Saturday, 17 May 2014

Women Warriors - The Lovely Sergeant

I was chatting to a friend who has a huge interest in military matters, and the conversation came round to women who have fought in battles.
"Oh, yes - The Lovely Sergeant!" he said.

Her name was Flora Sandes, and she was the only Western woman to fight in the First World War - for the Serbian army!
She started off, fairly conventionally, as a nurse, and she worked her way from a military hospital near Belgrade to a field ambulance unit, and while out with the army she got the approval of her commanding officer to enlist as a private. By 1916, she had won the Star of Karageorge, the Serbian army's highest award for bravery under fire, in an action where she was badly wounded by a grenade. She was also promoted to sergeant-major. At the end of the war (she served until 1922) she was promoted again, to Captain.
She stayed in Serbia after the war - and was still there at the beginning of the Second World War. She and her husband, a White Russian general in exile called Yudi Yudenitch, were recalled to military service, but the German invasion was over before they could do anything. They were briefly interned by the Germans, and Yudi died.
Flora lived until 1956, though, and moved back to England after the War.
She wrote a book, An English Woman-Sergeant in the Serbian Army, in 1916, to raise funds for the Serbian army, and went on lecture tours after the war. The Lovely Sergeant was her biography, by Alan Burgess.

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