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War

WWI Wednesday: The Women Who Drove Ambulances on the Western Front

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A VAD ambulance driver standing by the cab of her vehicle in uniform. She has her left hand in the pocket of her skirt and an oil can in her right hand. Though her pose is casual, her eyes stare out at the viewer. The debris of bomb damaged buildings is visible in the background to the left.
A VAD Motor Driver© IWM (Art.IWM ART 3824)

The WWI Wednesday series, which I began to I present a peek at the WWI we don’t normally see in pop culture, has resulted in just as many surprises for me as it (hopefully) has for you! My favorite find has been the story of the ambulance corps made up of women drivers, who dared much by sitting behind a steering wheel or fixing their own engines, not to mention their harrowing experiences driving quite near the front lines. After reading as much as I could about them–and the British corps in particular–I couldn’t not write a novel featuring an ambulance driver. How could I let that opportunity pass me by, right? 😉 Surprisingly, women ambulance drivers could be found in various fronts over the course of the war, and the corps were kitted up by women from various nations and walks of life.

In the early 1900s, driving an automobile was an act of independence and privilege, and without going into any scholarly depth (I’ll leave that to this book), a woman driving an automobile in the early 1900s exercised her ability to go wherever she wanted when she wanted. This was an undoubtedly terrifying specter in the era of militant suffragist demonstrations, and the resistance towards women stepping outside of their “place” forced women ambulance drivers during WWI to carefully navigate their roles as “helpmeets” (proper femininity) with their “masculine” positions in the thick of the war.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, preparations for transporting the sick and wounded were better suited for the Boer War of twelve years before: horse-drawn ambulance waggons! Indeed, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was founded in 1907 for the purpose of sending nurses mounted on horseback to reach the wounded where ambulance waggons would be too slow to respond. The earliest weeks of war were to shatter these glorious ideals, and motorized ambulances quickly replaced the antiquated notion of a horse-drawn ambulance waggon across the Western Front. The aspirations of the FANY Corps–under the helm of the bold and audacious Grace McDougall (later Ashley-Smith)–to transform themselves from a mounted unit to a motor unit were thwarted by the British Army, who were loath to have women involved at the Front in any capacity other than trained nurses. Granted, their prejudice derived just as much from pre-war assumptions of a woman’s proper sphere as it did from the multitude of “helpful” ladies who flocked to France and Belgium to establish hospitals without any jurisdiction from the medical and government authorities. As a result, most, if not all, women’s ambulance units served the Belgian and French Armies for the first two or three years of the war.

Their [FANY] work is varied: motor ambulance work in the actual firing line has now given way to motor ambulance work at the base; the first-aid work behind the trenches has changed to first a clearing hospital and now a base hospital, and the excursions to the front with what were then much-needed comforts have given place to running a big canteen for 700 convalescents. — Nursing Adventures, Grace McDougall

Joining the FANYs in Belgium were the Munro Ambulance Corps, a unit put together by the slightly eccentric Dr. Hector Munro in August 1914. Dr. Munro advertised for “adventurous young women to equip an ambulance unit for service in Belgium,” and of the 200 applications he received, he accepted four: Lady Dorothie Feilding, Mairi Chisholm, Mrs. Elsie Knocker, and Helen Gleason. May Sinclair, a novelist, joined in a purely administrative role, and there were two doctors, and two London bus drivers who drove the Daimler and Fiat ambulances, along with a few other people. The steady march of the German army across Belgium pushed the Belgian Army back towards the tiny tip between Nieuport and Ypres–the scene of much bitter fighting between 1914 and 1918–and swept the FANYs and Munro units into its tide.

Ghent did not long remain a refuge; well before the middle of the month earnest warnings to evacuate it were given. The way in which the final summons came was dramatic. Mairi was in bed, sleeping with her usual heart-whole earnestness, when she was awakened suddenly, and saw standing by her one of the doctors attached to the ambulance, telling her the Germans were upon them and they must fly. Then followed a scramble. The first thing was to save the wounded soldiers, who must not be left to fall into the hands of the foe. Alas! the order had come through the day
before that all the kits belonging to these men were to be sent to Ostend as a measure of precaution. One of those “decisions in blinkers” which cause such infinite suffering.

