Who were the original F.A.N.Y
Until relatively recently, history books have neglected this courageous, determined and capable group of women, who volunteered for service on the Western Front during the First World War.
Formed originally in 1907 by Captain Edward Baker, the original F.A.N.Y. were trained in both first aid and drill riding to provide a link between the front lines and the field hospitals. Drawing on his own experience of both the Sudan Campaign and the Second Boer War, Baker believed that the quickest way to rescue a wounded soldier was by sending in a single first aider on horseback to administer first aid and bring him back for treatment at the nearest field hospital.
Drawn initially by their love of horses, their unconventional spirit of adventure and a strong desire to aid in their nation's defence, the original F.A.N.Y. underwent rigorous induction and training between 1907 and 1914 and their first members set off for Calais at the beginning of the First World War with high expectations.
However, on arrival, the F.A.N.Y. found that they were not recognised by the British Military and that the role they had originally trained for was no longer practicable in the mechanised reality of the Western Front.
But these were no ordinary women and they quickly adapted and reinvented themselves, fulfilling a wide variety of roles with a multitude of different organisations to provide vital practical and humanitarian support to the sick and wounded of all nationalities - often in harsh and dangerous conditions
How do our displays portray the original F.A.N.Y?
What comes across most strongly in the diary writings and memoirs of the original F.A.N.Y. is their spirit of camaraderie, their resourcefulness and their tremendous bravery and kindness in the face of adversity.
The F.A.N.Y. would literally go anywhere and undertake any task asked of them to the very best of their ability: from delivering much-needed clothing to soldiers in the trenches, to driving heavy ambulances through war-torn countryside; from nursing the many victims of typhoid in makeshift hospitals to providing concerts to maintain morale amongst the troops. It is hardly surprising that many soldiers believed 'F.A.N.Y.' was an acronym for 'First ANYwhere'!
This is the ethos we aim to convey in our displays, in which we imagine what life might have been like at F.A.N.Y. training camp between 1907 and 1914, as the women prepared themselves for active service as volunteers in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.
If you are interested in finding out more about the original F.A.N.Y., we have found the following books particularly useful and inspirational:
•'Fanny Goes to War' by Pat Beauchamp
•'A Nurse at the War; Nursing Adventures in Belgium and France' by Grace McDougall
•'War Girls' by Janet Lee
If you are interested in finding out more about the role women played in the First World War, the following link may be useful: http://pinterest.com/edwardiangaiety/war-angels-women-of-wwi/