FANY

fany

You’ve heard the old saying that women are terrible drivers. I happen to be a wonderful driver (Sorta. When I’m in the mood to be and the other cars around me aren’t being idiots), so I got to thinking why people say this and came up with a few theories: changing the radio, screaming kids in the back seat, makeup application, bad with directions, and perhaps too feeble minded to handle controlling such a powerful machine. Do you think this is true? Don’t let a FANY hear you or see you nodding in agreement. She’ll probably run you over then back up and do it again.

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, or FANY, was an all-female British unit that formed in 1907 as fany horsea first aid link between the field hospitals and front lines. Titled Yeomanry because they first rode horseback out among the spraying bullets, they soon adopted the motorized auto to plow through no man’s land with their wounded safely covered instead of slung over the back of a horse. Not a job for the faint of heart. And pretty prestigious when your ride is a supped up Rolls Royce. Because FANYs weren’t part of the army or the Red Cross, they often used donated private cars for their transport. The rear seats were ripped out and an ambulance box was plopped on top of the Rolls Royce/Renault/Model-T chassis and voila! One expensive stretcher to bounce over war torn France and Belgium.

WW I First Aid Nursing Yeomanry Ambulance DriverIn addition to transporting wounded, the FANY set up hospitals, ran soup canteens, cinemas, took food and clothing (when available) to the front lines, and carted around mobile bath units nicknamed ‘James’ for those smelly soldiers. The water may not always have been fresh, but at least it was warm with the aid of the motor’s engine.

Thinking of joining these feisty women? Here’s a few regulations you’ll need to pass first: over 23 years old, get interviewed in London at FANY HQ, last through a four month probation, pay for your own uniform, and eventually take a driver’s test. I personally think you should be given a gold star on your license if you’ve bumped and jutted over ruts and ditches with enemy shells trying to take you out every mile of the way.

These women didn’t have it easy. They were fighting to do their part in a man’s world during a fany2man’s war when society at the time demanded they sit at home knitting while waiting for the boys to come home. Years sitting over hot engines, trampling through the mud, and witnessing innumerable accounts of horror, these women kept on truckin’. A few even paid the ultimate sacrifice for their call to duty.

By the 1918 Armistice, they had been awarded 17 Military Medals, 1 Legion d’Honneur, and 27 Croix de Guerre. Pretty impressive for a bunch of girls.

Parting Interests:
– The first FANYs were often aristocrats because only they could afford to buy the required uniform of scarlet tunic and navy riding skirt.
– The FANY used military ranks, were taught drills, and how to salute. But only salute in the morning. They didn’t want the officers getting big heads.
– As of 1999 they are called by the less racy title of Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps.


A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

19 Comments

  1. Tom Threadgill

    Please tell me you’re writing a book about these ladies. I’d never heard of them before this, but they sound fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I sure am! And my heroine drives a Rolls Royce named Rosie. These ladies are amazing and with the WWI centennial next year it’s the perfect time to bring their exploits to light. I just hope I do them justice.

      Reply
      1. Andy McKay

        I have just bought a dilapidated 1927 vintage car that was owned and run by a famous FANY, who was born and lived just a few miles away from me in Cumbria UK. She has the most amazing name (Pat, sometimes Daisy) Catharine Marguerite Beauchamp Washington [née Waddell] (1892-1972). She lost a leg during WW1 when her truck “little Willie” was in collision with a train but continued with a tin leg and volunteered again for WWII. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre with silver star and the Belgian Civic Cross. She was also a member of the Fantastiks. I am trying to find out more about her life as she also wrote at least two books on her experiences. It’s all very exciting. Can’t wait to read your book.

        Reply
        1. J'nell (Post author)

          Wow! How awesome to be so connected to a fantastic piece of history. And such a lady, incredible! I came across Mrs. Washington in my research and her book “FANY Goes to War”, but never knew about her tin leg. If you wanted to read a little more about her or the Fantastiks then I highly recommend ‘War Girls’ by Janet Lee. I resourced it quite a bit for my writing. It even has a picture of her. These women just amaze me which is why I was so compelled to write their story because not many people (especially Americans) know about them. Hopefully I can do their spirit justice. Let me know if you find out anything else about her because I’d love to hear about Little Willie, and I’d love to see a picture of your new/old car. Thanks for stopping by!

          J’nell

          Reply
  2. Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

    I had no idea! Thanks for sharing your research.
    I answered your comment on my blog but put it in the wrong place. :(
    Blessings,
    Diana

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I love research, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing because of all the cool stuff you learn. Especially the unsung heroes.

      Reply
  3. Shelley Wilburn

    Awesome post! Never heard of the FANY’s before. I love reading about things in history. But the pictures are absolutely priceless!

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      These women were so incredible to read about that I just had to talk about them. My favorite pictures are the ones with their sleeves rolled up and head deep under the hood.

      Reply
  4. Dora Hiers

    Wow! Can you imagine? Talk about determination and strength. What a fascinating post, J’nell. I’ve never heard of them. Glad to see you’re working on a book featuring FANY’s. Love the pics!
    Wishing you a Son-kissed weekend. :)

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Truly, my hat is off to these women. Pretty sure they’d find me crying under a rock rather than driving straight into danger. I’m honored to bring a little light to their bravery.

      Reply
  5. Karen

    Oh I love this! You know my interest in what women did during war time! I’m already looking forward to your book. I had to laugh, though. When I was little, my mother had a vented cushion for her car seat. We lived in Arizona and cars did not have the best of air conditioners back then. So this pad helped protect the driver from the hot seat. My mother called it her Fanny pad. “Fanny” was the term she used for her backside. But I wonder if THAT term came from the FANY’s of WW1!! History of words is almost as fascinating as historical events!

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      There are so many stories of what women did during the war that sometimes it’s hard to choose just one to write about. I’m really happy to hear that this topic has piqued so much interest because sometimes you never know when you’re writing it.

      My husband is from AZ so I’ve heard all the heat/AC problems. I looked up ‘fanny’ and couldn’t find a definitive answer on where it came from, but it did start circulating in the 20’s. How funny would it be if FANY was the origin!!

      Reply
  6. Joanne Sher

    Like the rest, I’ve never heard of them either = absolutely fascinting. LOVE coming by your blog!

    And by the way, I AM a lousy driver. First to admit it 😉

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Thanks so much Joanne! Your comment made my day, not the lousy driver part :)

      Reply
  7. Barbara Lynn Culler

    That was very interesting! I loved your attention-getting opener too. :)

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Thanks Barbara! Gotta grab ’em before they get bored.

      Reply
  8. Karla Akins

    F is for FASCINATING! I love your blog.

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Thanks Karla! I try to keep it interesting!

      Reply
  9. Pingback: Thursday Rewind – September 5, 2013 | Tom Threadgill

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