Dorothy Lawrence the only woman to serve on the British frontline in WW1?, and others

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by Tricky Dicky, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I was watching the programme "War Horse at the Proms" tonight and saw something that made me want to search out the information to find out if it was true or not. Now I know its in the Daily Mail but -

    In Paris, in the high summer of 1915, Dorothy Lawrence – a young Englishwoman with more by way of courage and ambition than wealth or connections – turned herself into a Tommy.
    She flattened her hourglass curves with a home-made corset stuffed with cotton-wool, hacked off her long, brown hair and darkened her complexion with Condy’s Fluid, a disinfectant made from potassium permanganate. She even razored the pale skin of her cheeks in the hope of giving herself a shaving rash.
    In a borrowed military uniform she disguised the last vestiges of her female shape and found two British soldiers to teach her to walk like a man. She completed her transformation by forging her own bona fides and travel permits for war-ravaged France and caught a train to Amiens.
    And then Dorothy Lawrence, a cub reporter who hungered to be a war correspondent, cycled to Albert, the village known as the front of the Front, and joined the ranks of 179 Tunnelling Company, 51st Division, Royal Engineers, as they dug beneath no-man’s-land and across to German lines..............

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  2. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    This tale of an extraordinary woman was also in another WWI documentary I recently watched, the name of which escapes me at the moment (I have watched a fair few in the last few weeks)

  3. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day tricky dicky.very senior lawrence,the only women to serve on the frontline in ww1?if all that is true.she was treated badly by the authority.she was treated as the enemy,by today's standard the people who did that to her would be charged with deprivation of liberty and a lot more.i hope todays authority will give her the respect she deserved.may she rest in peace :poppy: :poppy:
  4. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    From the website of the Warwickshire Fusiliers, an early example of love conquering all, but the real motive for this lady seemed to be to get paid and fed.

