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The Great War was the war to end all wars but unfortunately it was only the opening chapter of the bloodiest century. The war began in 1914 when Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo. For a time the well oiled German-Austrian armies were undefeated. They swept through Belgium and over ran much of France before they were checked at the First Battle of the Marne. In the book God’s Mighty Hand by Richard "Little Bear" Wheeler he shares a fascinating story about the battle and God’s intervention. Apparently the soldiers saw a man on a white horse leading a charge against the Germans. General Gunn of the Princess Pat Canadian Regiment told his soldiers to "follow the man on the white horse." The Germans began moving away but they did not retreat, they dug trenches and began a trench war unlike anything the world had ever seen before. The United Stated tried to stay neutral but in 1917 they entered the war on the Allied side. Another year of bloody fighting took place before the war ended on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.
Many women served as nurses during the war. Life on the home front was also challenging because many necessities were hard to get. In this issue we will meet several ladies who helped change the events of the war. First is Edith Cavell who worked as a nurse, next is a brave girl from France named Marcelle Semmer, and last we will meet a fictional girl who has an important mission to fulfill. This is an exciting edition of Heroines and I know you will enjoy it. Let’s get started.
Your affectionate friend,
Heroines of the Past
P.O. Box 429
Wright, WY 82732
Several people have asked me to include books for boys too. This month I’d like to recommend a very good book for boys! Your daughters might enjoy it as well.
The Children of France
By Ruth Royce
A Book of Stories of the Heroism and Self-sacrifice of Youthful Patriots of France During the Great War
E-book, 80 pages
View Sample Pages!
During World War I France was the theater of much fighting. The inhabitants of France remained loyal to their country and did all in their power to make trouble for the Germans. Many children did remarkable feats for their homeland. This book tells their stories. There are stories of brave boys who fought and there are tales of courageous girls who spied on the Germans. These heroic young people were willing to risk their all for France and some paid the ultimate sacrifice. A wonderful book to spark patriotism in your children.
Please note: There are a couple stories where a child runs away from home to join the army. The child’s disobedience could lead to a discussion on the importance of obedience. It could also bring up a discussion about how difficult the situation in France was during World War I. Imagine young lads feeling compelled to fight for their country.
Buy The Children of France
By Clayton Edwards, 1920
As the name of Florence Nightingale became world famous at the close of the Crimean War more than sixty years ago, the name of another English nurse who suffered martyrdom in the World War will go down in history with the luster of glory and self-sacrifice surrounding it. That name is Edith Cavell.
Edith Cavell was born at Swardeston in Norwich, England, in 1865. Her father was an English minister of the old school who was rector of a single parish in Norwich for more than half a century. Edith and her sister were brought up in strict conformance with church ideas and were taught the value of leading useful lives and the glory of self-sacrifice. As was customary at the time when she was a young girl, she received her education on the continent, attending school in the city of Brussels in Belgium. She then returned to her home and remained there until, when twenty-one years old and resolved to give her life to some useful and benevolent occupation, she decided to become a trained nurse and went to London to study that calling.
She studied at the London Hospital--a place, we are told, where the hardest and most difficult conditions prevailed, and where the nurses were worked to the limit of their strength. She also held the position of a nurse in two other hospitals--the Shoreditch Infirmary in Hoxton, and the St. Pancras Infirmary; and she gained a reputation both for hard work and efficiency, while her patients often spoke of her gentleness and her kindness. Not content with forgetting a patient when discharged from the hospital, Edith Cavell often followed him to his home and continued there the lighter nursing that would assure his convalescence. Her regular duties were severe enough but she used a large part of her scanty leisure for such purposes as these.
In 1906 Edith Cavell left the English hospitals, where she had made a reputation for herself, and went back to Brussels, where she took a position as matron in a Medical and Surgical Home. Nursing in Brussels had been conducted hitherto by Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy, and at first they were inclined to look upon Miss Cavell as an untrained outsider, but her tact, efficiency and skill soon won the hearts of these good women, who afforded her every courtesy and entered into cordial cooperation with her.
Her home succeeded so well that three years after its commencement, Miss Cavell started also a training school for nurses. She was popular everywhere in the Belgian capital, and although Protestant, she gained the praise of the Roman Catholic priests for the generous and unselfish work that she performed.
When the war broke out Miss Cavell was on a vacation with her mother. Every year she returned twice to England to visit her family. Her father had died by this time, but her mother was close to her heart and she saw her as often as she could.
"I may be looked on as an old maid," she is reported as saying, "but with my work and my mother I am a very happy one, and desire nothing more as long as I have these two."
