Thursday, 21 August 2014

Florence Esther Benoy (1892 - 1918) - a 'Worker' (Private) in the QMAAC

In this commemorative project I aim to remember as many women as possible from the First World War.  Today's post is about a young lady - Florence Esther Bennoy - who volunteered to join the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps.


We tend to think of women in the early 1900s, depending on their station in life, as either working long hours in factories and mills, working as governesses or staying at home embroidering, playing the piano, painting and writing poetry.   The rise of the Suffragette Movement brought women of all walks of life together in a common cause.   The First World War gave women a chance to show their worth in a variety of different ways as the Suffragette movement put their plans on hold and threw themselves into supporting the war.   After all, what was the point of having the vote if you had no country to vote in?   


As the war progressed, the need to utilise the services of women for duties other than fighting became evident, in spite of initial reluctance on the part of the authorities to enlist the help of women. 

The volunteer Corps known as The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) came into being in 1917, following a call made by Lt. General H. Lawson who suggested that women could be used for non combative work in France.  By 1918, it was estimated that of the 57,000 women in the Corps, around 6,000 of them were serving in France.  The Corps was officially renamed the QMAAC in April 1918 but this title was not generally adopted and the WAACs name continued. Women were employed to carry out a number of duties such as cooking and catering, storekeeping, clerical work, telephone work and administration, printing, driving and motor vehicle maintenance. These were non nursing roles, designed to free up men so that they could fight.

Florence Esther Benoy was born in Hackney in 1892.  We do not know much about her except that she travelled to Warrington to enlist in the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) and held the rank of 'Worker', which was equivalent to the rank of Private, and that she would have been serving on the battlefields in France. Conditions were just as harsh for the women as they were for the men behind the front lines. Spare a thought for those women and just imagine what things were like back in those days before luxury cruise liners, Jumbo jets and 'travel beauty essentials', etc. Women were still wearing long skirts and high button boots and their hair was long.   The water table on the Western Front became contaminated early on in the war and water had to be transported over the Channel in barrels and boiled before use.  According to the diaries of those who were there, bathing was a rare luxury.  Washing machines didn't exist - washing was still done in some areas in Western France in local rivers.

Florence became ill - possibly through contact with one of the poison gasses used on the Western Front - and was sent home for treatment in a hospital in Wallasey, near to her family home. It is not known when Florence’s father moved from Liverpool to 6 Carlton Terrace, Hoylake.

Florence died at home of a TB like disease affecting her lungs. She was 25 years old. Florence is buried at Rake Lane Cemetery in Wallasey, Wirral.  There is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for Florence and she is listed in the CWGC Lise of Female Casualties of the First World War.

Sources:  

http://www.merseyside-at-war.org/story/florence-esther-benoy-on-the-battlefields-in-france/ 

and

"The Women of Royaumont A Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front" by Eileen Crofton, published by Tuckwell Press, East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland, 1997

With thanks to:

WILLIAM BULCKE of the Facebook Group WOMEN OF THE GREAT WAR ttps://www.facebook.com/groups/186662984826319/?fref=ts
for finding this information for me - William is based in Belgium.

STANLEY KAYE of the Facebook Group REMEMBERING THE FIRST WORLD WAR IN 2014 ONE HUNDRED YEARS - https://www.facebook.com/groups/rememberingworldwarone/?fref=ts.
Stanley urges everyone to plant poppy seeds in remembrance.  It was Stanley who spotted William's Group

and also to the Wirral Remembers WW1 Facebook Group.

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