Mabel St Clair Stobart: a WW1 phenomenon.

Mabel St Clair Stobart is one of those women I had in mind when I wrote, ‘What the horses heard’. The exhibition about her in Dorchester Museum has just come to an end. The amazing photos trace her intrepid journey from the tented field hospital she established near the front line and the relentless 250 mile trek through the Albanian mountains to her final escape from Scutari. Already in her mid-fifties, she travelled to Serbia with female doctors and nuimagerses whom she had recruited and trained to help the war effort. Her story is exceptional, not only for the adventures she experienced – in 1914 she had been arrested by the Germans and sentenced to be shot as a spy – but because she was motivated by bettering the lot of women. A supporter of the Suffragette movement, Stobart believed that women should earn the vote by demonstrating that they were as valuable to society as men. She led her mission to Serbia in the face of opposition and yet managed to raise the money for no less than 7 motor-ambulances. Yes, motor ones!image
The photographs of Stobart’s adventures are graphic and do not flinch from the horrors of war, featuring the dead and dying, the terribleconditions. Despite everything, she only lost one member of her team who died of typhus.
Having learned what I could I am almost ready if and when the WI ever invite me to talk to them about ‘Remarkable Women of WW1′ as I have gone through the dreaded audition to get on their official Speakers’ List. But now you can see some of the pics, too. The Serbian army made her a Major! by the way, another English woman called Flora Sandes served as a combatant in the Serbian army and was made a Sergeant. And she does get mentioned in’What the horses heard’.

These photos themselves are also remarkable and we couldn’t think who could have carried the huge camera on the retreat through the mountains.

imageimage imageimage imageMy friend said you could insert the word Syria.


About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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3 Responses to Mabel St Clair Stobart: a WW1 phenomenon.

  1. Thanks for this article – really fascinating. The photographs particularly – cameras were certainly not easy things to carry around. My aunt Florrie (Florence, but we called her Florrie) and not my ‘real’ aunt but a good friend of my mum, was a frontline nurse in WW1 – she was about ten years older than my mum which would have made her only about 20 when she went. She was a heroine of mine when I was a kid – somewhere I have a sepia photo of her. She talked little about the First World War but a lot about the men she nursed following WW2 at Stoke Mandeville where she became a Sister. What a strong woman she was too. She made me want to be a nurse but my dad clamped down on that one. Dads could do that 😦 Florrie never married and I told her i never would 🙂 whoops!!!! I used to love visiting her – she was such an unusual woman at that time. I wish this exhibition had been on for longer as I am in Dorchester for three days at the start of December – shame – would love to have seen it. Thanks Becky for such a revealing post – I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful speaker and do all these women justice.

  2. Wow, thank you for your enthusiastic response, Val. And great to hear about Florrie. I was sad the exhibition was ending and asked what was going to happen to the photos but they said they would get distributed around. The old photos had been blown up very clearly so they must have been very high quality. I read somewhere that Kodak had them on display in their offices towards the end of the Great War. Anyway, sorry you will miss it.

  3. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Thanks Becky. Glad you took photos of the photos – there’s good detail when enlarged. Fascinating. Also enjoyed Valerie’s story about ‘Florrie’.

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