When war was declared Miss Cavell lost no time in hurrying back to Brussels, believing that her duty called her there. She wrote a letter commenting on the German army when it swept through Belgium--and in it she voiced her pity for the tired, footsore German soldiers--who were later to slay her. Brussels became a part of the German Empire and a tyrannical governor came there to establish his headquarters, issuing proclamations threatening the Belgians with death for minor offenses, and filling Brussels with spies and intrigue. Miss Cavell desired to continue her hospital work and went to the Governor, Von Bissing, to get permission to do so. He granted it, for the quiet English nurse made an impression upon him. We are told that the arrogant German formed a high opinion of her--so much so that he secretly determined to keep her under the strictest supervision!
From that time on spies dogged her tracks. She cared for the wounded German soldiers and nursed a number of German officers, as well as the Belgians who were in her care, but this made no difference to the authorities. They were determined to detect her in some crime and punish her. It was not fitting, they thought, that an enemy should be engaged in works of mercy, even though they themselves might benefit thereby. And soon spies began to come to the Governor with tales and fabrications of the crimes that she had been committing in their eyes. They bore witness that she had given an overcoat to a Frenchman who was cold and hungry--and the Frenchman later escaped over the Dutch frontier. Once she gave a glass of water to a Belgian soldier. She had given money to poor people, perhaps to soldiers. But the main reason that the Germans hated her was because she was held in great affection by the people of Brussels.
On the night of August fifth, 1915, we are told, Miss Cavell was tying up the wounds of a wounded German soldier, when a group of armed men entered the room and their leader told her roughly that she was under arrest. A blow was the only response when she tried to expostulate. She was taken to prison and placed in solitary confinement. Her arrest was shrouded with the most careful secrecy, for the Germans did not want to have the representatives of neutral governments, such as the United States, know of the affair or of what they proposed to do.
But word of her plight did reach England through a traveler, and at once the British Government requested the American Ambassador, Dr. Page, to get what information he could from Brand Whitlock, the American Minister in Belgium. He went at once to the German authorities, but they evaded his questions and waited ten days before giving him a reply. Then the Germans sent him a statement declaring that Edith Cavell herself had admitted giving money to English and Belgian soldiers and furnishing them with guides to help them to the Dutch frontier, whence they might escape into Holland and return to England.
This was the German statement. If what they said were true, there was still no cause for killing the unfortunate woman in their power, for she was not accused at any time of having been a spy. But they had planned to try her for her life, and Mr. Whitlock soon guessed this, in spite of the fact that the Germans kept their preparations from him so far as possible.
An American lawyer, Mr. de Leval, was requested by Mr. Whitlock to take Miss Cavell’s case and do whatever was possible on her behalf. He was not allowed to see the prisoner--and was not even allowed to look at the documents in the case until the trial began. Another lawyer, who was a Belgian, suddenly appeared and told the Americans that there was not the least cause for them to worry as Miss Cavell was sure to receive only just treatment. He also promised to let them know when the trial was to take place, and that he would keep them informed of all the developments in the case. All these promises were broken. It is true that he sent a note a few days before the trial telling Mr. Whitlock that the case was about to come to court, but that is all that he told them. He never informed them that the death sentence had been imposed. He never came to see them afterward. And when they sought him for an explanation and for assistance, he had disappeared.
Miss Cavell was kept in solitary confinement for two months and then was tried with a number of other persons who were accused of crimes against the German Government. It was only from a private source that Mr. de Leval learned that the trial was underway, and that the death sentence had been given. Miss Cavell herself, we are told, was calm, dignified and brave at the trial and faced her accusers heroically. She was dressed in her nurse’s uniform and wore the badge of the Red Cross.
When Mr. Whitlock learned that she had been tried and sentenced to death he did everything possible to secure her pardon, or at least a moderation of the punishment. He wrote to Baron Von der Lancken, pointing out in a clear and decisive manner that Miss Cavell had served the Germans by caring for their wounded, and that the death sentence had never before been inflicted for the crime of which she was accused. He also wrote a note to the Baron which is as follows:
"My dear Baron:
"I am too ill to present my request to you in person, but I appeal to your generosity of heart to support it and save this unfortunate woman from death. Have pity on her." Brand Whitlock
All through the day the American Legation sent message after message to the German authorities asking for information. They received none. At 6:20 in the evening they were told by a subordinate that the sentence had not been given--only to learn later that it had indeed been declared, and that Miss Cavell would face a firing squad at two o’clock the following morning. Mr. Whitlock then urged Baron Von der Lancken to appeal to General Von Bissing to mitigate the sentence, and at eleven in the evening he was told that Von Bissing refused to do anything to save Miss Cavell’s life.
