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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)
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on 4 August 2011
I was surprised when talking to one of the curators at the IWM that material on the Great War still continues to be donated after over 90 years. One reason is because it was practically the first conflict when the whole country served, and because as Rudyard Kipling once penned, it seems to be forgotten that
"If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied."

Privately educated by nuns, and prim, Lady Dorothie Feilding (distant relative of the novelist Henry Fielding who altered the spelling of his surname), known as "Diddles" or "DoDo", 25 year old second daughter of the 9th Earl of Denbigh, might have been the last person to be found wandering amidst the Western Front mud in Belgium from the early days driving ambulances in the Munro Motor Ambulance Corps. Yet, her landed aristocratic family was traditionally military: her father, "Mr Da", CRA 2nd Mounted Div in Egypt, and her brothers, uncles and friends all served in all the services. Amazingly, she was the first woman to be awarded the MM, as well as foreign decorations: Order of Leopold (Belgium), and the Croix de Guerre (France). She made little of her "tin crosses" except for the witty comment that her "tummy looks grand with a shiny thing plastered in the middle". In reality, she received them entirely on merit, choosing to drive off from her base around Nieuport when other male drivers feared the dangers of bangs and shells of exploding shrapnel. The MM citation recommended by Capt Henry Halahan, RN, of the long-range naval siege guns made no bones about her work and her devotion to duty and her admirable contempt of danger over the two years between 1914-16.

TV devotees of Upstairs Downstairs Upstairs Downstairs - The Complete Fourth Series [DVD]and Downton Abbey will love her tales as they could have been made for Georgina Worsley (Lesley-Anne Down). Lady Dorothie was very very Upstairs: friend of Charles de Broqueville, Premier of Belgium, and his son, Robert (initially commander of the Munro Corps) and was visited by Prince Alexander of Teck, brother of Queen Mary, an officer serving in the Life Guards, and unlike many others throughout the conflict was able to leave her post at will and go home, resign when she married Capt Charles Moore, MC (2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards), then virtually disappear for hours and visit her brothers if they happened to be in a neighbouring sector, even to see her mother and sister over at her hospital as guests, in January 1916, a few days before the Germans had planned to launch another offensive. As in Upstairs, the Feildings had their share of trials, sorrows, and disappointments: the death of two sons: one, Lieutenant Commander Hugh, of the armoured cruiser HMS Defence, dying during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the second, Capt Henry, of the 2nd Coldstream Guards, a year later in October 1917, at Broembeek; to be followed by her mother, in 1919, worn out by her hospital work; a brother-in-law, Capt Dudley Hanley, of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, becoming POW in Germany; and finally her husband being wounded in an assault near the forest of Nieppe, in April1918.

This collection of 400 letters, housed at the Warwickshire County Record Office, were skilfully edited by the Hallams as she wrote in a very personalised family code. What she divulged went totally against everything of one from a strict military upbringing. Lady Dorothie wrote as she felt and about what she saw and experienced: of deaths, of her own personal and others' hopes and fears, sometimes even giving names, because she was able to have her letters delivered back by friends going on leave.

If the information had got into the hands of Lord Northcliffe, the press baron of The Times and the Daily Mail, it would have brought in time political and military change, but it is more likely to have led to her own dismissal from the Corps, and her family displeasure. Today a psychologist would have said that while getting pleasure in keeping her family fully informed that she was fine, and having a busy time, she was also writing to release all her pent-up anxieties, which no one could in wartime, and few did afterwards. It allows today's historians to see events, such as the Christmas truce of 1914, in a newer and wider framework; and from her family military knowledge and observations she showed mixed feelings in the abilities and perseverance among certain elements of the French Army, but seemed exceptionally praiseworthy ("perfect rippers") of their marines.

During their research and editing Andrew and Nicola Hallam realised that she later had censored her correspondence, as well as noting additional comments about what had happened to the protagonists after the events, almost as if she hoped some persons beyond the family should read, like and perhaps even publish her ideas. In this she was behaving as an social political activist in the Pankhurst mould, a proto modern feminist, and it is surprising that it was only the War, perhaps away from the close clutches of the family, and not the changes already occurring in Edwardian Britain, that permitted her ideas to evolve and germinate.

If Great War British literature has tended to focus on the gung-ho early days of fighting of King and Empire by Rupert Brooke, it ended with the gloom of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Lady Dorothie's letters include more. First, from time to time she put on paper almost the forbidden line: showing respect and admiration for the enemy's tenacity and bravery against our own strong determined adversity. Then, on November 12th, 1918 she wrote:
"I couldn't bear to hear the people laughing & clapping yesterday. One was so haunted by the memories of those dear boys who have gone. But Mother dear thank god that supreme sacrifice was not for nothing as I have often feared it would be."
Little more than a week earlier she had expressed herself more dramatically, and colourfully:
"The shreds of beauty that the war brings out are like a gleam in all the darkness & sorrow of grim realities out there. It's only out there you come upon the beautiful moral side of it all. The mentality of the country here at home & the corruption of politics & on all sides are very sad to see; war is, I suppose, sent as a purifier to the world but the longer it goes on the more all the sordidness of `powers that be' at home & live only to pull the strings for their own ends, drown the heroism & self sacrifice of the fighting men."

Here there were the makings of all post-war views, including the early ideas of Oswald Mosley. Had Lady Dorothie decided to continue applying her social beliefs, even around the local community, who is to know what she would have said, or succeeded in achieving. She could have been a rival to another wartime nurse, and contemporary, Vera Brittain, a "blue stocking" girl, who chose university, bohemian intellectual life and a career rather than Dorothie's more traditional ideal of raising a family, supporting her husband, and dedicating herself to country pursuits as horse riding in Tipperary, now in a foreign Irish Free State.

My one slight reservation is the editors could have mentioned something in general both about the state's preparations, or lack of them, of nursing in the event of war, and thus the need for private voluntary organisations, such as the Munro Ambulances, as well as the approximate percentage of aristocratic and upper-middle class ladies deciding to do their bit in that worthwhile, angel caring service.

Lady under Fire on the Western Front, however, is another unique first for Pen & Sword of Barnsley. It seems Rudyard Kipling was right; there is still much more to learn of the Great War. Here is one more truth to disprove those untruths that women even among the aristocratic country set were not fully active at the front. Lady Dorothie definitely knew how to behave. Perfectly ripping!
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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.
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on 30 April 2014
What a brave, wise and funny woman! Astonishing descriptions and profound reflections. A key document of the war. Essential reading.
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VINE VOICEon 19 December 2010
"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.
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on 7 January 2011
Gives a good social history of the individual writing the letters, set against the background of the First World War. You rarely see the reply from her parents. It is a little repetative towards the end.
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on 24 May 2013
Really interesting. Glad it was on kindle . Haven't finished so will let you know when I have finished it.
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on 2 May 2016
very good
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