Evelina Haverfield hailed from a privileged background, born to William Frederick Scarlett, the 3rd Baron Abinger, and Helen Magruder, the daughter of a US Navy Commodore. She grew up between London and the family’s Inverlochy Estate, and was schooled in Dusseldorf, Germany.At the age of 19, she married Royal Artillery Officer, Major Henry Wykeham Brooke Tunstall and together they had two sons. Henry died 8 years later. She remarried John Henry Balguy, another Major, but this marriage was unhappy and they slowly drifted apart over the years despite remaining legally married.
Evelina was a British suffragette and an aid worker. In 1908, she affiliated herself with the militant suffragettes. She was arrested several times during her protests for obstructing and assaulting police. One such incident was at a WSPU demonstration in 1910 when she hit a police officer in the mouth – she later commented that ‘It was not hard enough. Next time I will bring a revolver.’ Evelina was evidently highly passionate about the cause, assuming violent methods of achieving her ends.
By the outbreak of World War One, she became concerned with how women could help in the event of an invasion of the UK. She helped to found the Women’s Emergency Corps. Evelina’s militant past dissipated in favour of a turn towards aid work. In 1915, she volunteered to go abroad with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals as a hospital administrator, providing medical care for wounded allied soldiers.
As part of her work, her unit drove around fighting areas in Serbia to collect wounded and exhausted soldiers. She earned a Russian military medal for her bravery in assisting these soldiers under non-step enemy fire on the eastern allied front. In 1916, she was forced to leave Serbia following the German invasion of the area. She returned to England, giving press interviews about the country’s situation. She remained in England under the Armistice in November 1918.
She did not discontinue her work despite these circumstances – whilst in the UK, she established a Fund for Promoting Comforts for Serbian Soldiers and Prisoners. Once the war was over, however, she did return to Serbia as Commissioner of the Serbian Red Cross Society in Great Britain. Evelina will always be remembered for her work in setting up an orphanage in Bajna Basta, an impoverished area which hosts numerous memorials to fallen soldiers. 100 orphans were placed in the home. One resident later commented, ‘My family was hovering between life and death when Mrs Haverfield arrived and brought me and other children to the converted café. She spent all her money on the children.’
The Great War provided experiences for Evelina that she might not have otherwise been afforded, and these experiences drove her later aid work post-war. Essential aid was carried out by these women off of the battlefield – they helped to win the war for the allies away from the immediate fighting.