At the same time that the Governor denied this appeal, Edith Cavell was allowed to see a British chaplain. She told him that she was not in the least afraid of death and willingly gave her life for her country. She said, "I have no fear nor shrinking. I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me. I thank God for this ten weeks’ quiet before the end. Life has always been hurried and full of difficulty. This time of rest has been a great mercy. They have all been very kind to me. But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness to anyone."
She then repeated the hymn ending:
Hold thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies:
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me."
Early in the morning with her eyes bandaged Miss Cavell was led out to face the rifles of the Huns. She wore an English flag over her bosom. Only Germans were witnesses of the execution, but the German chaplain who attended said that she died like a heroine.
When her death became known, the entire civilized world was shocked and horrified. In England this murder did more to stimulate recruiting than anything else up to that time. All day long lines of men waited to sign the papers of enlistment, and in Miss Cavell’s home town every eligible man was sworn into the army.
A bitter denunciation of the German act was made by Sir Edward Grey. The Germans themselves had only a poor excuse for what they had done. In brief the case against the German authorities is as follows: they had not previously inflicted the death penalty for the offense of which Miss Cavell was accused; they had kept her in solitary confinement and prevented her from consulting an advocate up to the time of her trial; she was tried with great haste and with great secrecy, and after the trial the sentence was carried out far more speedily than usual. Moreover, they had deceived Mr. Whitlock and the other members of the American Legation, and had done so deliberately. After the execution they refused to return the body.
But the name of Edith Cavell has become one of the world’s great names and her fame grows brighter as time passes. In the hospital where she was in training for her high calling a fitting memorial to her is being prepared--it is the Edith Cavell Home to be a permanent part of the London Hospital where she served her difficult apprenticeship. But her chief memorial is in the hearts and minds of the British nation.
By McLandburgh Wilson, 1917
Edited by Amy Puetz
On law and love and mercy
Was laid the German curse
When to her execution
Was led the British nurse.
In brutal might they thought her
Of help and friendship shorn;
Stephen, Jeanne d’Arc, all martyrs,
Companioned her that morn.
A harmless, tender woman,
They took her to her doom;
A dread, resistless spirit
She rises from the tomb.
Still Germany shall fear her,
For since that bloody dawn
Through all the earth that trembles
Her soul goes marching on!
A Picardy Heroine
The Story of Marcelle Semmer, Who Held Up the Advance of a German Army Corps
By Albert Bushnell Hart, 1920
French heroines were not few; indeed to be a woman of France was to be a heroine in those slow grinding years of the war that tired the soul, as it trampled the life of that country. But none of them was of greater courage or of more resolutely self-sacrificing purpose than a young woman of Picardy, a mere girl, Marcelle Semmer. She was the daughter of a phosphate factory owner, an Alsatian, who had quit Alsace in 1871 rather than remain as a subject of Germany.
The story of her deeds was first given to the public by a lecturer at the Sorbonne, Paris, and was repeated by the Paris correspondent of the Times, but her fame had already run throughout the armies of France, and the Republic had honored her.
After the defeat of the Allies at Charleroi, the French tried to make a stand along the Somme, but being unable to resist the overwhelming mass of the invaders, they fell back across a canal in the vicinity of Marcelle Semmer’s home. The enemy was in close pursuit. As the last group of the French crossed the bridge, Marcelle rushed forward and raising the drawbridge, threw into the canal the control key, without which the drawbridge could not be lowered. This remarkable evidence of presence of mind and coolness was hardly to have been expected from a girl in such terrifying circumstances. The act was a daring one, as the advancing Germans did not hesitate to fire at her as well as at the retreating soldiers; but realizing that it would hold up the advance of the Germans she unhesitatingly confronted the danger. It was the saving grace for the French, for it was not until the next morning, that the Germans were able to get together boats enough to form a pontoon across the canal. The retreat had the advantage of those precious hours of the holdup.
Though the risks were great, Marcelle remained in the village during the German occupation in order to be of possible assistance to the French. And she did render assistance. There was near the village Eclusier a subterranean passage used in the working of a phosphate mine, and in this passage Marcelle managed to conceal at different times sixteen French soldiers who had been separated from their command in the retreat from Charleroi and Mons. There she fed them, furnished them with civilian clothes and aided their escape into the French lines. It was not until she was helping the seventeenth to escape that she was caught and dragged, with a French soldier, before the local commandant. Asked if she meant deliberately to aid the soldier to escape, she replied firmly:
"Yes. He is not the first. I helped sixteen others to get away. Do what you please with me. I am not afraid to die."
