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Elsie and Mairi Go to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front [Paperback]

Dr Diane Atkinson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

4 Feb 2010

When they met at a motorcycle club in 1912, Elsie Knocker was a thirty year-old motorcycling divorcee dressed in bottle-green Dunhill leathers, and Mairi Chisholm was a brilliant eighteen-year old mechanic, living at home and borrowing tools from her brother. Little did they know, theirs was to become one of the most extraordinary stories of the First World War.

In 1914, they roared off to London 'to do their bit', and within a month they were in the thick of things in Belgium driving ambulances to distant military hospitals. Frustrated by the number of men dying of shock in the back of their vehicles, they set up their own first-aid post on the front line in the village of Pervyse, near Ypres, risking their lives working under sniper fire and heavy bombardment for months at a time.

As news of their courage and expertise spread, the 'Angels of Pervyse' became celebrities, visited by journalists and photographers as well as royals and VIPs. Glamorous and influential, they were having the time of their lives, and for four years, Elsie and Mairi and stayed in Pervyse until they were nearly killed by arsenic gas in the spring of 1918. But returning home and adjusting to peacetime life was to prove even more challenging than the war itself.


Frequently Bought Together

Elsie and Mairi Go to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front + The Roses of No Man's Land + A Nurse at the Front: The First World War Diaries of Sister Edith Appleton
Price For All Three: 18.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848091354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848091351
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A compelling story of famous but forgotten heroines: two exceptional Edwardian ladies in the front line mud and mayhem of World War I" (Kate Adie)

"Diane Atkinson has uncovered the lives of two extraordinary women who brought medical comfort and relief to the wounded of World War I. Her book is as absorbing as it is thorough, as entertaining as it is warm-hearted. A terrific story" (Joan Bakewell)

"The true story of best friends Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who, when the First World War broke out, set up a first aid post on the Western Front. Their courage frequently made the headlines in Britain and both were awarded medals for their bravery. This biography is a fitting tribute to their role on the frontline" (Charlotte Vowden Daily Express)

"A terrific, true story, brought vividly to life" (Mail on Sunday)

"Brilliantly readable" (Lancashire Evening Post)

Book Description

The extraordinary and moving story of two women whose courage and charisma made them the most famous women in the First World War.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended 22 July 2009
Format:Hardcover
A great read. Diane Atkinson exposes the realities of the sacrifices these two courageous women made to care for the soldiers during WW1. She captures their spirits, their drive and determination. Not only did they make do, they made it happen, right there on the front line. I shared their highs and lows, the fun, the horrors, the glory, romance and the sadness they experienced.
The follow-up, after the war years, rounds off this read. How difficult it must have been to reintegrate into society after having such purpose in life. Turning the last page I felt I had known these women and shared something of their lives. It is a very personal biography. Highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good read about real people 24 July 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating history of the lives of two extraordinary women who gave so much of themselves in the First World War. I am not a fan of war history, but I heard the author on Radio 4 describing the lives of Elsie and Mairi. The book details their lives up to to the war and beyond. It is full of intricate details about what they did during the war and how they coped afterwards. The author gives great insight into the traumas that Elsie and Mairi witnessed and the friendship that developed during the war and could not be sustained in peacetime. A really good read about real people.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and inspiring 23 July 2009
Format:Hardcover
I read this book in one sitting late into the night. It's a fantastic story of two extraordinary women who defied everything and everybody standing in their way to live their lives to the full. Their selfless courage in the Inferno of the WWI trenches is balanced by their almost camp Britishness resiliance, holding polite tea parties while the bullets whizzed around their heads and punting in a bomb crater as if they were having a day out on the River Cam. It's an absorbing and inspiring story told with gratifying attention to detail, sensitive emotional insight, warmth and humour. Elsie and Marie were inspirational and this book is a really good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Women of Immense British Grit 4 Mar 2010
By Shiny
Format:Hardcover
Two products of a long lost time in British history, these women aroused a feeling of affinity in me when I read that they were a couple of the earlist motorcyclists in the UK and pursued the pastime and sport as enthuiastically as I do now. That is where any similarity ends, for they were extraordinarily courageous pioneers on a monumental scale. That there are not towns and cities named for them, that every school child does not know their names or of their astonishing selflessness, shames us all.

17 medals for gallantry - each. Never enough for two women who were, 'til very recently, amongst us to be feted and held up to this generation as examples of the humble heroics that came so easily to them in the carnage and horror of WW1 slaughter
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised to find this book 3 April 2010
Format:Paperback
My husband went to a lecture expecting it to be on a completely different subject but it was about these two ladies, who previously we had never heard of but he found them interesting and wanted to know more. The following day I saw this book advertised on your website and I ordered it immediately. The book answered a lot a questions that the lecture had raised and not answered but there is still an air of intrigue about them and probably a lot we will never know.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Account of aspects of the Great War 12 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read it once but that was not enough, I had to read it again. The exploits of these two courageous women during WW1 are enthralling
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elsie and Mairi go to War 11 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very well researched book and great use of the original source material mixed with wider WWI sources to add context. And a smooth quick read too.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elsie and Mairi sound wonderful ladies!! 30 Oct 2009
By RFT
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read several WW1 books, including the good old favourites, but also take an interest in the marginal history, Conscientious Objectors, Boy Soldiers, Executed Soldiers, etc. This book caught my eye for similar reasons, the memoirs of heroines who were not actively fighting.
This book is a very good read. It describes the ladies backgrounds, personalities and their efforts to lead some semblance of a personal life in terrible times whilst carrying out heroic and defiant actions.
This should be reading in any school literature curriculum about bravery in the face of adversity and what a waste all wars are.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars heroic ladies
very moving. very brave women. great read.
Published 2 days ago by Ed Ward
4.0 out of 5 stars Elsie and Mairi
Certainly a different view of WW1. The first chapters are all about their families which gets a bit boring. Read more
Published 20 days ago by insectlady
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book
This is a well written account, in a modern style, of these two intrepid ladies but seems to spend a lot of time on their romantic exploits rather than on the work they did at the... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Cat
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting life's
not the nominal history of ww1, this one is told through the eyes of two extraordinary women, recommend this book.
Published 2 months ago by monkey53
5.0 out of 5 stars Elsie & Mariri
I found this book very interesting and informative, especially to difference between Belgium & the British Army in the acceptance of women near the front line
Published 2 months ago by Jeff Brookes
2.0 out of 5 stars Flippant and demeaning
The jolly hockey sticks style jarred with me. To an extent the "larks" described in the book, at least in the early stages of World War One, were in keeping with the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by nigeyb
1.0 out of 5 stars Too detached
Despite my best efforts this book has been really hard going to read and ive still not finished it 2 years after buying it... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ms. Kelly Goodall
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Women - indeed they were
As I am very interested in the impact that WW1 and WW2 had upon women, I found this book very interesting. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Katbak
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking bravery
Two stubborn women taking on a horrific role that few men or women would volunteer for today. A MUST for those interested in other facets of WW1 and the social history of the war... Read more
Published 6 months ago by A
5.0 out of 5 stars Elsie and Mair.
I have just started the book and find it is a superb read. Informative and entertaining. What an adventure for two young ladies at the start on WW1. A great book.
Published 7 months ago by Ms. P. H. Marshall
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