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Brand: Andrew Hallam

Lady Under Fire On The Western Front

by Andrew Hallam

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Lady Under Fire On The Western Front : The Great War Letters of Lady Dorothie Feilding

A collection of letters from Lady Dorothie Fielding, a volunteer with the Munro Motor Ambulance Corps in the First World War, this offers a fascinating and possibly unique feminine perspective on the Western Front.

When Britain went to war in 1914 many people from all backgrounds rallied to the cause, determined to join the colours or be useful in some other way. Lady Dorothie Feilding, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of the Earl of Denbigh, wasted no time volunteering for the Munro Motor Ambulance Corps. Spending nearly four years on the Western Front in Belgium driving ambulances, she had the distinction of being became the first woman to be awarded the Military Medal for her bravery as well as the French Croix de Guerre and the Belgian Order of Leopold.

Fortunately the hundreds of letters that she wrote to her family at Newnham Paddox, near Rugby, have been discovered and carefully edited by Andy and Nicola Hallam. These reflect the tragedy and horror of war and also the tensions of being a woman at the front contending with shells, traumatic wounds, gossip, lice, vehicle maintenance and inconvenient marriage proposals. She enjoyed a ready access to all levels of military life and her candid comments and insightful observations make fascinating reading.

Despite her sheltered and privileged upbringing Dorothie was clearly feisty young woman with a devil-may-care attitude to danger and authority. Her easy-going approach to life transcended social boundaries and that endeared her to all that she came into contact with whether royalty, senior commanders or Tommies.

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Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam Lady Dorothie Fielding was the privileged twenty-five year daughter of the Earl of Denbigh when the First World War broke out. She immediately volunteered for the Munroe Ambulance Corps and spent the next four years driving ambulances on the Western Front in Belgium. During this time she wrote home a series of extraordinary refreshingly unguarded letters, telling her family about her life and adventures. She speaks of conditions for the men, the activities of "the beastly Hun", the rivalries between the different ambulance services and the jolly japes she gets up to with some of her colleagues. This was the age of the stiff upper lip and there is much here that is left unsaid. She is reticent about her feelings and personal tragedy although, unafraid to call a spade a spade, shares details on pretty much everything from advances on the front to beanos with the chaps. These letters, collected and edited by the Hallams are a total joy to read. In the main the editors let Lady Dorothie's voice speak providing just enough linking comment for the reader to be able to put her words in context. Lady Dorothie is a tremendous mixture of jolly hockeysticks and outstanding compassion and bravery. A woman it would have been an honour to know and through her letters, we can get to know her a little. For those interested in the First World War this is a unique viewpoint from an amazing person with a tremendously appealing voice. Sally Hughes Assistant Retail Manager, The National Archives