With little ceremony she was ordered to be shot. She was taken out for the purpose. The firing squad was drawn up and only waited the order to fire when suddenly there was a roar of French artillery bombarding the town and the position of the Germans around Eclusier. It was an unexpected French advance, and without thought of the girl the firing squad joined the confusion of men hurrying to the shelter of their defenses. Marcelle made her escape to the friendly subterranean passage. The French occupied Eclusier.
The Somme lay between the opposing armies, and in the vicinity of Eclusier it forms a marshy lake. At flood the water covered the lines so that soldiers often lost their way, and here Marcelle found another means of serving France.
The correspondent says:
"Being thoroughly acquainted with the neighborhood, she used to pilot parties of soldiers. This brought her again close to death. While leading a squad of men who wanted to dig an advanced trench in the village of Frise she fell into the hands of a party of Germans.
"They locked her up in the little village church of Frise. On the morrow, she felt sure, they would shoot her.
"But once more luck and the French artillery were her salvation. The French across the Somme began a lively bombardment of Frise. One shell blew a large hole in the church wall. Through this hole, unperceived by her captors, Marcelle crawled. Creeping past the Germans scattered through Frise, she soon tumbled, safe and sound, into the nearest French trench.
"By this time her fame had spread and rewards began to shower upon her. She got the Cross of the Legion of Honor, and some time later the War-Cross. In spite of all she had gone through, she persisted in staying in the Somme country and continued to work for the cause of France. For fifteen months she remained, despite shot and shell, in her little Somme village, taking care of wounded soldiers. Also among her charges was a woman of 90, too feeble to travel to a safer place. Marcelle looked out for her night and day with unflagging devotion.
"Everywhere soldiers knew and admired her. One English General ordered his soldiers to salute when she passed and refrain from addressing her unless she spoke first."
Under the strain of her volunteer work she finally came near to a breakdown and was persuaded to go to Paris. There she entered a nurses’ school to qualify for the care of the wounded, work being necessary to her to shut away her personal sorrows, as everything she possessed or held dear the war had taken from her.
All this and more was told at the Sorbonne Conference, and then, says the Times correspondent, the narrator made a dramatic gesture and exclaimed:
"‘This little heroine of Picardy, this admirable girl, this incarnation of the qualities of the woman of France, this girl of simple origin, flawless dignity, of serious mind, and gentle ways, this girl of indomitable willpower, is here, ladies and gentlemen, here among you, in this room! And I feel that I am the spokesman for every one of you when I now extend to her the expression of our respect, our gratitude, our admiration!’
"The auditors, every man, woman and child of them, leaped to their feet, mad with enthusiasm. They craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the heroine. Unable to escape them, the young girl stood up, blushing. Through the great hall of the Sorbonne, where the most famous people of the world had been honored by France, swept a storm of cheers. A reward more splendid than the Cross of the Legion of Honor, than the War-Cross, than the salutes of soldiers at the front, had come to Marcelle Semmer."
Morning in the Trenches
By Annalisa Perry
Small village in France, 1916
14-year-old Marie Lamar awoke suddenly and listened. Since she couldn’t hear Grandfather’s snoring, she knew he was gone. Marie got up and walked through the small house she shared with Grandfather. Before the war, her father and brother had lived there too. The Great War had changed everything. Papa had gone to Paris to help with army communications and Andre had gone to defend his country.
The clock in the kitchen ticked on past two o’clock . Grandfather had never been gone this late. He thinks I don’t know where he is, Marie thought. In the distance she could hear the sound of gunshots and shells exploding.
After the battle of the Marne, neither the French and British nor the Germans could gain the advantage. Both sides had built trenches for the soldiers to live and fight in. The village where Marie lived was only a few miles from the trenches but she had never been there. Every morning she went with Grandfather on a long walk, towards the woods. Sometimes, under a certain oak tree, they met another man who handed Grandfather a sealed packet. When they got home, Grandfather wrapped the packet into a bandage and put it among other medical supplies.
"Who are those for?" Marie always asked and Grandfather always answered "For some friends." Every time Grandfather receives the packet, he disappears for a few hours that night. He must be taking the packet to someone at the trenches! Marie thought. But he’s usually back by now. Maybe he stopped to rest somewhere and fell asleep. Or maybe his bad leg hurts and he can’t move!
Frightened, Marie began pacing up and down the kitchen. When the clock chimed 3:00, she slipped on her clothes, buttoned up her coat and went outside to look for Grandfather. She walked through the quiet village and towards the fields that led to the trenches. The half moon gave the fields enough light for Marie to see where she was going. Once she slipped and fell over a hole in the pasture. Thankfully, she only bruised her knee.
I’ll just go a little farther and then I’ll go home, she thought.
Marie didn’t know how long she had been walking when she heard a low groan. A man lay on the ground, holding a medical bag in one hand. His leg was twisted in pain.
