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Flora Sandes


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#1 xeonn

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:27 PM

Flora Sandes (1876-1955)

http://en.wikipedia....ki/Flora_Sandes




Her two books:

An English Woman-Sergeant in the Serbian Army:

http://archive.org/s...page/6/mode/2up

A Brief Record of Adventure with the Serbian Army 1916-1919:

http://archive.org/s...age/n0/mode/2up




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#2 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 07:34 AM

My problem with Flora Sandes is that everything about her is based on her own writings. I have asked in previous threads if there are any corroborating sources but I haven't heard of any.

There is a bit too much "My servant came into the cottage and woke me, so I ordered my groom to prepare my horse before I rode through the snow past my sleeping comrades until I got to HQ. Once there I demanded to see the CO and insisted I be treated like any other private and allowed to take part in the attack . . ."

Edit to add: I'm paraphrasing but the tone is correct.

#3 royalredcross

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:52 AM

Precisely. And a Private with a servant and a groom ????

NGG

#4 centurion

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:33 AM

This Flora is a perennial on this forum (and she retired as a Major)

http://1914-1918.inv...dpost&p=1249745
http://1914-1918.inv...dpost&p=1618162
http://1914-1918.inv...dpost&p=1612152
http://1914-1918.inv...dpost&p=1240007
http://1914-1918.inv...ndpost&p=950818
http://1914-1918.inv...ndpost&p=666695



#5 centurion

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:01 AM

Precisely. And a Private with a servant and a groom ????

NGG


Not that unusual in some Balkan armies that still retained the concept of 'gentlemen rankers' and camp followers.

#6 xeonn

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:10 AM

 I would like to mention, that she received the Order of the Karageorge's star (can be seen on the picture above) from hands of Regent Alexander personally, it was on Greek island Corfu. It means, she had special deserves for something like that. 

#7 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 07:54 AM

xeonn: my reading of her books puts her firmly in the camp follower category. By her own account she dabbled in nursing, slept with one of the officers and received better food, accomodation and transport as a result. When she describes the men loving her as shown by their laughing and cheering when she passed I can't help thinking that the men would be saying "There she goes, Lady Muck on her horse, that's the second thing she's had between her legs this morning".

I may be doing the lady a disservice but until I have more than her account of events I will take her with a pinch of salt.

#8 centurion

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:28 AM

xeonn: my reading of her books puts her firmly in the camp follower category. By her own account she dabbled in nursing, slept with one of the officers and received better food, accomodation and transport as a result. When she describes the men loving her as shown by their laughing and cheering when she passed I can't help thinking that the men would be saying "There she goes, Lady Muck on her horse, that's the second thing she's had between her legs this morning".

I may be doing the lady a disservice but until I have more than her account of events I will take her with a pinch of salt.


I think you are





By camp followers I meant her groom etc.



#9 centurion

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:36 AM

Dr Isabel Emslie Hutton author of "With a Woman's Unit in Serbia, Salonika and Sebastopol" met Flora Sandes on a number of occasions and her diary confirms the essentials of her story.

#10 Doc2

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:53 PM

Held the Ba',

I think you may be being unduly harsh on her. The fact is that she was promoted up through the enlisted ranks in the Serbian Army, reaching the rank of Sergeant Major (as a result of her being awarded the Kara George Medal). After the war, in April 1919, promotion lists came out, and all Sergeants-Major who had been decorated were promoted to Second Lieutenants, except for her. A special act of parliament was passed, permitting the award of a commission to her, the very first Serbian Army woman officer. She continued to serve until 1922, when she was placed on the reserve roster. There are lots of references to her service, and I think it is pretty clear that she was actually a pretty good soldier and NCO (I have never seen any references to her work as an Officer). Doc

#11 Mark Hone

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 04:57 PM

By coincidence I noticed the display at IWM North about her for the first time on my visit on Monday. It includes her pistol. It claims that she is the only known British female combatant of the First World War.

#12 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 08:42 AM

Doc2, perhaps I am being harsh but so much of what is written is based on her own writings. I have read her books and found her to be egocentric and more concrened for herself than others. My recollection (I don't have the books to hand) is that she was happy to be treated as a nurse (or a woman) when it suited her and wanted the perks of being a soldier but without the hardship. No-one else other than officers seemed to have servants, something she took for granted. We only have her word for it that the troops loved her and viewed her as an equal, something I find hard to believe.

I'll dig out the books and re-read them.

#13 Doc2

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:29 AM

Maybe, but I would find it bizarre to consider that the Serbian Parliament specifically changed the law to allow her to be promoted to officer status, if there were not more to her service than you have seen. Egocentric? Yep. That is pretty much a given for any woman doing what she supposedly did. I find that attitude repeatedly in reports/writings from the Victorian/Georgian women who were acting outside the normal feminine-assigned roles, whether they were in medicine, the military, or simply explorers. It was probably necessary to get anything accomplished (and certainly to get the books published). Doc

#14 centurion

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:40 AM

Doc2, perhaps I am being harsh but so much of what is written is based on her own writings. I have read her books and found her to be egocentric and more concrened for herself than others. My recollection (I don't have the books to hand) is that she was happy to be treated as a nurse (or a woman) when it suited her and wanted the perks of being a soldier but without the hardship. No-one else other than officers seemed to have servants, something she took for granted. We only have her word for it that the troops loved her and viewed her as an equal, something I find hard to believe.

I'll dig out the books and re-read them.

There have been two recent books about her. I have only seen extracts but they do confirm that she served as an effective soldier. I'll dig out the titles. There have also been articles about her written in modern day Serbia. I've seen a translation of one which seems to have drawn on local material - again it confirms that she was an effective combat sergeant being involved in a fighting breakout from encirclement by her regiment.




