Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sarah Macnaughtan's Soup Kitchens on the Western Front in WW1

Following on from my post about Sarah on 25th January 2015, I have been reading Sarah's account of her wartime experiences in Flanders and en route to Russia.  British writer Sarah Macnaughtan was described by one of the British nurses who had volunteered to help in Flanders as being " a delicate little woman, highly strung and nervous". 

Nevertheless, Sarah who had volunteered as an orderly with the Red Cross at the outbreak of war, horrified at the plight of the Belgian and French wounded soldiers that she witnessed, set up and ran soup kitchens for them in Flanders during WW1.   I really do admire those Inspirational Women of WW1 and cannot praise them highly enough.   Many of them, like Sarah, were able to help both financially and physically.  

Today I am reading of how Sarah got a representative from Harrods to visit her to discuss the supply of horse-boxex converted into travelling kitchens:

8th November 1914 in a letter to Clementine Wearing in Edinburgh requesting her help : "I want some travelling-kitchens and have opened  the subject with Mr Burbidge of Harrods' Stores."  

Harrods apparently supplied just such a converted horse box to Millicent Sutherland (one of the Female Poets of the First World War) for her hospital in St. Malo.   These kitchens cost £15 each (which would be about £3,000 today). Sarah wanted to be able to prepare vegetables for making soup and needed "a copper for boiling the soup, a chimney, a place for fuel and a strong box to hold the vegetables whose top would serve as a table". 

The cross-Channel ferry S.S.  "Invicta" made regular Channel crossings from Admiralty Pier, Dover and carried Red Cross supplies free of charge.  It seems that "Invicta" survived the war, in spite of near misses during those hazardous journeys.  Sarah described one such escape on 2nd November 1914 : "The "Invicta" got in late because the "Hermes" had been torpedoed and they had gone to her assistance.  No doubt the torpedo was intended for the "Invicta".

After her death in 1916, Sarah's niece published her diaries under the title "My War Experiences in Two Continents" by S. Macnaughtan, edited by Betty Keays-Young and published in 1919 by John Murray, London.   This is available as a download and I urge you to read it.

Sarah McNaughton's "My War Experiences in Two Continents" is available as a download free on

Matilda Emily Clark's "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital" is available as a download free on

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