Author(s): WHITE SALLY
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The first book that focuses on the staggering achievements of hundreds of thousands of civilian volunteers and charity workers, the majority of them women, during the Great War, both at home and abroad. It fills a gap in our knowledge and understanding of the conflict and its broader impact. It shows what a mass of untried and frequently untrained women and men from all backgrounds achieved through their energy, innovation, adaptability, creativity, bravery and dogged commitment. As Lloyd George said, the War could not have been won without them. As the country was swept by patriotic fervour and a belief that the conflict would be over by Christmas 1914, many women were as keen as the men to get involved. Organisations were all but overwhelmed by the initial tide of volunteers. They rushed to register for overseas service, wanting to help near the action, without knowing the devastating reality they would confront. Others devoted their free-time to fund-raising, collecting salvage, helping care for refugees, working in canteens or helping in any other way they could. Doctors, nurses, technicians, ambulance drivers, x-ray technicians, pharmacists, administrators, and cooks set up hospitals and mobile units wherever they could get permission to work and in whatever empty building they could occupy. Conditions, particularly in the Balkans and Russia, were often appalling and yet even volunteers who had been waited on hand and foot at home, coped and even relished the challenges they faced. Streams ran through their kitchens, clean water, food, and fuel were often in short supply, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and bugs spreading typhus infested their surroundings and they were regularly short of sleep. They came under fire, advanced or retreated with their respective armies, evacuated their patients through baking heat, mud or bitter cold and snow, battled epidemics, performed operations by the light of a single candle, worked through the Russian Revolution and joined the Serbian Army on its Great Retreat. Several groups were taken prisoner. Wherever they worked, they were met with respect and gratitude, linked to incredulity that British people, especially gentlewomen, would help foreigners.