Brief mention is made in “Arras North” of the Duchess of Sutherland and her important commitment to hospital work during the Great War, for which she duly received the Belgian Royal Red Cross, the British Red Cross Medal and the French Croix de Guerre. On the outbreak of war she immediately organized a field ambulance, taking it to the Belgian town of Namur where she and her team worked until the Germans captured the town on the 25th August following a short siege. She later wrote about her experiences there in her book: “Six weeks at the War”. After Namur, she returned briefly to England, but within weeks she was back in France where she went on to run No.9 British Red Cross Hospital.
She had been born into a privileged background in 1867 and was the daughter of the 4th Earl of Rosslyn. As well as being a socialite, she was also a writer and something of a philanthropist, but in all areas of her life she was a woman of formidable energy and independence who was not afraid to use her social connections to achieve her aims. Above all, she knew how to get things done, she was determined of mind and was also very persuasive and intelligent. She was married three times, the first occasion being when she was just 17 years old to the 4th Duke of Sutherland, who unfortunately died in 1913. Her other two marriages ended in divorce. She was living in Angers when France fell to the Germans in 1940. She was interned, but managed to escape and made her way to the United States via Spain and Portugal. After the war she returned to her beloved France where she lived until her death in 1955. Later, her ashes were taken to Dunrobin Castle, the family seat of the Dukes of Sutherland.
She was painted by the artist John Singer Sargent in 1904, and the French artist, Victor Tardieu, did a series of oil paintings depicting scenes at her field hospital at Bourbourg during the summer of 1915. She was one of a number of women from similar privileged backgrounds who devoted their time and energy to the running of hospital facilities in France during the war. No.1 British Red Cross Hospital was known as the Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital, No. 5 British Red Cross Hospital was known as Lady Hadfield’s Hospital, and No.10 British Red Cross Hospital also went by the name of Lady Murray’s Hospital.