IT was her attempt at helping to treat the sick and dying at the outbreak of World War One.

Doctor Elsie Inglis was a well-known doctor and active suffragette in Edinburgh, founding several hospitals and at the outbreak of war in 1914, she wrote to the War Office offering her services as a doctor to the frontline.

Like many other women she believed her skills could be of assistance to the war effort and offered her help and her ideas for mobile hospital units, staffed entirely by women to the War Office only to be told “My good lady, go home and sit still”.

So Dr Inglis decided that, given the backing of the suffrage societies, she would set up her own female hospital units. Very quickly the Belgians, the French, and particularly the Serbs all accepted their help.

She was taken as a prisoner of war in Serbia, and the women had to endure the Serbian retreat after the country was invaded. It was dangerous but revolutionary work.

The hospital units were staffed entirely by women – from surgeons, doctors and nurses, down to cooks, drivers and clerks.

Her unfailing support for the people of Serbia led her to become the first woman awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the country’s highest honour.

It’s now kept in Surgeon’s Hall Museum in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Women’s Hospitals also coped with the worst typhus epidemic in history, with 150,000 killed, as well as typhoid, cholera, and the catastrophic injuries of trench warfare.

Her group of Scottish women helped treat an estimated 200,000 Allied soldiers, and most served as pioneers for the role of women in frontline medicine.

Now some of her family are returning to the capital on Sunday for a special memorial service to Dr Inglis on the 100th anniversary of her death.

Among them will be Tony Waterston, from St Andrews who is a great great nephew of Dr Inglis.

He said: "Elsie’s most admirable qualities were her unwavering commitment to her principals, her unwillingness to be treated differently than

"As an early indication of her determination, when Elsie was a child growing up in Edinburgh she and her friends were desperate to play in a private garden near the school.

She was told that if she wished to play in the garden she would have to seek permission from 29 residences in the square surrounding it. This was done in a bid to put her off the idea, but the effect was quite the opposite, with Elsie marching round all 29 houses and asking politely if she and her friends might play in the garden. The answer of course was yes."

Elsie Inglis was born in Naini Tal, India to Scottish parents.

Her father was employed by the East India Company and the family returned to Edinburgh in 1878 when Elsie was 14.

Her parents unusually believed at the time that both boys and girls should have equal access to education and were supportive of her decision to study medicine.

Women won the right to obtain medical degrees in 1876 and when the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women was opened in 1886 she decided to study there, graduating in 1892.

Elsie focussed on assisting those most in need of medical care, mainly the poor of Edinburgh and in particular women.

In 1894 she established the ‘Nursing Home for Working Women’ in George Square with her colleague Dr Jessie MacGregor.

The site was moved in 1904 to the High Street in the city centre to allow for greater access for women in need.

Her work in the community made her more aware of the greater need for rights for women.

She became an active suffragette and was both Honorary Secretary of Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage and then Honorary Secretary for the Scottish Federation of Suffrage Societies.

Dr Inglis travelled Britain giving talks to help raise the much needed funds for the units, criticising the response she received from the War Office by exclaiming “The need is there, and too terrible to allow haggling about who does the work.”

Writing to ambassadors of Belgium, France and Russia, Elsie received a much more positive response to the SWH and with the funds raised from suffrage societies across the country.

Seventeen Scottish Women’s Hospitals were set up across France, Corsica, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia to treat soldiers, as well as a number of satellite hospitals and dressing stations.

Of the near 1,500 personnel, only 20 were men and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals served the war effort from 1914 to 1919 and were not formally disbanded until 1925.

All the staff were repatriated back to Britain after becoming Prisoners of War but Elsie died of cancer one day after her ship arrived at Newcastle upon Tyne on 26 November 1917. She lay in state at St Giles and is buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

She never got to vote, or to see the end of the war, but the Serbs treasure her memory.

Indeed there is a saying in Serbia about her that says: "In Scotland they made her a Doctor, In Serbia we would have made her a Saint.”

To mark the centenary a private ceremony will be held at her grave in the Dean Cemetery on Sunday and a larger ceremony will take place in St Giles Cathedral on November 29, 100 years to the day of her funeral there.

Amateur historian Alan Cumming has been researching the story of Elsie and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for four years after coming across a commemorative plaque at a football match in Serbia.

He said: "It is very appropriate that we remember on the centenaries of her death and her funeral, the amazing achievements of Elsie and her 1500 colleagues that served with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.”