Flora Sandes (22 January 1876 – 24 November 1956) is 22 January 1876.
An English-born military leader, known as the only woman of British origin, who came to fight on the front line of battle during World War I.
Her courageous participation as a soldier earned her to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major, receiving the rank of Captain, after the war.
Also, at the age of sixty-five, she wore her uniform again and went to war to defend Yugoslavia from the Nazi invasion during World War II. Her controversial behavior – even for the modern era – made Flora Sandes one of the most prominent contemporary figures in British history, where she has been inspiring songs, films, books.
Flora Sandes was born on 22 January 1876 in Nether Poppleton, Yorkshire, England, the youngest of eight children of Samuel Dickson Sandes and his wife, Sophia Julia. Of Irish origin, her father had been rector of Whitchurch, County Cork. When Flora turned nine, she moved with her family to Marlesford, Suffolk, where she grew up.
Her upbringing was of no particular, like any girl belonging to a middle class, she was educated by a governess, until she was old enough to attend a school. However, from a young age, Flora Sandes stated – unlike girls her age – that she wished to be a soldier and go to war. An adventurous character, most of his childhood spent galloping across the field, while playing that he was in the war.
During his teenage years he surprised his neighbours, when he learned to drive, moving along the roads of Suffolk in an old French race car. At some point he left for London, in order to train as a Tachhin. She also took a job as a secretary, and in her spare time trained as a nurse in the Yeomanry First Aid Infirmary.
After saving some time, and using an inheritance left to him by an uncle, Flora set out to explore the world. In this sense, she left for Cairo, where she also worked as a secretary. Her travels also took her to British Columbia in Canada, as well as to various locations in America.
On his return to England, he settled in London, where he lived with his father and 15-year-old nephew, Dick. In 1914, thirty-eight-year-old Flora Sandes received the news of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. She immediately joined the St. Jhon Ambulance as a volunteer.
Eight days later, she left for Serbia, in the company of thirty-six other women to help with the humanitarian crisis.
Upon his arrival, he joined the Serbian Red Cross, where he had the opportunity to work in an ambulance, for the Second Infantry Regiment of the Serbian Army. During a withdrawal operation, Flora was separated from her unit. In order to survive, he enlisted as a soldier in a regiment of the Serbian Army, which was the only one to accept women, at that time.
World War I
Within the Army, her performance caused her to be quickly promoted to the rank of Cape. In 1916, while bravely defending her position, in hand-to-hand combat, Flora Sandes was critically wounded by a grenade, and was also trapped inside the fire of the combat.
She was rescued by a lieutenant, who risked her life to save her. This episode made headlines around the world, while being awarded the Order of the Star of Karadjordje, awarded by the Serbian Army, where she was promoted to Sergeant Major.
Within the troop, as pointed out by some historians, Flora did not match male soldiers only for her bravery in the field, but shared with them amusements such as smoking, drinking and gambling, being one more of them, who called her “brother “.
Once recovered, Flora Sandes returned to the front, occupying a place in the trenches, in order to reclaim the country they had lost. After the war he remained in the Army, a place that– as his testimony – was the place he had loved most in life. In 1916, Flora Sandes published her first autobiography, titled An English Woman, Sergeant, in the Serbian Army.
In 1922 she was discharged, returning to London, where she had a hard time readjusting herway back to the daily life of a civilian woman. In May 1927 he married Yuri Yudenitch, a former White Army general, who had been his partner in the war.
After living for a time in France, the couple moved to Serbia, which by that time already belonged to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. During this time, Flora remained driving a taxi, in Belgrade, where she settled with her husband.
Also in 1927 he published his second autobiography, while at the time he gave several lectures – to which she attended wearing her military uniform – about her experience in the war in several countries in Oceania, Europe, as well as the United States.
In April 1941, Germany attacked Yugoslavia. Four days later, Flora Sandes, in her sixties and five, and her husband, wore their uniforms and marched to fight for their country. Soon she was wounded. Eleven days after the first attack, Germany defeated the army and occupied Yugoslavia. Flora and her husband were arrested for a time by the Gestapo.
After his release, her husband Yudenitch became seriously ill, dying in hospital of cardiac arrest in 1941. Homeless and broke- after the war, he moved in with his nephew, where she lived for a time in Jerusalem and then in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe).
After a while, she returned to Suffolk, where a few years later, on November 24, 1956, at the age of eighty, she died of obstructive jaundice. Days earlier she had renewed her passport, as she intended to continue traveling and knowing the world.
Image source: sandesancestry.net
August 14, 2019