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.
Explore more memories from the ribbon
Fred, the fourth child of five to Ned and Ann Shaw, was born around 1884 at Slaithwaite near Huddersfield. His father Ned was a railway signal man and part time photographer. Two of Fred’s brothers would emigrate to Canada before the Great War began. Fred trained as a journeyman tailor and travelled to seek employment. Whilst in the Hawes district he met and married a girl from Hawes, Mary Elizabeth Blades, in November 1909. Fred enlisted in Hawes in June 1916, joining the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Fred went to France in September 1916. Private Fred Shaw was killed on the first day of The Battle of Messines on the 7th June 1917 aged 33. Fred’s body was never found and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres. Sadly, just four and a half months after his father died, their son Jimmy died aged 5.
Submitted by Robert Amis. Captain Henry Amis (Robert’s grandfather) was commissioned into the 5th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant on 12 March 1915, Henry Amis transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Family legend has it that 2Lt Amis was prone to crashing, which may account for his transfer back to the Yorkshire Regiment. The then Captain Amis was again serving with the 5th Battalion when on 28 October 1917 he was wounded and evacuated, suffering from the effects of mustard gas. Once he had recovered, he returned to the front line where he faced Germany’s final throw of the dice, the so called ‘Kaiser’s battle’ which was unleashed on 21 March 1918. Henry and the 5th battalion were in the thick of the fighting; trying to hold back the German advance. On 27 May 1918 he, along with 24 other officers and 638 Other Ranks, was declared missing. Amongst the papers donated to the museum by Robert is the diary of Captain Amis’ girlfriend, Dorothy Beckton. On 10 June 1918 she wrote… ‘Telegram saying my H G missing. I felt a sort of stunned at first…A horrible time of despondency, but there is really no need. I think my darling boy is almost sure to be a prisoner in Germany. It is rather heavy waiting but as soon as I can hear that he is safe, will be alright. And we shall be able to make up afterwards. I hope they will treat the dear old…
Jennifer Bullen visited the museum to show us the memorial plaque to Lt Henry Stanley Tempest Bullen, her father-in-laws elder brother. Harry Bullen of ‘D’ Battery, 251st Brigade of the Royal Field Arilltery was Killed in Action on 14th April 1917 during the Battle of Arras (an action launched in support and as a diversionary action to the larger French offensive on the Chemin des Dames). He died at the age of 20 and is buried south of Arras at Beaurains Road Cemetery, which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. His mother, Edith Bullen lived in Gosforth, Northumberland. A memorial window to Lt Bullen was erected in St Nicholas Church, Gosforth following the war.