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First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
(Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps)
File:First Aid Nursing Yeomanry centenary.png
Cap badge of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
Active 1907-
Country United Kingdom
Branch Independent
Type Yeomanry
Role Communications support
Size One Regiment
Part of 2 Signal Brigade
Garrison/HQ London
Commandant-in-Chief HRH the Princess Royal

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps) (FANY (PRVC)) is a British independent all-female unit and registered charity[1] affiliated to, but not part of, the Territorial Army, formed in 1907 and active in both nursing and intelligence work during the World Wars.


It was formed as the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in 1907 as a first aid link between the field hospitals and the front lines, and was given the yeomanry title as all its members were originally mounted on horseback. Unlike nursing organisations, the FANY saw themselves rescuing the wounded and giving first aid, similar to a modern combat medic.[2][3] Their founder, Sergeant Major, later Captain, Edward Baker, a veteran of the Sudan Campaign and the Second Boer War, felt that a single rider could get to a wounded soldier faster than a horse-drawn ambulance.[4][5] Each woman was trained not only in first aid but signalling and drilling in cavalry movements.[6] The original uniform was a scarlet tunic with white facings, a navy blue riding skirt with three rows of white braid at the bottom and a hard topped scarlet hat with black leather peak. In 1912 the uniform was changed to a khaki tunic, khaki riding skirt and later a khaki soft cap.

Leaders of FANY included Grace McDougall and Lillian Franklin.[7]

World War I

During World War I, lieutenants McDougall and Franklin, arrived in Calais on 27 October 1914,[8] but drove motor ambulances instead of horses. The British army wanted nothing to do with them, so they drove ambulances and ran hospitals and casualty clearing stations for the Belgian and French armies. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery, including 17 Military Medals, 1 Legion d'Honneur and 27 Croix de Guerre.[9] McDougall wrote an anonymous 1917 account of her experiences Nursing Adventures: A FANY in France, retitled A Nurse at War: Nursing Adventures in France for America.[10]

World War II

In September 1938, the FANY Corps was asked to form the initial Motor Driver Companies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, called the Women's Transport Service.

A small part of FANY - highly secret at the time and later famous - served as a parent unit for many women who undertook espionage work for the Special Operations Executive. Recruits were trained in one of four fields: Motor Transport, Wireless Telegraphy, Codes or General. They worked on coding and signals, acting as conductors for agents and providing administration and technical support for the Special Training Schools. Their work was top secret and often highly skilled. Members operated in several theatres of war, including North Africa, Italy, India and the Far East.[11]

Thirty-nine of the agents sent by SOE to France were commissioned into the Corps: twelve were captured by the Germans and died in concentration camps. Many decorations, of both the UK and other countries, were awarded for their service and outstanding courage. Among these, four of the highest UK decorations were the George Cross awarded to Odette Sansom (who was incarcerated and tortured, but survived the war), to Violette Szabo and Noor Inayat Khan (both perished in captivity and were decorated posthumously). Nancy Wake's awards included the George Medal.[12][13]

Elsewhere abroad, FANY agents served the Finnish Government;[14] a section was attached to the Polish Army; and a Kenyan section, formed in 1935, was made the official East African unit by the War Office in August 1941, and was very active during the war. This section took women from all over the southern half of Africa.

A memorial at St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge commemorates 52 named members who were killed on active service with the Corps in World War II.[15]

Ranks of the Women's Transport Service

Below is a chart of WTS/FANY ranks compared to the British Army.[16]

Women's Transport Service rank British Army rank
Driver Private
Lance-Corporal Lance-Corporal
Corporal Corporal
Sergeant Sergeant
n/a Staff Sergeant / Colour Sergeant
n/a Warrant Officer Class III
Warrant Officer Class II Warrant Officer Class II
n/a Warrant Officer Class I
Ensign Second Lieutenant
Lieutenant Lieutenant
Captain Captain
Commander Major
Staff Commander Lieutenant-Colonel
Commandant Colonel

no authorized rank - n/a

Post war

Today, the Corps provides response teams in support of the Civil and Military authorities within London during a major event or incident, as well as providing UK-wide assistance for civil and military planning and exercise roles. It is open to volunteers between the ages of 18 and 45 who reside or work near London, within the M25. Corps members are trained in radio communications, first aid skills, map reading, navigation and orienteering, shooting, self-defence and survival techniques, advanced driving and casualty bureau documentation. Their working dress is similar to that of the modern British Army; on formal occasions they wear a uniform similar to British Army Service Dress. They also have their own rank system.

The FANY was officially renamed the Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps in 1999, after being given permission by Anne, Princess Royal to use her title, and is now referred to as FANY (PRVC). The original name has greater recognition, and greater prominence even in official publications and on its website.

The Corps celebrated its centenary in 2007.

See also

  • Julia Pirie


  1. FIRST AID NURSING YEOMANRY (PRINCESS ROYAL'S VOLUNTEER CORPS) (FANY(PRVC)), Registered Charity no. 249360 at the Charity Commission
  2. p.30 Lee, Janet War girls: the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in the First World War Manchester University Press
  3. p.266-267 Money Barnes, Major R. The Soldiers of London Seeley, Service & Co 1963
  4. p.32-33 Lee
  5. pp.29-30 Noakes, Lucy Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907-1948 Taylor & Francis
  6. p.33-4 Lee
  7. Roy Terry, "McDougall , Grace Alexandra (1887–1963)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004); online edn, May 2006 accessed 6 March 2013
  10. Lee (2012) p 69
  12. George Cross Database - GC facts and statistics
  14. Women in Uniform edited by D. Collett Wadge; p362
  15. St Paul's Church Memorial, Belgravia, London
  16. D. Collett Wadge: "Women in Uniform", pages 360-361. Marston, (1946)

Further reading

  • Lee, Janet. "A Nurse and a Soldier: Gender, Class and National Identity in the First World War Adventures of Grace McDougall and Flora Sandes," Women's History Review (2006) 15#1 pp 83–103
  • Lee, Janet. War girls: the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in the First World War (Manchester University Press, 2012)
  • Terry, Roy. "McDougall , Grace Alexandra (1887–1963)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004); online edn, May 2006 accessed 6 March 2013

External links

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