Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Women in the Great War” by Stephen Wynn and Tanya Wynn (Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2017) - Review

This is an extremely interesting, fast-paced and informative book.  Although I knew quite a lot of the information provided since I began researching for a series of commemorative exhibitions, I also found a good deal that was new to me.   The book begins with an overview of the situation of women – in particular those campaigning to be permitted to vote - during the years leading up to 1914.   Chapter Two is about Munitions Workers with details of dangers involved and the explosions that took place.   Brief mention is also made about the very popular, fund-raising football matches in which the women who worked in factories during WW1 took part.

Chapter Three goes into detail about the history and formation of the Voluntary Aid Detachments and I found this particularly interesting because there is a good deal of confusion these days with the use of the acronym VAD.  Included in that chapter are details of some of the famous women who were VADs .  Chapter Four is devoted to the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) which became the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps.   Included here is a list of the women of the Corps who died or were killed during WW1.

In Chapter Five, you will find details of other women’s organisations - such as The Women’s Legion, The Territorial Force Nursing Service, The Women’s Hospital Corps, The Women’s Volunteer Reserve, The Women’s Auxiliary Force, The Women’s Land Army, Women Police Force Volunteers, The Women’s Forage Corps, The Women’s Forestry Corps, The Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps, The Women’s Royal Air Force, The Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps, The Women’s National Land Service Corps and Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.  Also included in that chapter is the story of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who initially went to Belgium with Hector Munro’s Flying Ambulance Unit.

Chapter Six is entitled “Individual Women of the Great War” and has some very interesting stories about women who were secret agents during the conflict.  Chapter Seven lists some of the many women who died or were killed while serving in some capacity during WW1 and Chapter Eight is devoted to the war-time service of Queen Mary and her daughter, Princess Mary.  The book ends with a Conclusion, Acknowledgements and an Index and is beautifully illustrated throughout with photographs and copies of posters, etc.

I was particularly interested in the details of the deal the British Government brokered with the Women’s Social and Policical Union when war broke out (page 4) and a certain incredible fact about DORA that I did not know (page 5).   Information about the involvement of the daughter of Lloyd George was also interestiong (page 28), as I had not heard about her, 

For me the most fascinating story was about the Christmas 1914 gift to serving military personnel known as Princess Mary’s Tin.  My Old Contemptible Grandfather died when I was four years old. When I was growing up, Mother kept his Christmas tin in the kitchen drawer, where it contained pieces of string and sealing wax.  I used to look at the tin and marvel at the names embossed on the lid but it was not until I read this book that I found out about the background to the gift and saw photographs of the contents of the tin (pages 134 – 137).

A most enjoyable book which I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the role of women during The First World War.

“Women in the Great War” by Stephen Wynn and Tanya Wynn was published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley in 2017.  For further details please see https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/ where you will find details of other fascinating war-related books published by Pen & Sword.

Lucy London, August 2018