|Special Operations Executive|
First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
|As a cavalry sergeant major, whilst serving in the Sudan with the Kitchener expedition, Captain E.C. Baker was wounded in action and this unfortunate experience gave him the idea of forming a detachment of nurses, mounted on horseback. They would provide a mobile and medical assistance between the frontline units and the field hospitals but at the outbreak of World War One the British authorities rejected their services.
The French and Belgian armies took a different view and at Antwerp, in September 1914, the first member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry turned up for service. Amongst their wartime duties, often conducted under arduous and dangerous conditions, they drove ambulances, established troop canteens and soup kitchens and saw to the running of the field hospitals. Their bravery and devotion was deservedly marked by many awards and medals, to include several from the British, French and Belgians.
After the war the Yeomanry acquired a new direction, tending away from nursing and more towards motorised transport. This change became reflected - as a 'voluntary reserve transport unit ---- , for service in any national emergency' in the new title, 'The Women's Transport Service (FANY)' and indeed many of the members (approx. 3000 driver/mechanics) were seconded to form a basis for the recently formed Motor Driver Companies, of the W.T.S. During World War Two other members chose to join the Special Operations Executive and as FANY personnel they had permission to use small arms. Therefore they formed the greater number of female agents sent into Europe and of those involved in active operations, 13 died in concentration camps and 5 George Crosses were awarded, 2 posthumously.
On the home front another 2000 or so FANYs gave substantial support to the S.O.E. network, administering the Special Training Schools and engaging in signals and cyphers activities, amongst other duties. Based at the Duke of York Headquarters, now known as the WTS (FANY), the tradition continues today as an all woman volunteer organisation, recruited from applicants aged between 18 and 45. Members are trained in various skills to include shooting, self defence, map reading and navigation and FANY personnel now specialise in communications for the City of London Police and the Army.