"Grandfather?" she called.
"Marie! What are you doing here?" Grandfather tried to sit up and winced.
"You didn’t come back! Is your leg hurt?"
"I fell into a hole and can’t move. It’s almost morning and I have to get this message to the trenches." He tried to stand up and collapsed.
"We have to get you to a doctor," Marie said.
"No!" Grandfather protested. "I have to get that packet to General Noir."
Suddenly Marie knew what she had to do. "I’ll take it!" she said.
"The front lines are too dangerous for a child!" Grandfather sounded helpless and unsure.
"I’ll be careful! Please let me go, Grandfather!"
Grandfather gave a long sigh. "I don’t want to let you go but I have no other choice. Keep going straight until you reach the trenches. Get down on all fours and crawl until you reach the side. Give the password share your breakfast and they will let you in. Go through the trenches and try to find General Noir. Give the packet to him and tell him Monsieur Lamar sent you."
"I will, Grandfather."
"Go to the trenches on the right! And remember! You must reach the trenches before morning or it will be too late for you to get across to the trenches."
"I’ll run all the way."
"Now go and Godspeed!"
Marie gave him a quick kiss and took off running. Soon she was out of breath. She was sweating and there was a painful stitch in her side but she forced herself to keep going. The sky had turned from black to grey and Marie could see the heaps of dirt that surrounded the trenches. Hurry, hurry, hurry! She chanted to herself as she panted on. There were trenches on both sides; Grandfather had said go to the ones on the right.
It’s so quiet--I wonder why they stopped firing? Remembering what Grandfather had said, Marie got down on all fours and crawled around tangles of barbed wire toward the edge of the trench. She had almost reached it when she saw a man peering over the side--and his bayonet was pointed right at her!
The password--what was the password?
"Stop, Louis, it’s just a little girl!" a voice hissed.
"She could be a spy, Jack!" argued the gruff young man with the gun.
Why are they whispering? Marie wondered. What was the password? Something about sharing?
"What are you doing here, mademoiselle?" Jack asked kindly. His voice almost squeaked and Marie wondered how young he was. Marie glanced down the trench and saw a row of heads peering over.
"You better do something with her fast before the Germans see her!" one said.
Marie licked her lips. "Share your breakfast!" she whispered hoarsely.
"Why, it’s a little messenger! Come on down," said the friendly young man, giving her a tug.
Marie found herself in a muddy wet trench, surrounded by friendly, curious faces.
"What were you doing in the no man’s land?" asked one.
"The land between our trenches and the Germans! Usually we’re blasting bullet and shells across it. Now and dusk is the only time we don’t."
"What are you doing?"
"We’re on ‘stand to.’"
"You ask a lot of questions, mademoiselle! Every morning and evening we ‘stand to’ in case of a surprise attack. Funny things is, we hear the Germans do it too. As long as we’re both watching, no one is firing and that’s fine with us!"
"Oui, gives us a little rest," another man said.
"We’d better get back to our positions before the sergeant sees us!"
Quickly the men stepped back up onto the mound line of dirt so they could see over the side of the trench.
"Where can I find General Noir?" Marie whispered to Jack, the one who had pulled her into the trench.
"He’ll be in the reserve line or the communications line."
Seeing Marie’s puzzled look, he explained, "There are several trenches behind this one. If you can wait a few minutes, I’ll show you."
Jack turned back to his post. Marie was so tired she sat down in the mud to wait. What a strange place! Her hand tickled so she scratched it. She felt something alive crawling up her hand and screamed. A soldier near her jumped and fired his gun into the air. Immediately the air was filled with smoke and gunpowder. A shell exploded nearby and she saw the wall of dirt give way and trap someone beneath. Marie couldn’t stand to watch. She sat down and covered her eyes.
The noise of the battle rang in her ears. Finally it stopped. Marie could hear men talking to each other. She opened her eyes.
The soldier named Louis stood nearby. Thankfully Grandfather’s bag of medical supplies was buried next to her in the pile of rubble.
"Why did they stop firing?" Marie asked.
"It’s breakfast time," Louis answered.
All around, men were opening their packs and munching hard biscuits. Marie was shocked to see them surrounded by rats who helped themselves. Now I understand the password!
Other men lay groaning in pain. A few doctors were moving among the injured.
"Where’s Jack?" Marie cried.
Together they searched through the tangle of men until they found him. His arm was severely injured and there was a cut on his head.
"Can you hear me, Jack?" Louis asked.
"Louis!" Jack whispered.
Louis lifted his canteen to his friend’s lips. "We’ve got to get you to the hospital."
