Vera also spent time in Holloway….during 1911 after being convicted of stone throwing….

Vera ‘Jack’ Holme – LSE Library via Flickr

At the outbreak of WW1 Evelina founded the Women’s Emergency Corps, to help with the war effort….an organisation that helped women to become doctors, nurses and motorcycle messengers….

In 1915 she received instructions to organise the dispatch of the Scottish Women’s Hospital units to Serbia, an expedition she herself accompanied…. The Scottish Women’s Hospital to Foreign Services had been founded in 1914, providing nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, cooks and orderlies to what was to become four hospitals in Serbia…. The conditions in Serbia were beyond dire….the Serbian army had just 300 doctors for half a million men…. As well as battle injuries to contend with there was also a typhus epidemic affecting both the military and civilians alike…. However, in 1916 the volunteers were forced to leave after Serbia was finally invaded…. A hard resistance campaign had been fought against the invading Austrians but eventually starvation, disease and exhaustion were to take their toll in the winter of 1915 – Serbia could no longer hold out….

In August 1916 Evelina was dispatched to Serbia via Russia as ‘Head of Transport Column’ – she was in charge of an army of 75 women…. She was then later to co-found with Flora Sandes the ‘Evelina Haverfield’s and Flora Sandes’ Fund for Promoting Comforts for Serbian Soldiers and Prisoners’…. Back in England she raised awareness of the situation in Serbia….

Flora Sandes in Serbian Army uniform ca.1918 – Public domain

After the War Evelina and Vera travelled back to Serbia and they set up a children’s health centre and orphanage in the small mountain town of Bajina Bašta…. The centre was later to be named after her – and she was to receive the highest Serbian award….the Order of the White Eagle….

On the 21stof March 1920 Evelina died of pneumonia…. She was buried with full military honours of the cemetery in Bajina Bašta…. Shops and offices closed for the day and all the inhabitants of the town attended…. Her work was continued after her death – a British medical mission remained in Bajina Bašta until 1922; now a hospital stands in its place where a plaque commemorating Evelina Haverfield hangs…. She is still held in the highest esteem by the Serbian people….

Evelina Haverfield on a 2015 Serbian postage stamp – Post of Serbia – Public domain

On her death Evelina left Vera £50 a year for life in her Will – even though it was contested by the man who was still legally her husband….

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