Having previously discussed other voluntary service organizations that provided ambulance and nursing services during WW1 (click here), here’s the story of another British group –  The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, familiarly known as the FANY (their personnel are known as ‘FANY’s’). This is an all-female group organized in 1907 which in WW1 provided ambulances and drivers to the Western Front. Although rebuffed by the British Army who considered them amateurs and totally unsuited to war conditions, the astute FANY leadership quickly attached themselves to the Belgian Army instead, before the War Office got around to banning civilians from travelling to the Front. Click on this link to read about the FANY in WW1.

During WW2 over 6,000 FANY’s served in various capacities in many different theaters. Over 2,000 of these were involved in intelligence work, including coding and de-coding, wireless intercepts and special operations. Out of fifty female agents successfully infiltrated into occupied Europe, thirty-nine were FANY’s and thirteen of them were killed, including Noor Inayat Khan, whose memorial is shown at the right. The Wikipedia entry, which includes a lot of information about the FANY in WW2, can be accessed by clicking here. The heroism of these women is confirmed by the number who were decorated for valor, including three George Crosses.

The FANY still exists, with the official name now ‘The Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps’ (HRH Princess Anne is the Commandant). It is still all-female and the personnel are still known as FANY’s. Also they are still all volunteers and they receive no pay. When serving with the military FANY’s are accorded courtesies of rank.  They are trained and equipped to assist authorities with all types of civil and military emergencies or incidents that occur within the realm of the Crown. There is no equivalent organization in the United States.

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.