…When they were finally sent off the members of the corps had to think of themselves. There was none too much room in the cars, and they had to pack in like sardines. As Gipsy had been sitting up with a wounded officer when the summons came, and since then, having been occupied with the soldiers, had not been able to change the cotton hospital dress she happened to be wearing, she suffered frightfully from the cold. The cars crawled along to Eccloo, where they stopped at the house of an Englishwoman, a friend of Dr. Munro’s. Although this lady and her husband were themselves preparing to fly, they received the rather forlorn party with the utmost kindness, and spread abundance of blankets on the floor of
the drawing-room, where they made up a roaring fire. There they all waited till daybreak. — The Cellar-House of Pervyse, as told to G.E. Mitton

Driver of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry cranking up an ambulance
Driver of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry cranking up an ambulance

In 1916, the FANY Corps finally won the battle to become the first women’s ambulance convoy to work for the British Army. That same year, no doubt for the same reason the FANY were sanctioned by the British (the need to free up more men for the army) as well as the rivalry between Grace McDougall and the head of the V.A.D., Katherine Furse, the Voluntary Aid Detachment motor ambulance convoy was established. In mid-1916, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (later Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps, or Q.M.A.A.C.) “formed a motor branch under Miss Christobel Ellis, who had driven an ambulance for the French Red Cross.” As an aside, class distinctions remained even these volunteer units–the FANYs prided themselves on their more aristocratic roots (particularly since their members needed enough personal wealth, or access to wealth, to purchase their own uniforms, ambulances, and other kit), whereas the WAAC, which was formed to send women to perform as cooks, cleaners, and other menial tasks for the British army, was of a humbler stock.

Life as an ambulance driver wasn’t glamorous or filled with heart adventure, and many of the FANY in particular were involved in air raids, shelling, and accidents. Pat Beauchamp Washington was sidelined in early 1917 by a collision between her ambulance and a train, which cost her a leg.

Fraser [a member of the unit who was seriously injured during a raid]…was coming home from a job, when the bombardment started again and a bomb dropped in front of her, seriously injured the orderly, and hit her in three places. She had just passed a hospital, so managed to struggle back there, and tell them to fetch the orderly. She was operated on next morning, but the man died during the night. She was hit on the arm and leg and had a piece enter the liver; but she is wonderfully well considering, and they hope to be able to move her soon. She was decorated with the Croix de Guerre with palm, and next day with the Legion d’Honneur, a decoration which very few women, and still fewer Englishwomen, have. — Letters of Mrs. Homersham, a FANY ambulance driver.

Lady Dorothie Feilding was another highly decorated ambulance driver, earning the “1914 Star, the Croix de guerre from the French, the Order of Leopold II from the Belgians”, and the Military Medal from the British by the end of the war.

Back in London, women took the wheel as part of the the Motor Transport Volunteers, the Y.M.C.A. Baltic Night Transport, and the Women’s Reserve Ambulance (Green Cross Corps), and the Military Transport Section of the Women’s Legion, as well as general chauffeuring of troops on leave and driving mail vans. The Women’s Reserve Ambulance were first on the scene in the wake of London’s first serious zeppelin attack in September 1915:

There was the time of the first serious Zeppelin raid on London, when amid the crash of falling bombs and the horror of fire flaming suddenly in the darkness, the shrieks of the maimed and dying filled the night with terror and the populace seemed to stand frozen to inaction at the scene about them. Right up to the centre of the worst carnage rolled a Green Cross ambulance, from which leaped out eight khaki-clad women. They were, mind you, women of the carefully sheltered class, who sit in dinner-gowns under soft candlelight in beautifully appointed English houses. And they never before in all their lives had witnessed an evil sight. But they set to work promptly by the side of the police to pick up the dead and the dying, putting the highway to order as calmly as they might have gone about adjusting the curtains and the pillows to set a drawing-room to rights.

“Thanks,” said the police, when some time later an ambulance arrived from the nearest headquarters, “the ladies have done this job.”

Since then the Women’s Reserve Ambulance Corps is officially attached to the “D” Division of the Metropolitan Police for air-raid relief. — Women Wanted: the story written in blood red letters on the horizon of the great world war, Mrs. Mabel Daggett

The Transport Corps under the Women’s Legion soon included dispatch riders and Royal Flying Corps drivers (taken over by the Royal Air Force in 1918), and served with the Q.M.A.A.C. Transport in France for the duration of the war. After the Armistice, women ambulance drivers remained behind to assist in the devastated war-torn areas of France and Belgium, and the FANY were tasked with retrieving prisoners of war from the various prisons across the Rhine.

