The Cellar-House of Pervyse

Mairi Chisholm (1896 - 1981) and Elsie Knocker (1884 - 1978)

Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker were two British nurses and ambulance drivers whose staggeringly heroic efforts during World War I saved countless lives and earned them life-long honor. They were especially known for their determination to treat wounded soldiers on the front lines instead of transporting them at great risk to "safer" hospital facilities, even though many of their actions went directly contrary to official bureaucratic regulations. In November of 1914, they took the step for which they are most famous. They decided to leave the corps and set up their own dressing station five miles east in a town named Pervyse, north of Ypres, just one hundred yards from the trenches. Here, in a vacant cellar which they named the "Poste de Secours Anglais" ("British First Aid Post"), the two would spend the next three and a half years aiding the wounded in the Belgian sector. Knocker gave most of the medical attention, while Chisholm transported the injured, often in terrible conditions and under fire, to a base hospital 15 miles away. No longer affiliated with the Belgian Red Cross, they were forced to raise their own funds. With donations they arranged for the cellar to be reinforced with concrete and even have a steel door fitted, supplied by Harrods. Through sheer perseverance Knocker was able to arrange for the two of them to be officially seconded to the Belgian garrison stationed there. Equipped with cameras, both women photographed not only each other but also much of the suffering around them. In January 1915, they were rewarded for their courageous work on the front lines when they were both decorated by King Albert I of Belgium with the Order of LĂ©opold II, Knights Cross. In this account, Geraldine Edith Mitton has acted as more than an editor; she has taken the muddy journals and "home letters" of "the Two" (as she continually and reverently refers to Knocker and Chisholm) and created out of them a lucid, eloquent, and coherent story of two heroic individuals doing their part on the Western Front. (Wikipedia (edited & supplemented by Expatriate))

Genre(s): War & Military, Memoirs

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 00 Note by G.E. Mitton Expatriate
Play 01 I. The Start Expatriate
Play 02 II. In the Thick of a Battle Expatriate
Play 03 III. The Field of Mercy Expatriate
Play 04 IV. The Retreat Expatriate
Play 05 V. On the Road Expatriate
Play 06 VI. Gipsy & the Major Expatriate
Play 07 VII. A Hideous Night Drive Expatriate
Play 08 VIII. The Great Idea Expatriate
Play 09 IX. The Cellar-House Expatriate
Play 10 X. Varied Life in Pervyse (1) Expatriate
Play 11 X. Varied Life in Pervyse (2) Expatriate
Play 12 XI. The End of 1914 Expatriate
Play 13 XII. Waiting for Attack Expatriate
Play 14 XIII. Shelled Out Expatriate
Play 15 XIV. The Steenkerke Hut Expatriate
Play 16 XV. Enter Romance Expatriate