Almina, Countess of Carnarvon's Years of Usefulness
ALMINA CARNARVON AT WAR
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, took place on 28 June 1914. Within a few weeks Britain was plunged into war with all its gruesome consequences.
At the spark of Almina, Countess of Carnarvon, Highclere Military Hospital, complete with operating theatre and recovery room, opened its doors soon after Britain declared war against Germany in August.
Similar offers of using private homes and other buildings for hospital purposes had poured into the Admiralty and War Office. The Duke of Sutherland suggested his home at Dunrobin Castle in the Highlands be used as a surgical base for the North Sea Fleet. Lord Northcliffe put Elmswood, Broadstairs at the disposal of the Government.
Almina Carnarvon’s guardian, Alfred de Rothschild allowed army huts to be erected on his Buckinghamshire Estate at Halton. In the Scottish Borders, Lady Evie Miller of Manderston, ( sister of Lord Curzon ), converted the Cottage Hospital at St Abbs, Berwickshire for wounded servicemen .
Almina Carnarvon’s wisdom at converting her home at Highclere Castle into a hospital placed her in good company. Another Society woman taking stock was Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland, notable grandee-hostess, who, along with her sister Lady Angela Forbes, help set up the “ giant hospital city”, with the Red Cross at Etaples, in Northern France.
These two women ( members of the St Clair-Erskine family of the Earls of Rosslyn) also mobilised ambulances and canteens for the Front Line. These efforts were boldly supported with provisions from Harrods paid for by Alfred de Rothschild. Nellie Hozier, Winston Churchill’s sister- in-law, was another woman quick off the mark, she gathered funds and proceeded with a doctor, a matron and a band of nurses, to establish a hospital in Belgium, which was only ended when she was detained by the Germans.
The following four years of bloody war especially changed the life of Almina Carnarvon, forever. These were, in her own words, her " years of usefulness".
The full story of Almina at War is contained in “ The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon”, her biography by William Cross, FSA Scot, and also ( with more coverage on the subject ) in a new book all about the succession of Lady Carnarvon’s Hospitals and Nursing Homes, from 1914-1943.
The new book on Lady Carnarvon's hospitals and nursing homes is being compiled by the same author, and will be available from 15 October 2011.
Copyright William Cross, FSA Scot