There were jobs to take doctors to the camps of Russian prisoners left behind by the Germans, but dear God! That was hell let loose on earth. These starved, emaciated, wolfish creatures were animals, not human beings, and their cries and gestures and bestial ways made the girls turn sick. The climax came when one girl thoughtlessly tossed them a packet of sandwiches, which she could not eat in front of these tortured, hungry eyes. The whole mob was on the food and almost on her with claws that dug feverishly for crumbs–with lips that shrilled for more. — Five Years with the Allies, Grace Ashley-Smith

Women war workers were all demobbed by the spring of 1919, and they undoubtedly found life had changed for themselves and for British society after four years of chaos, carnage, and courage. Though their contributions to the war were often marginalized in the interwar period, the inroads the ambulance drivers–and munitionettes, nurses, surgeons, farmers, WRNS, etc–made during WWI laid the foundation for an even greater contribution for women during WWII.

A BRCS and Order of St John Motor Driver by Gilbert Rogers, 1919 - A Red Cross driver standing by his ambulance. He looks out towards the viewer, the collar turned up on his overcoat, his hands protected by thick fur mittens.
A BRCS and Order of St John Motor Driver© IWM (Art.IWM ART 3739)

But let us not leave unsung the many men who served their country–or volunteered to serve another–under similar harrowing circumstances as their female counterparts. Contrary to common perception, the Voluntary Aid Detachment was not only for women. According to a BRCS handbook published in 1915, a proper men’s detachment consisted of one commandant, one medical officer, one quartermaster, one pharmacist, four section leaders, and forty-eight men, of whom were required to be thoroughly trained as stretcher bearers and to some extent, as male nurses, with others hopefully being skilled clerks, carpenters, and mechanics. Their principal duties consisted of “carrying sick and wounded by stretchers and, when necessary, in preparing means of transport by road or rail, in converting local buildings into temporary hospitals, and in disinfecting buildings, etc.” Before the United States entered the war in 1917, the extensive ties between wealthy Americans and European society encouraged many expats as well as those still in America, to fund ambulance units. Many American men jumped at the opportunity to help the Allies in this fashion, and soon they too found themselves in the midst of a great war.

Sources & Further Reading

Elsie and Mairi Go to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front by Diane Atkinson
Lady Under Fire on the Western Front: The Great War Letters of Lady Dorothie Feilding MM by Andrew and Nicola Hallam
War Girls: The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in the First World War by Janet Lee
Women in Uniform edited by D. Collett Wadge
Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age by Virginia Scharff
Women and War Work by Helen Fraser
Gentlemen Volunteers: The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in the Great War, August 1914-September 1918 by Arlen J. Hansen
Women in the First World War by Neil R. Storey & ‎Molly Housego
Not So Quiet…: Stepdaughters of War by Helen Zenna Smith

WWI Wednesday: A War Nurse on the Retreat from the German Army

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Fleeing Antwerp

Published anonymously (Google Books attributes the text to M. E. Clark), the author tells of her time as a nurse in the British Field Hospital for Belgium organized by a British woman and under the patronage of Elizabeth, Queen of the Belgians between August 1914 and October 1915. Antwerp fell to the German Army after an eleven day siege in October 1914, forcing the Allied nurses, soldiers, civilians, and members of the Belgian Royal Family to retreat. The author and her fellow nurses remained in Antwerp through the siege until the press of the German army compelled them to pack their equipment and escort their patients to Ghent. The following is an excerpt of the harrowing flight.


We felt in taking these buses that we were no longer robbing the Marines. Many of them were with us; many more were dead and had no use for them. It was now 3 p. M. on Thursday. As soon as the five buses arrived we commenced loading them up with our wounded. Those who could sit up were placed on top and the stretcher cases lay across from seat to seat inside. We formed a long procession, for there were five private cars as well. My car was the first to get loaded, and I was put in charge of the inside passengers. Shall we ever forget the loading up of those cars? They tried to save all the theatre instruments. What an eternity it seemed! Just sitting still, with the guns at last trained on to our locality.

