on 16 March 2012
I was interested in this book because my father knew Lady Feilding or Lady Moore as she was known in Ireland when he was a young boy. These were troubled times for all in Ireland's history and estate owners, especially with British connections were not exactly flavour of the month. However, he remembers her as being a real "lady" in the true sense of the word and also her kindness and generosity to his own family who worked on the Moore Estate. On a lighter note, he recalls her riding side-saddle in the local hunts and he said there wasn't a ditch or a dyke in Tipperary that would "best" her and you'ld stand in snow to watch her handle a horse. She obviously had a brave heart and I wanted to get to know her.
I had no interest in the 1st World War or any other as I detest the notion of human beings killing each other but reading this young woman's account of her daily events and the horrors she faced with such a brave spirit has enthralled me. The sense of generosity of spirit of the Red Cross workers, doctors and nurses and the terrible conditions they endured to try and help their fellow men is a tribute to them and hope that bad situations can bring the best out in people. This is a book worth reading for a lot of reasons. Any nation should be proud to count the likes of Dorothie Feilding in their history. Ar Dheis De go raibh a hainm. (May her name be at the right hand of God)
on 5 April 2011
This book had me engrossed in a time long forgotten, . Lady Dorothie's bravery and unassuming down to earth manner captivated me from the first page, her personality and sense of humour shone out of every letter she sent home,excellently set out and illustrated with poignant photos.
"I just threw myself heart & soul into the work out here & I got to love my soldiers like children. It was a positive need in me, to share the life and dangers of this war with them. ... but the sadness of it all worked its way into my very soul ... just a great ache and loneliness". Words from Lady Dorothie Feilding MM, written on 12 June 1917.
Born the second daughter of the 9th Earl of Denbigh, young Dorothie was among the privileged elite class, enjoying a sumptuous life at the family home at Newnham Paddox near Rugby. There was no call on her to volunteer at the very outset of the war, no need for her to train in a hospital and then go to Flanders as a driver with the Munro Motor Ambulance Corps. There was no need for her to stick it through months of terrible weather, harsh conditions and blood, always blood. Her letters, held at the Warwick County Record Office and ably gathered and edited by Andrew and Nicola Hallam, give us an insight into her ambitions, emotions and decisions, leaving this reviewer educated and admiring. I had heard of Dorothie before but she was always somehow a minor character compared to her better-publicised colleagues Elsie Knocker and Mairie Chisholm, the other "women of Pervyse". If I had tried to guess, I might have thought that she did a bit, safely behind the lines, wringing her hands and being invited to tea with the Guards. Not so: Dorothie Feilding describes, for the most part cheerfully if exhaustedly, her hard life ferrying Belgian wounded from the front line to the medical units around Furnes. It was a life of tedium, physical effort, lack of sleep and comforts and considerable danger at times. In her early days it was all exciting and a little bewildering; as the years went on and the sight and sound of so many wounded men drilled into her soul, she became far more reflective. She was, as we might say these days, a tough cookie.
"Lady under fire on the Western Front" begins in the earliest days of the war in Flanders and takes us to mid 1917 when she married. It draws on hundreds of Dorothie's letters home and refers in person to many of her friends and relatives at war. Officially, she was rewarded with the Military Medal, the Croix de Guerre and the Order of Leopold: more importantly, she records the reward of the touching gratitude of the soldiers she assisted. This is not simply the tale of an ambulance driver, it is a view into real courage and humanity.
A great book.