Source and activity 5

Film clip: A field hospital on the front line, France, 1917

Photo of nurses carrying a stretcher
Field hospital, France, 1917.
Watch film clip on
Scotland on Screen website

This silent film clip from the Scottish Screen Archive shows daily life in a field hospital in Benevole, France.

It is one of the earliest true documentaries to be made.

Scottish Women's Hospitals

The Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH) were set up by Elsie Inglis. A physician and surgeon, she was also a leading figure in the women's suffrage movement in Scotland.

Fourteen field hospitals, staffed by women, were established to treat wounded soldiers in France, Serbia, and Russia.

Dr Inglis is one of the surgeons shown removing shrapnel from the leg of a wounded soldier in the film clip.

Suggested activities

Watch the 1917 film documentary about the Scottish Women's Field Hospital in France. Why do you think that this film documentary might have been made? Who might have been the intended audience?

What story is told in this documentary? Whose story isn't told? Try telling this story from another perspective. Who might you want to interview if you were putting this documentary together?

What aspects of the women's work are highlighted in the film? What are some of the challenges that the women face in this environment? 

Do you think that the documentary format is objective? Is it an accurate portrayal of daily life in the field hospital, or does it hide some of the realities of war from the audience?

Is there any evidence that the film-maker has a particular perspective on this subject? Consider the content choices, and the film-making and editing techniques used by the film-maker. 

What is your personal response to this film? How do you think that the audience might have reacted to this film at the time?

Does the lack of a sound track affect the impact of the film for a modern audience? If you were to add a soundtrack, would you choose to add music or a spoken commentary? What difference do you think this would make to the film?


Source and activity 6



Themes in focus — Women in the Great War


Find out more about women in the First World War in NLS collections

Search our catalogue for details of books about women's role in the First World War.


View list of material relating to Mairi Chisholm (PDF: 56 KB; 2 pages) in the military and naval papers collections at NLS.


Explore our web feature 'Experiences of War' web feature based on diaries and first-hand accounts.


View official photographs of the First World War .


Learn about the women's suffrage movement in Scotland in our online learning resource.


Visit Scotland on Screen to find film clips relating to the First World War and women at work.

NLS learning for you

If there's a topic you'd like more information about or if you have any suggestions for learning, email us.

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