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/
In addition to our F.A.N.Y. displays, we can also provide bespoke First World War cavalry and firearms demonstrations.
Please Contact us for further information.
Cantering at speed can cause a serious wardrobe malfunction, as we are sure the original F.A.N.Y. discovered at camp with their long skirts and side-saddles! Would they have stopped to replace a hat? We didn't think so when one of our team lost her hat during a recent show...
We are grateful to Getty Images and the Mary Evans Picture Library for making their photographs of the original F.A.N.Y. freely available on the internet (see a selection below). We have found them an excellent resource for our historical research.
Some of the images clearly show the F.A.N.Y. on home soil at training camps or on promotional rallies with their horses (or bicycle!), whilst others were taken on active service in Europe, with their motor vehicles.
As you can see, the F.A.N.Y. uniform changed many times between 1907 and the 1918. This was mainly out of necessity: just as the F.A.N.Y. itself had to evolve to meet the rapidly changing demands of the Western Front, so their uniform evolved to become much more practical in the challenging conditions of their service.
You will also notice the F.A.N.Y. wearing fur coats in one of the images. This is because the original F.A.N.Y. were a non-military organisation formed mainly from members of the upper middle-classes or aristocracy, who had to provide their own uniforms and equipment.