The death of Lady Harley

Lady Harley, the sister of Sir John French, was killed in Bitola, Serbia, on 17 March 1917. The New Mosquito issue 17 (April 2008) contained an article – Lady Harley and her Gravestone in Two Languages – by Philp Barnes. This is an extract from the article giving the circumstances of Lady Harley’s death and subsequent burial.

In January 1917, Lady Harley resigned as Head of the Motor Transport Unit [of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals]. With her daughters, Edith and Florence, she moved forward to Bitola. They selected a suitable, large, empty house and – at Lady Harley’s own expense – set it up as an orphanage for more than eighty children. On 17 March 1917 a shell landed near the house. A minute fragment of shell flew through an open window near where Lady Harley was sitting and struck her in the middle of the forehead. She died instantly.

Her body, in its coffin, was taken to Salonika. For some days it was kept in a small marquee, so that personalities of various nations, ranks and professions could pass through and pay their respects. By this time, a ground in Salonika had been set aside as an Allied Military Cemetery and a
few days later she was buried there with great ceremony. Some four months later (July 1917), the Serbian Military Command brought a large
gravestone with a Serbian and an English script, side by side. The stone was placed on the grave, once again with many senior personalities present.

The English version says:

On your tomb, instead of flowers
The gratitude of the Serbs shall blossom
For your wonderful acts your name shall
Be known from generation to generation.

The grave of Lady Harley in the Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery. Photograph by Robin Braysher, April 2016.
The grave of Lady Harley in the Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery. Photograph by Robin Braysher, April 2016.

Author: SCS Web Editor

Robin Braysher joined the SCS in 2003 and soon after became editor of the Society's journal, 'The New Mosquito', a role he held until 2008. He then became the Society's web editor, a role he seems unable to shake off. His interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Fred, who served as a cyclist with the BSF from 1915-1917, mainly in the Struma valley.