    Hannah Snell (James Grey) 1723 - 1792

    At age seventeen, in 1740, Hannah’s parents died and she moved to Wapping, where she fell in love with a Dutch seaman, James Summs. After seven months of marriage, Summs went back to sea again. Nothing was heard from him but Hannah knew he would return. She convinced herself that he had been forced to join the Army or Navy against his will - a common enough occurrence in the eighteenth century. Not one to sit at home, Hannah decided to look for her husband. She bound her breasts and borrowed some of her brother-in-law’s clothing and set off dressed as a man.
    Hearing that troops were gathering to counter the Jacobite Rising in Scotland, she made her way to Coventry. Here were the Sixth Foot, newly returned from the West Indies after losing many soldiers to tropical illness and now recruiting to get back up to strength. The Regiment was then known as ‘Guise’s’ after the Colonel’s name and Hannah enlisted as ‘James Grey’ in Captain Miller’s Company.
    The Corporal who enlisted her was a rogue, as were so many recruiters, but it is probable that Hannah joined of her own free will, reasoning that at least she would be fed, paid and protected in her search for her husband. The army was moving north and the Sixth Foot marched to Carlisle, taking twenty-two days. Her disguise went unremarked and she set about learning how to handle her arms and perform drills properly. She was quick to learn and the company officers noticed her progress.
    One of her Sergeants, named Davis, set his sights on seducing or raping a girl in Carlisle and tried to enlist Hannah’s aid, practically ordering her to do so. Instead she warned the girl and, hearing of this, Sergeant Davis alleged ‘neglect of duty’ against Hannah. This was a serious offence and the punishment reflected it; she was sentenced to 600 lashes of the whip.
    This was a vicious but not uncommon punishment and the lash was vigorously laid on. Hannah was tied to the barrack gate, hiding her breasts and thus her disguise remained unsuspected. Although her flesh was torn and bleeding, she bore 500 lashes without a whimper. The officers admired her courage and the Commanding Officer cancelled the final 100 lashes.Having had no luck in the search for her husband, and recognising a recruit as a former neighbour from Wapping, she deserted and made for Portsmouth. Here again she enlisted, this time into Frazer's Regiment of Marines which was about to leave for the East Indies. Here she saw action at Pondicherry, killing several Frenchmen before being wounded herself.
    She escaped the discovery of her sex by operating on herself and removing a musket ball from her groin. Declared unfit for marine's duty she now served as a deck hand. Still searching for her husband, she finally met a man who told her that James Sums had been executed for murder in Genoa.
    When her ship eventually returned to London, she returned to her sister in Wapping. However, her story became known and she was referred to as ‘the heroic marine of Pondicherry’. The Duke of Cumberland ordered her to wear men's clothes. To earn a living she went on the stage and then leased a tavern, naming it ‘The Widow in Masquerade, or the Female Warrior’.
    With a Sovereign’s grant of £30 a year for life she lived more comfortably than when on the march to Carlisle. In 1792 this brave and unusual woman died, her portrait being hung in Chelsea Hospital.
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  5. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member
    Flora Sandes (22 January 1876 – 24 November 1956) was the only British woman officially to serve as a soldier in World War I. Initially a St. John Ambulance volunteer, she travelled to Serbia, where, in the confusion of war, she was formally enrolled in the Serbian army. She was subsequently promoted to the rank of Sergeant major, and, after the war, to Captain.
    Notable individuals.
    1914: Dorothy Lawrence disguised herself as a man in order to become an English soldier in the First World War
    1914 : Maria Bochkareva Russian: Мария Леонтьевна Бочкарева, née Frolkova, nicknamed Yashka, was a Russian woman who fought in World War I and formed the Women's Battalion of Death.
    1914 : Flora Sandes, an English woman, joined a St. John Ambulance unit in Serbia and subsequently became an officer in the Serbian army.
    1914: British nurse Edith Cavell helped treat injured soldiers, of both sides, in German-occupied Belgium. Executed in 1915 by the Germans for helping British soldiers escape Belgium.
    1914: Olena Stepaniv, a Ukrainian officer of Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Was the first woman to receive officer rank in the world.
    1915: French artist Madame Arno organized a regiment of Parisian women to fight the Germans.
    1915: Olga Krasilnikov, a Russian woman, disguised herself as a man and fought in nineteen battles in Poland. She received the Cross of St. George.
    1915: Russian woman Natalie Tychmini fought the Austrians at Opatow in World War I, while disguised as a man. She received the Cross of St. George.
    1916: Ecaterina Teodoroiu was a Romanian heroine who fought and died in World War I.
    1916: Milunka Savić, Serbian war hero,and the most decorated female fighter in the history of warfare, awarded with the French Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) twice, Russian Cross of St. George, English medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal. She is the sole female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) with the palm attribute.
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  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Well found CommanderChuff - that expands the thread somewhat

  7. Doc

    Doc Senior Member

    There were actually quite a few, though probably not in the UK forces. In addition to those mentioned by CDR Chuff, don't forget Marie Marvingt of France who served on the front lines as a "Chasseur 2nd class" (private) until caught by the staff and sent home. Dorothy Lawrence was one of a few, but certainly not the only one.
  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Thanks for that Doc - I suppose to be more precise I should perhaps revise the title to only UK frontline female soldier, but the way the thread is going I think it will turn out OK - and hopefully it will act as a reference point for the future.

  9. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria. Patron

    Hi Paul this is doing my head in I also watched the programme but can I remember which one, can I buggery ?

  10. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria. Patron

    Got it but unfortunately no video link. Dorothy was mentioned in Episode 1
  11. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Michael that's the one.

  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

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  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Read that earlier and was looking for any info

    England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
    Name: Flora Sand?
    [Flora Sandes]
    Registration Year: 1876
    Registration Quarter: Apr-May-Jun
    Registration district: Great Ouseburn
    Parishes for this Registration District: View Ecclesiastical Parishes associated with this Registration District
    Inferred County: Yorkshire West Riding
    Volume: 9a
    Page: 99

    Flora Sandes
    Birth: 22 Jan 1876 - Yorkshire, England
    Death: 24 Nov 1956 - Suffolk, England
    Marriage: 14 May 1927 - Paris, France
    Spouse: Yurie Vladimirovitch Yudenitch
    F: Samuel Dickson Sandes
    M: Sophia Julia Besnard


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  14. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

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    The Gloucester Citizen 20th August 1934 published her obituary 22 years before she died??

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    Attached Files:

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