A Blog A Day: Australian Heroines of World War One by Susanna De Vries – Review

Gallipoli, Lemnos and the Western Front.

Australian heroines of World War One is the story of eight courageous women told through diaries, letters, original photos, paintings and maps. These eight women had the courage and strength for which the ANZACs are renowned and the compassion and tenderness that women can bring. One brave nursing sister Hilda Samsing became a whistleblower. In Belgium, Louise Creed, a Sydney journalist caught in the besieged city of Antwerp made a hair raising escape from a German firing squad. Brisbane’s Grace Wilson, ordered to establish an emergency hospital on drought ridden Lemnos Island, arrived there to find suffering ANZACs but no drinking water, tents or medical supplies. After surviving hardship on Lemnos, young Florence James-Wallace worked in France near the front line in a Casualty Clearing, treating soldiers with hideous wounds or blinded by mustard gas.

What I Thought:
A short (and unusual) foray into non-fiction for me today. I actually read Australian Heroines of World War One some time ago now, but I still find the subject fascinating – both the War itself, but also the changing role of women on the battlefield and how that ties in to the issue of womens’ rights in the early part of the 20th century.

I can’t help but find non-fiction dry, but I try to persevere as I’ve always thought that more my fault than the author’s, and this book gave me a bit of a helping hand by focussing each chapter on an individual, using diaries, letters and restrospective articles to illustrate the unique experiences of women in a war in which they were not permitted to fight.

The women featured all have a strong sense of public service and, whether as nurses or reporter, each do their bit to either improve the lot of the men in their care or, in the case of Louise Creed, report faithfully and in detail the horrors of living through and occupation.

There is so much stuff out there at the moment about WW1, given that it was ongoing 100 years ago, and this book is an excellent addition to that – and especially so as it concentrates both on the women who were there, but also on the slightly less well-known theatres of war. The popular image of WW1 is the fighting Tommy in the trenches of France and Belgium, but Gallipoli and Greece were no less deadly…

Australian Heroines of World War One is published by Pirgos Press and you can find out more about the author, Susanna De Vries, on her website.

Note: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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