One of the young doctors ran upstairs for his kitbag; half-way up, the wall suddenly collapsed, revealing the next house in ruins. He left that kitbag behind! Even to the last minute patients arrived, chiefly British. Just before we started a tall Marine in a navy jersey and sailor’s cap was helped in. He sat in the corner next to me. All his ribs were broken down one side, and he had no plaster or support. Opposite me were two Tommies with compound fractures of the leg. I placed both legs on my knees to lessen the jolting.

The Marine suffered in silent agony, his lips pressed tightly together, and his white face set. I looked at him helplessly, and he said “Never mind me, Sister; if I swear don’t take any notice.” Fortunately, they had pushed in two bottles of whiskey and some soda-syphons; I just dosed them all around until it was finished. Placing the Marine’s arm around my shoulders, I used my right arm as a splint to support his ribs, and so we sat for seven and a half hours without moving. Then another nurse took my place and I went up on top. During the first part of the ride I bethought me of that tube of morphia, and it came in very useful, as I gave each of those poor sufferers one or two tablets to swallow.

How can I ever describe that journey to Ghent of fourteen and a half hours? No one but those who went through it can realize it. Have you ever ridden in a London motor bus? If not, I can give little idea of what our poor men suffered. To begin with, even traversing the smooth London streets these vehicles jolt you to bits, whilst inside the smell of burnt gasoline is often stifling, so just imagine these unwieldy things bumping along over cobble stones and the loose sandy ruts of rough tracks among the sand-dunes, which constantly necessitated every one who could, dismounting and pushing behind and pulling by ropes in front, to get the vehicle into an upright position again, out of the ruts. When you have the picture of this before you, just think of the passengers—not healthy people on a penny bus ride, but wounded soldiers and sailors. Upon the brow of many Death had set his seal. All those inside passengers were either wounded in the abdomen, shot through the lungs, or pierced through the skull, often with their brains running out through the wound, whilst we had more than one case of men with broken backs. Many of these had just been operated upon.

We started from the Boulevard Leopold at 3 in the afternoon. We arrived in Ghent at 5.30 next morning. For twenty-four hours those men had had no nourishment, and we were so placed that it was impossible to reach them. Now that you understand the circumstances, I will ask you to accompany me on that journey.

Leaving our own shell-swept street which seemed like hell let loose, we turned down a long boulevard. From one end to the other the houses were a sheet of flames. We literally travelled through a valley with walls of fire. Keeping well in the middle of the street we constantly had to make detours to avoid large shell-holes. At last we arrived at one of the large squares near the Cathedral. That appeared to be intact, whilst the Belgians had taken Rubens’ and Van Dyck’s famous pictures and hidden them in the crypts.

Every sort of vehicle in existence filled that square. It would have been possible to have walked across on the top of the cars. The only way to get out of Antwerp was across the Scheldt by a pontoon-bridge made of barges with planks between. It would not bear too much traffic, so the authorities let the people and vehicles cross one by one, still looking at passports.

For one and a half hours we stood there waiting for our turn to come. Just after we were safely over a shell struck the bridge and broke it in half.

From Antwerp to St. Nicolas is about twenty miles. It was the Highway of Sorrow. Some people escaped in carriages and carts, but by far the greater number plodded on foot. It was now 5 P. M. on an October evening; there was a fine drizzling rain; it was cold and soon it was dark. Along that road streamed thousands, panic-stricken, cold, hungry, weary, homeless. Where were they going? Where would they spend the night? Here was a mother carrying her baby, around her skirts clung four of five children, small sisters of five or six carried baby-brothers of two years old. There was a donkey cart piled high with mattresses and bundles and swarming on it were bedridden old men and women and babies. Here was a little girl wheeling an old fashioned cot-perambulator, with an old grey-bearded man in it, his legs dangling over the edge. Suddenly a girl’s voice called out of the darkness, “Oh Mees, Mees, take me and my leetle dog with you. I have lost my father and he has our money.” So we gave her a seat on the spiral stairs outside.

Very soon all the ills that could happen to sick men came upon us. The jolting and agony made them violently sick. Seizing any utensil which had been saved from the theatre I gave it to them, and we kept that mademoiselle busy outside. All along the road we saw little groups, weary mothers sitting on the muddy banks of a ditch sharing the last loaf among the family. After some time of slow travelling we came to St. Nicolas. Here the peasants ran out warning us, “The Germans have taken the main road to Ghent and blown up the bridge.” So we went on by little lanes and by-ways across the sand dunes and flat country that lie between Belgium and Holland.

