Warfare in News


Posted on Friday 20th February

On Tuesday evening, 17 February, Dr Vivien Newman had the privilege of speaking to His Excellency the Belgian Ambassador and members of the Anglo-Belgian Society at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London.

The theme of the talk was 'Spying for Belgium, Dying for Belgium', using material from the recently published We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War (Pen and Sword Books, 2014). The Belgian members of the audience were heartened to hear the author's outrage at the way their country's sufferings have been dismissed or overlooked by countless British historians.

Members of the audience appeared enthralled by the story of two Belgian women who both served and have been forgotten by many historians. One of the duo is certainly the only woman, most probably the only combatant to have received the Iron Cross, the French and the Belgian Legions d'honneur and to be mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's despatches. Her Iron Cross saved her from the death penalty which was handed down when she was revealed to be a spy. The second woman, a young shop assistant, was less lucky. Despite successfully evading capture for many months, she was betrayed and faced the firing squad. Her defiant words to her executioners and her statue in a main square in Brussels epitomise the attitude of Plucky Little Belgium towards the invaders who cowed and brutally repressed the population but never broke the country's spirit. Posthumously decorated, for years she was held up as a role model to Belgian children but in more pan-European times, she too has been overlooked.

Find out more about the role of women during the First World War here. You can watch video footage of the talk via www.firstworldwarwomen.co.uk, and keep up with Viv on Twitter, @worldwarwomen.

Further Reading

We Also Served

Only £19.99

We Also Served

(Hardback - 192 pages)
by Vivien Newman

We Also Served is a social history of women's involvement in the First World War. Dr Vivien Newman disturbs myths and preconceptions surrounding women's war work and seeks to inform contemporary readers of countless acts of derring-do, determination, and quiet heroism by British women, that went on behind the scenes from 1914-1918.

In August 1914 a mere 640 women had a clearly defined wartime role. Ignoring early War Office advice to 'go… Read more...

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