Marie helped carry Jack down the trench until they came to a tunnel leading back to the next trench. From behind she could hear an officer yelling at the men,
"GET BACK TO YOUR POSTS! There’s a war on! Start pumping water out of here! You three, fill some more sandbags!"
Apparently breakfast was over. In the Reserve Tunnel, Marie observed some men cleaning their guns for inspection. Others were repairing damages to the trench.
"We’re almost there," Louis said.
At the First Aid Station, men lay stretched out across the muddy ground.
"Doctor, can you see to this man?" Louis asked. "I’ve got to get back to my post."
The doctor came over to look at Jack and his eye fell on Marie.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"I’ve got to find General Noir," she said.
"I need to give him--" Marie’s hands clutched her side. Good, the bag was still there.
"You can give me the medical supplies. These trenches are no place for a little girl," the Doctor said sternly. He looked at Louis. "Take this girl through the communications line and get her out of here."
"Yes, sir!" Louis took Marie’s arm.
"Come on, Marie."
"I have a message for General Noir. Monsieur Lamar sent me!" Marie cried desperately.
The doctor looked confused. Jack opened one eye and said something.
"What’s that?" the Doctor asked him.
Summoning all his strength, Jack gasped out, "She knew the password."
The Doctor sighed and wiped the sweat from his face. "Take her to find General Noir and then get her out of here!"
Louis grabbed Marie by the arm and steered her through the trenches until they got to the communications line. They found General Noir in his "room," bending over a map.
"Excuse me, sir!" Louis said. The General looked up.
"I have a message from Monsieur Lamar for you," Marie said. She handed him the precious packet.
The General read the message quickly.
"They will attack tonight but we will be ready!" he said. "Did you bring this message alone?"
The General took her hand. "You are a brave girl and you have saved many lives. Make sure you get her safely home," he told Louis.
"Yes, sir! I will, sir!" Louis took Marie’s arm and they made their way to the back of the trenches, climbed over the side and began the long trek home.
Just wait until Grandfather hears what I’ve done! I did it!
Near the beginning of World War I, the Germans marched into neutral Belgium, which they conquered in two weeks. The Germans marched into France, knowing that if they could reach Paris quickly, the war would be practically over. (Germany and Austro-Hungary fought against France, England, Russia and Japan.)
By the first week in September, the Germans reached the River Marne, just 15 miles from Paris. The grueling Battle of the Marne lasted five days. It looked as if the Germans would win. At the last minute, help arrived from Paris and the Germans were pushed back.
The Germans did not want to give up the land they had claimed. Since they could not retreat and they could not go forward, they dug trenches. The British and French quickly followed their example. The trenches were nearly 600 miles long, stretching from Belgium to Switzerland. Behind the front line trench, they dug the reserve line and the communications line, all connected by tunnels. In these tunnels there were living quarters, kitchens and First Aid Stations.
The No Man’s land lay between the two armies. Even at "stand to" it would have been a difficult thing to cross because of the mounds of dirt and barbed wire. Sandbags were heaped on top of the trenches like a barricade, as protection against bullets.
Conditions in the trenches were awful. When it rained, muddy water had to be pumped out and the tunnels had to be repaired. There was no way to get rid of the rats, cooties, lice and other vermin that shared their home.
The two armies stayed in a stalemate from 1914 to 1917, fighting most days and neither side gaining the advantage. Since the Germans had destroyed the French telegraph lines and stations, messengers had to be carried on horseback, motorcycle or on foot. Even though I created the characters Marie, Grandfather, General Noir, Louis, and Jack, their world was very real.
Here are some websites I found helpful:
About the Author
Annalisa is the oldest of eight children. She enjoys reading books, writing stories, talking to people and spending quality time with her family. Annalisa and her family were missionaries in Germany for five years before they moved to Georgia two years ago. She enjoys homeschooling because it gives her independence and unique opportunities. She is in 11th grade.
The Junior Red Cross
In September, 1917, President Wilson sent out a letter from the White House in Washington to the school children of the United States.
By Jane Eayre Fryer, 1918
He told them that the President of the United States is the President of the American Red Cross, and he said that the Red Cross people wanted the children to help them in their work.
Their work, you know, is to help all those who are suffering or in need. Such work is so beautiful that it is really doing golden deeds. Now read for yourself this letter from the President of the United States which belongs to every school child in America.
To the School Children of the United States:
The President of the United States is also President of the American Red Cross. It is from these offices joined in one that I write you a word of greeting at this time when so many of you are beginning the school year.
The American Red Cross has just prepared a Junior Membership with School Activities in which every pupil in the United States can find a chance to serve our country. The School is the natural center of your life. Through it you can best work in the great cause of freedom to which we have all pledged ourselves.
