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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Submitted by Andrew Fynn. William John Blore was my Great Grandfather and was born in Leeds in 1877. He enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment as a private in July 1894. His initial service was in India with the 2nd Battalion, during which his daughter Louisa Doris tragically died. More tragedy ensued in 1906 as his wife died after giving birth to his daughter Kathleen at Richmond. He did re-marry and seems to have left the army prior to 1909 when he was known to be a postman. As his military record is lost it’s unclear how he came to be back in service so we assume he must have volunteered and became part of the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (the Green Howards) in August 1914 as Company Sergeant-Major. On 3 July 1915, the 6th Battalion sailed from Liverpool on board the Aquitania, bound for the Dardanelles campaign. On 6 August 1915, the 6th Battalion embarked for Gallipoli and the landing and attack at Suvla Bay. At 23.00 hrs, following the landing at Suvla Bay, he was part of the attack on Lala Baba Hill, the first ‘Kitchener unit’ to be involved in a major offensive operation of the war. The attack eventually cleared the hill of the Turks but not before they inflicted serious casualties on the attackers which, unfortunately, included William, only hours into his first action. His body wasn’t found in the aftermath of the action and he is commemorated at the Helles memorial. His role at Gallipoli…
Maud Florence Hoare Maud was living in Ashford in Middlesex when she enrolled as a VAD for the British Red Cross. She joined in January 1915 and was stationed at the Military Hospital Catterick Camp. Maud spent approximately a year at Catterick Camp. Stationed from 15th January 1918 until the 9th of February 1919. This information, provided by Alathea Anderssohn has been drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ archive.
Philip Mayne was the last surviving British officer from World War One to die. He died at the age of 107 years and 139 days at a care hostel in Richmond, North Yorkshire in 2007. Philip’s war service was was brief and he never saw any action. However he was the last verteran to die who held the rank of officer. This happened thanks to a cadetship into the Royal Engineers which meant he was fast-tracked to second lieutenant — the lowest officer rank — in September 1918 at the age of just 18. The war ended six weeks later and he was demobilised on Christmas Eve 1918 without having set foot in France. Following the war he studied at Cambridge and became an engineer. With a birth date of 22 November 1899, Mr Mayne was alive in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. At his death he had three children, eight grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren.