Partner Edith Broughton Leigh
Newton Mansion House, Alves, Elgin IV30 8UT, UK
Aultnaskiach House, Aultnaskiach Rd, Inverness IV2, UK
Forres House, 26 Urquhart St, Forres IV36, UK
Duffus Cemetery Duffus, Moray, Scotland
Ethel Gordon Dunbar (March 16, 1876 - December 29, 1929) was a nurse during and after the World War I.
She was one of the Dunbars of Northfield, an old Morayshire family, being the third daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Arbuthnott Pery Byng Sutherland Dunbar (1847-1890), The Gordon Highlanders, and Catherina Hester Orred (1846-1915). She was born in Mooltan, Bengal, India, and appeared in the 1881 census of at Mansion House, Newton, at Alves, Morayshire in the household of her parents. She appeared in the 1901 census of at Aultnaskiaeh, Culduthel Road, at Inverness, Invernessshire in the household of her mother. In the 1911 census she appeared at Forres House, Urquhart Street, at Forres, Morayshire, living along with her governess Theresa Nina Barrett, senior of the six servant in residence.
After work in various branches of nursing, she devoted herself to mental cases and was so employed when the WWI broke out. She went out to France in the winter of 1914 to nurse in a French military hospital at Nice. From there she went to work among the French refugees with the Society of Friends, and was subsequently awarded the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise for her services during the whole period of the War, the official document recording that "elle' s'est signalee entre toutres par son abnegation et son devouement constants."
Volunteering in 1919 for service in Poland under the same society, she toiled with them to stem the tide of disease sweeping across Europe. When the appalling conditions of the prison camp at Bialystok became known she and a friend, Edith Broughton Leigh, came forward as volunteers in a desperate cause.
While waiting for the arrival of other members of a field unit several British Friends volunteered their services to the Red Cross. Two, Leigh and Dunbar, decided that they would like to undertake work in the prison camp at Bialystok. The conditions in this camp were deplorable. About 3,000 prisoners were quartered in the building, without fire, without blankets, with little food and practically no medical or nursing attention. Probably 80 per cent of the prisoners were sick chiefly with dysentery, typhus, and tuberculosis. The number dying each day varied from 30 to 50. These two women moved into a small building connected with the camp and worked day and night to relieve the situation. Both Dunbar and Leigh were reported ill with typhus. This was inevitable under the conditions, and the women understood it thoroughly when they undertook the work.
As soon as health permitted Dunbar started work again. Realizing that a knowledge of midwifery would be of great value in work among refugees, she studied and took her certificate in that branch. Returning to France she was again laid aside by an attack of pleurisy. When she was once more fairly well, the need of helpers among the refugees in Salonika decided both Leigh and Dunbar to go there. Finding it impossible to be medically passed as fit for foreign service, they went out together as independent workers, attaching themselves wherever help was most required. But the health of both began to fail. Leigh was the first to die, and Dunbar also contracted tuberculosis as the after-effects of the typhus which nearly killed her in Poland. She fought gallantly through nine years of failing health, working between each breakdown, and the last two years of invalid existence, spent in peace and surrounded by affection.
She died at Morayshire, Scotland, and is buried there.
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