Barbara Williamson was in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry during World War Two but the organisation was formed long before, even pre-dating the First World War. The ‘First Aid Nursing Yeomanry’ (F.A.N.Y.) was formed in 1907 as a link between field hospitals and the front line.
The name ‘Yeomanry’ came about because its members rode horses. Their founder, 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. This made it different from other nursing organisations as they saw themselves rescuing the wounded and giving first aid, similar to a modern combat medic.
Throughout the First World War they ran field hospitals, drove ambulances and set up soup kitchens and canteens for the troops and were involved in signalling and cavalry drilling. Many of the early women recruits were drawn from the upper middle classes.
During the First World War, two of the F.A.N.Y. nurses, Lieutenants Grace McDougall and Lillian Franklin, arrived in Calais driving motorised ambulances instead of the horses drawn ones. The British Army were slow to accept this so they drove ambulances and ran hospitals and casualty clearing stations for the Belgian and French Armies instead. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery, including 17 Military Medals, 1 Legion d’Honneur and 27 Croix de Guerre.