We were very fortunate in having with us a Captain of the Belgian Boy Scouts. He knew the way and guided us. Soon the order went forth from car to car, “Lights out and silence!” Later on we saw the reason for this; across some sloping fields by a river we saw the tents and glimmering lights of the Germans. We passed very few houses, as we avoided towns and villages; any habitations we saw were shuttered and barred, for the people hid in terror expecting every one who passed to be the dreaded enemy. All this time our men were in torture, constantly they asked “Are we nearly there, Sister? How much longer?” I, who was strong, felt dead beat, so what must they have felt? One weary soul gave up the battle and just died. We could not even reach him to cover his face as he lay there among his companions.

From St. Nicolas I was faced with new anxiety. Where were our friends who went to Ghent with the first convoy of wounded? Had they taken the main road and fallen into the hands of the Germans? I thought of all the tales I had heard of the treatment Englishwomen received at their hands. At any place where people were visible we anxiously inquired if three buses had passed that way earlier. We could get no satisfactory answer.

Soon we began to meet the first detachments of the Expeditionary Force. In a narrow lane with a ditch on one side lay an overturned cannon whilst a plump English Major cursed and swore in the darkness. Then a heavy motor lorry confronted us; one of us had to back till a suitable place came in the narrow lane where we could pass. Later on we met small companies of weary Tommies, wet and footsore, who had lost their way. Our Scout Captain warned them to turn back, telling them the Germans had by now entered Antwerp, but they did not believe us. Even had they believed us, they had their orders to relieve Antwerp, so to Antwerp they went, never to return.

At last that weary night came to an end. For some hours I had been relieved by another nurse, and sat on top in the rain and cold. The medical students were so worn out that they lay down in the narrow passage between the seats and slept, oblivious of our trampling over them. Before dawn we entered the suburbs of Ghent.

A War Nurse’s Diary: Sketches from a Belgian field hospital by M. E. Clark (1918)

WWI Wednesday: Psychical Phenomena and the War

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trenches

Spiritualism experienced a resurgence during WWI and immediately afterwards. A given since the world was shrouded by death and destruction for nearly five years (including the Spanish Flu epidemic). In his book, Psychical Phenomena and the War, Hereward Carrington, a psychic investigator, attempts to explain and expound upon the forces–material and immaterial–that emerged from the war. The following are a few excerpts from a chapter titled “Apparitions and Dreams of Soldiers.”


A very touching story was told me by a Bournemouth wife. Her husband, a sergeant in the Devon, went to France on July 25, 1915. She had received letters regularly from him, all of which were very happy and cheerful, and so she began to be quite reassured in her mind about him, feeling certain that whatsoever danger he had to face he would come safely through.

On the evening of September 25, 1915, at about ten o’clock, she was sitting on her bed in her room talking to another girl, who was sharing it with her. The light was full on, and neither of them had as yet thought of getting into bed, so deep were they in their chat about the events of the day and the war.

And then suddenly there came a silence. The wife had broken off sharply in the middle of a sentence and sat there staring into space.

For, standing there before her in uniform, was her husband! For two or three minutes she remained there looking at him, and she was struck by the expression of sadness in his eye. Getting up quickly she advanced to the spot where he was standing, but by the time she had reached it the vision had disappeared.

Though only that morning the wife had had a letter saying her husband was safe and well, she felt sure that the vision foreboded evil. She was right. Soon afterwards she received a letter from the War Office, saying that he had been killed in the Battle of Loos on September 25, 1915, the very date she had seemed to see him stand beside her bed.

My son, Lieut. A L J , of the 1st King’s Shropshire L. I., was killed at daybreak on Saturday, April 22nd, 1916.

At daybreak on the next morning, Easter Sunday, about 24 hours after his death took place, when I was lying half awake and half asleep, I had the vision or dream, an account of which follows.