I tried, vainly it seems, to explain about horses and servants, in many Balkan forces at the time if you could afford it you could have these whatever your rank. In general it would be mainly the officers and possibly senior NCOs who could afford them but there were equivalents of the old "gentlemen rankers" who also did. It was not that long since the European privates in the Indian Army would have had servants (this having been cut back to nothing to keep the size of the baggage train manageable). I don't think that the Serbian army at the time had quite reached modern European standards of efficiency (although when rebuilt in Corfu this goal was more nearly achieved).




#15 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 12:38 PM

If you could post the titles of those books I would be obliged Centurion.

Edit to add:
But the point remains that she was not a "gentleman ranker" or a private soldier of any kind as she had to argue to be allowed to take part in attacks. Even the most Balkan and inefficient of armies regard that as an obligation.

#16 centurion

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 02:17 PM

If you could post the titles of those books I would be obliged Centurion.

Edit to add:
But the point remains that she was not a "gentleman ranker" or a private soldier of any kind as she had to argue to be allowed to take part in attacks. Even the most Balkan and inefficient of armies regard that as an obligation.


But they didn't have women in their ranks! That was the whole point of her having to argue - your logic is circular.

A FINE BROTHER
The Life of Captain Flora Sandes
Louise Miller

There is a chapter entitled Captain Flora Sandes: A Case Study in the Social Construction of Gender in a Serbian Context
Julie Wheelwright

in BLACK LAMBS AND GREY FALCONS
Women Travelling in the Balkans
Edited by John B. Allcock and Antonia Young

Ms Wheelwright has also written a book on her but can't remember the title - it has a femminist tone.

#17 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 04:16 PM

But they didn't have women in their ranks! That was the whole point of her having to argue - your logic is circular.

No it isn't. My argument has always been that she wasn't a soldier. She was some kind of regimental mascot/concubine. Others are arguing that she was an ordinary soldier who was regularly promoted, but no one has explained why she was banned from fighting.

You are the one explaining her comforts by saying she was a gentleman ranker who had a horse and servants because she could pay for them, yet also saying there were no women in the army.

#18 Sue Light

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 11:36 AM

No it isn't. My argument has always been that she wasn't a soldier. She was some kind of regimental mascot/concubine. Others are arguing that she was an ordinary soldier who was regularly promoted, but no one has explained why she was banned from fighting.

I thought she was fighting at the time she was shot/wounded. She spent some considerable time first in a unit of the Scottish Women's Hospital, and later in 41 General Hospital, and it was following that she received the Karageorge Star. She was a loose cannon of a woman and not a type I'm particularly fond of, but it rather amuses me that on one hand you argue adamantly that her own accounts of her service, and that of others are, in the main, fabricated, and at the same time insist she was a 'concubine' and no better than the regimental bike. I wonder what your source is for that?

Sue

#19 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 12:21 PM

I have never said her own account is fabricated, simply that they way it is written leaves a lot to interpretation. I am also saying is that I haven't read anything that wasn't based very heavily on her own writings. What I have been asking for all along is an impartial source which sets out exactly what she did while with the Serbian Army. If you have one I would be delighted to read it, if I am wrong I will say so.

I have also never suggested she was the regimental bike, being the concubine of one officer is a very different thing. I don't recall where I got that idea, as I said above I will re-read her books.

#20 mikefromgeorgia

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 08:58 AM

I have read and re-read every book published about Flora Sandes to date and I do not accept nor do I believe that she was ever a "camp follower", concubine or otherwise traded or used sexual favours for special treatment or privileges. She was apparently romantically involved to some extent with a Serbian officer who was killed. Not to say that she was ever a saint but the suggestion that she slept with officers indiscriminately does not rate merit. She did mention sharing outdoor sleeping quarters with one particular officer but it is extremely unlikely given the nature and lack of privacy of this arrangement that anything other than sleeping took place. Especially as they had to be prepared to move or to fight the Bulgars at any moment. As for her being "egocentric", I believe from all accounts that she always carried her own weight, proved herself in battle and earned her promotions honestly. She was definitely a strongwilled and highly spirited woman who was years ahead of her time. Her life story is remarkable and fascinating and would make a great film. It is great to finally see her getting the attention and recognition that she has long deserved as a true heroine of the First World War. I have also seen her personal pistol that she was wearing when she was seriously wounded by a thrown hand grenade in 1916. It was on display at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester in their Women and War section.

#21 mikefromgeorgia

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 09:48 AM

The longer I live, the more I realise that there are always two sides to every story. For this reason I do not believe that it is at all fair or appropriate to condemn or judge anyone. This is especially true when we do not know anywhere near all of the facts involved. Flora Sandes and her life story remain to be a little known part of the history of the First World War. We only have what has been and will be written on which to form and base our opinions. Apparently she was from a somewhat well-to-do family, she also received money from the estate of an uncle who died and therefore had an above average standard of living for the time. As others have noted and mentioned, this would have enabled her to be able to "pay her own way" and therefore give her better accomodations, supplies, food, transportation, etc. than the other soldiers had.

#22 mikefromgeorgia

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:40 AM

I have posted a video I took of the pistol of Flora Sandes as it was displayed at the IWMN on You Tube. I apologise for the sometimes shaky video.

#23 mikefromgeorgia

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:43 AM

I also took this photo of the pistol of Flora Sandes. The damage caused by the grenade can still be seen.

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#24 mikefromgeorgia

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:50 AM

This photo of the other side of the pistol of Flora Sandes, which was not damaged, is from the official IWM website.


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#25 mikefromgeorgia

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:15 AM

Posted Image Some of the damage caused to the pistol of Flora Sandes by the grenade can be seen in this photo I took at the IWMN.



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