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Fanny Goes to War   By: (1900-)

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To T.H.


I eagerly avail myself of the Author's invitation to write a foreword to her book, as it gives me an opportunity of expressing something of the admiration, of the wonder, of the intense brotherly sympathy and affection almost adoration which has from time to time overwhelmed me when witnessing the work of our women during the Great War.

They have been in situations where, five short years ago, no one would ever have thought of finding them. They have witnessed and taken active part in scenes nerve racking and heart rending beyond the power of description. Often it has been my duty to watch car load after car load of severely wounded being dumped into the reception marquees of a Casualty Clearing Station. There they would be placed in long rows awaiting their turn, and there, amid the groans of the wounded and the loud gaspings of the gassed, at the mere approach of a sister there would be a perceptible change and every conscious eye would brighten as with a ray of fresh hope. In the resuscitation and moribund marquees, nothing was more pathetic than to see "Sister," with her notebook, stooping over some dying lad, catching his last messages to his loved ones.

Women worked amid such scenes for long hours day after day, amid scenes as no mere man could long endure, and yet their nerves held out; it may be because they were inspired by the nature of their work. I have seen them, too, continue that work under intermittent shelling and bombing, repeated day after day and night after night, and it was the rarest thing to find one whose nerves gave way. I have seen others rescue wounded from falling houses, and drive their cars boldly into streets with bricks and debris flying.

I have also, alas! seen them grievously wounded; and on one occasion, killed, and found their comrades continuing their work in the actual presence of their dead.

The free homes of Britain little realise what our war women have been through, or what an undischarged debt is owing to them.

How few now realise to what a large extent they were responsible for the fighting spirit, for the morale , for the tenacity which won the war! The feeling, the knowledge that their women were at hand to succour and to tend them when they fell raised the fighting spirit of the men and made them brave and confident.

The above qualities are well exemplified by the conduct and bearing of our Authoress herself, who, when grievously injured, never lost her head or her consciousness, but through half an hour sat quietly on the road side beside the wreck of her car and the mangled remains of her late companion. Rumour has it that she asked for and smoked a cigarette.

Such heroism in a young girl strongly appealed to the imagination of our French and Belgian Allies, and two rows of medals bedeck her khaki jacket.

Other natural qualities of our race, which largely helped to win the war, are brought out very vividly, although unconsciously, in this book, e.g. the spirit of cheerfulness; the power to forget danger and hardship; the faculty of seeing the humorous side of things; of making the best of things; the spirit of comradeship which sweetened life.

These qualities were nowhere more evident than among the F.A.N.Y. Their esprit de corps , their gaiety, their discipline, their smartness and devotion when duty called were infectious, almost an inspiration to those who witnessed them.

Throughout the war the "Fannys" were renowned for their resourcefulness. They were always ready to take on any and every job, from starting up a frozen car to nursing a bad typhoid case, and they rose to the occasion every time.

H.N. THOMPSON, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., Major General .

Director of Medical Services, British Army of the Rhine... Continue reading book >>

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