Our Junior Red Cross will bring to you opportunities of service to your community and to other communities all over the world and guide your service with high and religious ideals. It will teach you how to save in order that suffering children elsewhere may have a chance to live. It will teach you how to prepare some of the supplies which wounded soldiers and homeless families lack. It will send to you through the Red Cross Bulletins the thrilling stories of relief and rescue. And best of all, more perfectly than through any of your other school lessons, you will learn by doing those kind things under your teacher’s direction to be future good citizens of this great country which we all love.
And I commend to all school teachers in the country the simple plan which the American Red Cross has worked out to provide for your cooperation, knowing as I do that school children will give their best service under the direct guidance and instruction of their teachers. Is not this perhaps the chance for which you have been looking to give your time and efforts in some measure to meet our national needs?
(Signed) Woodrow Wilson,
September 15, 1917
How do you suppose the school children of the United States felt when they read this letter from the President?
It is a wonderful letter. It does not read like a letter from a great man to little children. It is different from most of the letters which grown people write to children, for the President writes to the children asking for their help, just as if they were grown up.
Indeed, when the grown people read the letter they wished that they could be school children again, because there was no Junior Red Cross when they were young, and they had to wait to grow up before they could help the Red Cross do golden deeds.
You see, when they were young, everybody thought, "When the children are grown up they will help us." Then they waited for them to grow.
Are you not glad that you are able, while a child, to do helpful work for your country?
The Queen’s Flower By John Gilbert Thompson and Inez Bigwood, 1918
On July 25, 1918, nearly every person in Washington, the capital of the United States, was asked to buy a bunch of forget-me-nots; and nearly every one responded, so that almost $7000 worth was sold in about an hour. In many other cities sales were held, and for many years to come such sales will be held all over the civilized world, for the forget-me-not is the Queen’s flower, chosen by Elizabeth, Queen of Belgium, to be sold on her birthday, July 25, to raise money for the children of Belgium. She is a lover of flowers as are all the people of her country. Many parts of Belgium were before the war, like Holland, devoted to raising flowers for bulbs and seeds. It is said that the garden at the Belgian Royal Palace was the most beautiful garden in the world.
For many years it has been the Queen’s custom to name a flower to be sold on her birthday for the benefit of some good cause. In 1910 she named the La France rose to be sold for the benefit of sufferers from tuberculosis in Belgium. Nearly $100,000 was raised on this one day.
The war has not done away with the beautiful custom, and on the Queen’s birthday in 1918, she named a flower to be sold to raise money to help care for the children of Belgium. She chose the forget-me-not, for the Queen can never forget the terrible sacrifice her country was called upon to make, nor the brutal manner in which the Huns used their power.
Those who have carefully studied the facts have concluded that the Huns coolly and deliberately planned to destroy Belgium as a country and a people, not only during the war but forever. It was to carry out this plan that the villages and cities were burned or bombarded until they were nothing but heaps of stone and ashes; that much of the machinery was either destroyed or carried into Germany; that the Belgian boys and men were herded together and deported into Germany to work as slaves; and that the Belgian babies were neglected, starved, and murdered. If only the old and feeble were left at the end of the war, there could be no Belgium to compete with Germany, and Germany desired this whether she should win or lose.
America has done much to relieve the suffering of the Belgian people. Germany saw to it, however, that the babies and very young children were neglected as far as possible, with the exception of healthy Belgian boy babies, and many of these she snatched from their parents and carried into Germany to be raised as Huns. It has been said that no horror of the war equaled the horror of what Germany did to Belgian childhood.
Queen Elizabeth realized the danger and did everything in her power to protect and help the babies of Belgium. Although she is by birth a German princess, she wishes never to forget and that the world may never forget the great wrong done her country. In naming the forget-me-not she meant that the wrong done to Belgium should never be forgotten, and that the children of Belgium should not be forgotten.
The flower is to be sold for the benefit of Belgian children at all times and in all countries, for the Queen has said she will never name another.
The little blue forget-me-not will be sold all over the civilized world, except in Hunland, and wherever it is sold Belgium’s story will be remembered. All that is sweet and beautiful and pure is connecting itself in the minds and hearts of men with Belgium in her sacrifice and suffering; and as long as history is recorded and remembered, the word "Belgium" will awaken these feelings in those who read. This is a part of her reward, just as the opposite is a part of the punishment of the Hun.
Mystery Woman Contest
Last issue’s mystery woman was Charlotte Bronte. The winner is Marine Corps Nomads. Thanks to everyone for sending in your answers. I was blown away by the response I received and personally emailed everyone who sent in an answer. There were so many that I won’t be able to respond to each email in the future but know that your correct answers will be entered in the drawing.
