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 a 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.
In 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 man’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.
- 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.