I saw two soldiers in khaki, standing beside a pile of clothing and accoutrements which, in some way, I knew to be Alec’s, and my first feeling was one of anger and annoyance that they should be meddling with his things, for they were apparently looking through them and arranging them. Then one of them took up a khaki shirt which was wrapped around something so as to form a kind of roll. He took hold of one end of it and let the rest drop so as it unrolled itself and a pair of heavy, extremely muddy boots fell out and banged heavily on the floor, and something else fell which made a metallic jingle. I thought “That is his revolver,” but immediately afterwards thought. “No, it is too light to be his revolver, which would have made more of a clang.”

As these things fell out on to the floor the two men laughed, but a sad wistful kind of laugh with no semblance of mirth in it. And then the words, “Alec is v dead and they are going through his kit,” were most clearly borne in on my mind. They were not spoken and I heard no voice, but they were just as clear as if I had done so. And then I became fully awake, these words repeating themselves in my mind and with the fullest conviction of their truth which I never lost. I suppose I still tried to persuade myself that it might not be true, but it was useless and when the official telegram arrived it only confirmed what I already knew.

The next case was published in the S. P. R. Journal, July, 1916. The editor writes:—

The following case was first brought to our notice by a paragraph in the daily press on June 6, 1916, in which it was stated that:

The sister of Seaman George William M , of Peterborough, one of the men who went down with the Queen Mary, had a realistic dream last Wednesday (the day the Queen Mary was lost). She was lying ill in bed when she thought that her brother came to her bedside, and although she spoke to him repeatedly he would not answer. He appeared quite well and happy.

Subsequently, in reply to enquiries, we received the following account from the percipient, Mrs. B:

June 19, 1916. … In reference to my dream—as it was published in the papers, but it was not a dream, it was a vision. I was very ill at the time. It was the afternoon of the day of the battle that I saw my brother. I was taken worse and thought I was going to die. I was with my brother on his ship and thought he was so happy and singing, and then it changed and he was at home on leave. I thought I repeatedly spoke to him each time but he did not speak to me. I knew I was ill, and thought he would not speak to me because I was disfigured. I asked my mother if he had gone back and she said he had not been home. I said I knew he had, it seemed so real. I was very much upset because he would not speak to me. I did not hear of the sinking of the Queen Mary until a week after, as I was too ill for my mother to tell me. … It would be just about the time when the ship went down that I saw my brother, as it was late in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 31.

“It was during the great war, my fiance was a soldier in the Army of the Ehine—if I do not mistake— and for a long time we had had no news of him. During the night of the 23d of August I had a singular dream which tormented me, but to which I did not attach much importance. I found myself in a hospital ward, in the midst of which was a kind of a table on which my fiance was lying. His right arm was bare, and a severe wound could be seen near the right shoulder; two physicians, a Sister of Charity, and myself were near him. All at once he looked at me with his large eyes, and said to me: ‘Do you still love me?’ Some days later I learned from the mother of my fiance that he had been mortally wounded in the right shoulder, and that he had died on the 23d of August. A Sister of Charity who had nursed him was the first person to tell us of his death. The impression is still as vivid in my mind as though I had dreamed it only yesterday.”

There is a popular belief that between twins there exists at times an affinity which surpasses the normal. The following experience of twin brothers, while both were engaged in serving their country, would seem to indicate that there are grounds for this belief.

A certain corporal, who was with his regiment at a home station, had been very anxious for some time about his twin brother who was fighting in France. He had not heard from him for some weeks, and as he had been a fairly regular correspondent, this worried him a great deal.

One night he was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of his name being spoken; he sat up in bed and listened, but the call was not repeated.

And then, as he looked across the room, in the semidarkness he saw quite plainly his brother sitting on his trunk, which was near the door. Too surprised to pause to reason how he could have got there, the corporal jumped quickly out of bed to greet him, but as he approached the spot the apparition had vanished. All the rest of the night he tossed and turned in his bed, for he could not sleep. He had the feeling that his brother was in danger. Next morning he related his experience to his landlady, and also mentioned it to his mother when he wrote home. As at the time he was suffering from dyspepsia and overstrain his friends put the vision down to “nerves.” They were of very different opinion, however, when a few days later the corporal received a field postcard from his brother, stating that he had been wounded at the Battle of Loos, at the very hour when he had seemed to see him sitting on the box in his room.

Further Reading:

Spiritualism in the First World War
The Rise and Fall of British Spiritualism
Negotiating with the dead
Contacting the First World War dead
The Angels of Mons: the bowmen and other legends of the War