The uncharitable historians believe that she had intended to sell her story to the newspapers as much for the self-publicity as for the money, although it would have been nothing like the astronomical sums paid these days. If you need money for your own project, you should check for the options that online lenders offer –loans and consolidations plans are available, learn more how to consolidate student loans sallie mae. So she had to content herself with writing her autobiography after the war, telling the full story of her escapade. Dorothy Lawrence’s story makes fascinating reading, whatever your view might be of her motives.
The only British woman who actually fought on the battlefield was Flora Sandes and she fought for another country – Serbia (or Servia as this Balkan ally was sometimes described in those days). Flora was born in 1876, the daughter of Samuel Sandes, a clergyman who is sometimes said to have been Irish and sometimes Scottish – no-one seems to quite know. What is certain is that she came from Poppleton, near York. Flora had originally been a member of a Red Cross ambulance unit that had gone out to Serbia just after the outbreak of war in August 1914.
Serbia’s armed forces were in dire trouble: they were being attacked from the north by the Germans and Austrians and from the east by Bulgaria. They could not retreat south because their way was blocked by another old enemy, Greece. The only escape route left open to them was to fall back towards the Adriatic coast through the Albanian mountains, where they were suffering heavy casualties. After a long spell of nursing the wounded under the most difficult conditions, Flora eventually decided that enough was enough, took off her Red Cross brassard and joined the Serbian 2nd Infantry Regiment as a private.
She saw a lot of action, proved to be an excellent soldier and was promoted to Corporal and then Sergeant. Quite badly wounded by a grenade, Flora was evacuated to a base hospital where she became something of a celebrity and was visited by no less a person than the aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent, later King Alexander of Serbia. He had brought with him the Kara George Star, Serbia’s highest decoration for bravery for other ranks, which carried with it an automatic promotion to Sergeant Major.
Having recovered from her injuries, this remarkable woman returned to her regiment and was commissioned as a Lieutenant during the final stages of the war in August 1918. She served on until 1922, when she married a former White Russian general, Yuri Yudenich. After the revolution he could obviously not return to Russia, so they settled in Serbia where Flora remained a Captain in the army reserve. In 1939 she was recalled to the colours at over 60 years of age!
She remained in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, throughout the war and was twice arrested by the Germans. A widow by the end of the war, she was flown back to England by the RAF. Flora settled in Suffolk, where she died in 1956 at the grand old age of 80 – one very tough lady.
In 1916, to raise funds for the Serbian Army, Flora Sandes published her diary as An English-woman Sergeant in the Serbian Army. There are extracts from this and much more about her in Kate Adie’s latest book, Corsets to Camouflage: Women and War. When I heard Kate Adie speak last year it was plain that she saw Flora Sandes as something of a hero.