Researched by John Mills. Flora Sandes was the only woman to officially fight on the front line during WW1, having joined the Serbian Army.
Flora was born on the 26th January 1876 in Nether Poppleton, near York, the youngest of eight children. From an early age she exhibited an adventurous nature, a real tomboy, somewhat surprising for the daughter of a vicar! At the aged of 9 the family moved to rural Suffolk. Even her middle class upbringing didn’t dull her desire for adventure. After school she trained as a stenographer in London and scrapped together all her money, and together with the proceeds of a legacy from an uncle she went off to see the world travelling to places like Egypt, Canada and America.
Flora was 38 years old when WW1 broke out and was living in London at the time. She enlisted as an Ambulance Service Volunteer and just 8 days later she was on her way to Serbia with the first volunteer unit to leave Britain. She worked in Military Hospitals and by October 1915 was fluent in the Serbian language. She eventually enlisted in the Serbian Army, one of the few countries in the world that accepted female soldiers. She soon made a name for herself, rising through the ranks to Sergeant within a year. It wasn’t just soldiering that Flora matched her male counterparts. She could hold her own racing cars, shooting, smoking and drinking.
She survived the front line fighting, received a terrible shrapnel wound in November 1916, and even the Spanish Flu. She received Serbia’s highest Military decoration, the ‘Order of the Star of Karadorde’. When the war ended Flora stayed in the Army until 1922. She married in 1927 to Yuri Yudenitch, a soldier 12 years her junior whom she had served with. They lived for a time in France before settling in Yugoslavia. In April 1941 when Germany invaded Yugoslavia Flora donned her uniform prepared to fight for the Yugoslav Army. She was 65 years old! Germany’s victory, however, was swift, just 11 days. Her husband died of heart failure the same year.
Flora was alone and penniless at the end of WW2. She moved to live with her nephew in Jerusalem and then to Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe). She eventually returned to Suffolk and died on the 24th November 1956 aged 80.
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Helen Bennett visited the museum to tell us about Gardner Kennedy. (William Robert) Gardner Kennedy was my paternal Irish Grandmother’s first cousin. He was the son of Mary and William Kennedy of Ardbana House Coleraine, Northern Ireland. His father had an engineering firm. He was my Irish Grandmother’s cousin. (Annie Morton McMillan of Turnagrove Co Antrim) There is a very strong familial likeness between Gardner Kennedy and his Turnagrove cousins, most of whom I knew. Gardner Kennedy died on the Swaben Redout on July 1st 1916 which is where his regiment the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers fought Reg no:18637. Lance Corporal, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, and on the Coleraine War memorial, although on the latter his Christian name is incorrectly spelt. He enlisted on 5th October 1915. His brother, Lieutenant John Alexander Kennedy, survived the war. However further tragedy struck the family on 2nd March 1917 when the Kennedy family lost their only daughter, Mary Boddie, wife of Geoffrey W Boddie. Comment: About 1959 or 1960 I visited Edie Kennedy who (I presume) was Gardner Kennedy’s sister law at Ardbana House, a splendid detached house full of faded elegance. I met Jack, Edie’s son who was a wild child, liked building his own racing cars. Of Edie, I remember only a little old lady, shrunken but lively, sitting regally amongst the faded and cluttered Second Empire furniture in front of a huge fireplace with…
Captain Thomas Ernest Dufty 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment Captain Dufty was born in on the 30th of June 1880. His father was Arthur Richard Sykes Dufty and his mother was called Katie. He was educated at Pocklington Grammar School. He joined the 5th Battalion in 1912 and became a lieutenant in June 1913. Prior to this his profession was as a banker and manager of the Bridlington branch of the London Joint Stock Bank. Dufty was promoted to Captain on the 18th of April 1915. He was reported as killed in action on or about the 19th of May 1915 (killed by a shell). His Battalion had been deployed to Sanctuary Wood (1.9 miles east of Ypres). He left a widow, Beatrice, and a 4-year-old son Arthur Richard. He is buried at the Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery in Belgium and commemorated at the Manor Road Cemetery Scarborough.
Fiona Hall, Communications and Retail Manager at the Green Howards Museum submitted this story about one of the most important women of the First World War (in fact of any) era. I’m intrigued by this local hero – a complex character. There’s not enough space here to describe the many achievements of Gertrude Bell, and that’s not the point of this entry. Although I do recommend you take some time to acquaint yourself with her if you are not already familiar with this fascinating woman – archaeologist, mountaineer, one of the first women to gain a degree at Oxford (a First in History) but an anti-suffrage campaigner, the first to work for British military intelligence, colleague of TE Lawrence, and also the first to write a government white paper. She was born in 1868 into the sixth richest family in England, the granddaughter of the industrialist Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, and lived in Redcar. When war broke out her request for a government posting to the Middle East was denied. Instead she volunteered with the Red Cross, taking charge of the missing and wounded office in Boulogne. Meanwhile her brother, Maurice, a career soldier and Boer War veteran was commanding the 4th Bn The Yorkshire Regiment on the western front. Imagine working in the environment Gertrude was working in- with the very possible chance she may have to ‘process’ information about the fate of her own brother. Maurice was in fact invalided home in 1916 and died in 1944. In…