Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam

Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam is a collection of letters written by Lady Dorothie Mary Evelyn Feilding, Earl of Denbigh’s daughter. When the First World War broke out she volunteered from 1914 as an ambulance driver for the Munro Motor Ambulance Corps. She spent a long time in Flanders where her courage won her three medals: the Belgian Order of Leopold, the French Croix de Guerre, the British Military Medal, being the first woman to be awarded it.

She wrote letters to her family almost daily, talking about the horrors of war or everyday life. Some of her letters are funny, some are sad, some short, some long. Her letters show how horrible the war was. It also shows that, sometimes, people from home knew more than the ones on the field. In a letter she asks about a much loved friend who was, as she heard, injured. In fact that man died on the front, a few days before she wrote the letter to her mother, asking about him.

Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam

Her father and all her three brothers joined the war. Two of her brothers died and that is also so sad. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to tend to injured soldiers knowing that her father and brothers might be in the same situation in another hospital.

The letters are in part translated because sometimes she wrote in a mix of French and English, and I found that fascinating too. When a significant event took place the authors mention it in a paragraph or two after the letter. It offers a better perspective on what happened, but also shows how much work was put into researching the letters. The book is really good and I recommend it. It is a very good primary source for WWI.

I will leave a few short quotes from the book:

p. 40 “Here I am on Xmas Day warming my toes up at the old dressing station – we thought the Teutons would have the decency to leave us in peace, as we expected they would be just as excited over their plum pudding as we over ours.” [25 December 1914]

p. 141 “I wonder why that imbecile base censor froths at the mouth so over my letters & opens them all? He must be very hard up for a job, poor dear, or else look upon me as a suspicious party. If the latter why doesn’t he write & tell me so & we could have it out.” [25 May 1916]

p. 206 “Fritz suddenly started launching gas at us” [23 April 1917]

p. 223 “I couldn’t bear to hear the people laughing & clapping yesterday. One was so haunted by the memories of those dear boys who have gone.” [11 November 1918]

Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Pen and Sword History
Year it was published: 2021 (first published in 2010)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – WWI
Pages: 226

About the author: Andrew and Nicola Hallam met at the University of Wolverhampton and share a love of history.
Andrew has a degree in History and Politics. Nicola graduated with a degree in History and English. In 2020 Nicola was awarded an MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographical and Heraldic Studies from Strathclyde University. She is a member of the Register of Qualified Genealogists.
They stumbled across Dorothie Feilding’s letters while researching a family history project at Warwickshire Record Office.
Andrew and Nicola live in rural Lincolnshire where Nicola works as a self-employed genealogist.
Website & Social Media Links: Pen and Sword

*I was sent a copy of Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

6 thoughts on “Lady Under Fire on the Western Front by Andrew and Nicola Hallam”

  • This sounds really good! I enjoy a format like this since it comes across as so much more honest and human, if that makes sense. I’ve put it on my wishlist.
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    • It is honest as they removed only a small selection of letters, which were duplicates. She was not PC at all, as least to our views today.

  • What a fascinating story! This personal account sounds well-researched, and reveals the lives on the western front. A century later you can feel her angst at letters being censored, that was such a violation of privacy, but all too common everywhere.

    • It is very well researched. Censorship sounds awful, but, in another book, I read about German spies, so it was useful in that way.

  • I am not usually a fan of epistolary books, however I am intrigued by this one and also that it is written in a mix of French and English. It must have been so difficult for some families when multiple members were serving on the front line, especially for nursing staff who might have relatives being brought through for treatment to injuries, or even worse. I really like the sound of some of these short ‘study’ books you have been sharing. I have been making a note of them, as I would quite like to read them at some point. Thanks for sharing and enjoy the weekend 🙂 x

    • I’ve read a few accounts of the WWI and they are all so different and interesting in their own way. It’s wonderful to be able to read them and lovely to see that they are still published and these people are remembered.

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