This lovely lady served as a nurse in France at the American Ambulance Hospital during the Great War. Richard her husband also worked in the same hospital as a surgeon. When she was a child she spent several years in the White House while her father served as President. Her coming out party took place when she was seventeen instead of eighteen because she wanted to make her debut while still living at the White House. Years later she was called "The Queen of Oyster Bay." She had four children. Energetically she was devoted to helping other people and served with the Red Cross for many years. Her father said, "she had a way of doing everything and managing everybody." She was born in 1891 and died in 1977. Who is she?
Participate and win a free copy of The Children of France, By Ruth Royce,
A Book of Stories of the Heroism and Self-sacrifice of Youthful Patriots of France During the Great War.
In each issue of Heroines of the Past we will have a Mystery Woman Contest. A picture and description of a woman from the era covered will be included. To participate in the contest email your answer to Amy with Mystery Woman Contest in the subject line. All the entries will be put into a hat and a winner will be chosen. Each time the prize will be different. Entries must be entered by April 30th. The winner will be announced in the next Heroines of the Past e-zine.
If you don’t want to wait to see if you won, you can buy the book now see information in the left column.
Heroines of the Past
Mary Elizabeth’s War Time Recipes, 1918
Food shortage always seems to accompany a war and I thought my readers might enjoy seeing these recipes from a World War I recipe book. Amy
SCALLOPED SWEET POTATO AND APPLE
6 potatoes (sweet) boiled and sliced
6 raw apples peeled, cored and sliced
Arrange in alternate layers in a baking dish, with four tablespoonfuls of maple sugar or maple syrup sprinkled over the apple. Bake in a moderate oven, with cover on, for twenty minutes to one-half hour. Remove cover for the last ten minutes to brown.
Decorate with parsley.
MAPLE OPERA CARAMELS
1 3/4 lbs. maple sugar
1 pint cream
Pinch of salt
Cook to 238 degrees.
Pour onto a cold, damp platter and beat with a fork until creamy. When perfectly smooth, press into a fudge pan and cut into squares.
Warm contents of one package of puffed rice in the oven, stirring constantly until it is thoroughly dry and crisp.
Cook one pint of strained honey till the thermometer registers 240 degrees. Add a piece of butter the size of a walnut and a pinch of salt.
Cook to 242 degrees, and pour onto the warm rice. Mix well and fill into square buttered cake tins--pressing out the top smoothly with a rolling-pin. The cake tin should be full to the top.
While still warm, turn the pan upside down. Remove the rice cake and cut with a large sharp knife into pieces about five inches long and two inches wide.
COCONUT MAPLE CREAMS
1/2 pounds (three cupfuls) maple sugar
1 can (2 cups) fresh grated coconut
1/2 cupful water
Drain milk from the coconut and add to milk enough water to make one-half pint (one cupful) of liquid. Mix with sugar. Put on fire and stir until sugar is dissolved--no longer.
Cook to 238 degrees by the thermometer and add the drained coconut.
Cook to 240 degrees. Pour onto a cold, damp platter, and mix with a fork.
When done, put in a double boiler, mixing constantly until all is melted, and drop in spoonfuls on waxed paper.
War Time Salads
STUFFED PRUNE SALAD
(To serve six persons)
18 large prunes
1/2 pound cottage cheese
2 tablespoons broken walnut meats
1 pinch of salt
Remove pit from prunes and soak prunes overnight in a closed jar of water.
Add salt and broken nut meats to the cheese, and mix to form a paste. Then place a spoonful in each prune and serve on lettuce leaves with French dressing or mayonnaise thinned with a little whipped cream.
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup molasses
2 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
Mix the bread crumbs, cornmeal, and molasses. Add the buttermilk and salt.
Just before steaming, stir the soda into the boiling water. Add to the dough and stir until well mixed.
Pour into greased round Boston bread tin molds. Steam three hours in closely covered kettle. Let the water come half way up the molds. Renew the water from time to time as needed.
Most households have many bread pieces and crusts that are thrown out. Save them, and make this delicious brown bread.
Women of the Great War Quiz
Match the woman with her description. Answers are below.
1) This woman was assassinated with her husband Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. Their deaths sparked World War I.
2) This woman helped start a canteen for the YMCA in London during the war. Her husband would serve as the Prime Minister of England during World War II.
3) This woman served as the Superintendent of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during the Great War.
4) This British woman was killed by the Germans for helping Allied soldiers escape.
5) This queen helped the poor children of her county by selling flowers.
6) This woman is best remembered as a Titanic survivor but she also helped provide relief for war victims.
7) This famous dancer lost her husband during the war.
8) This woman was the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
9) This woman was the wife of Tsar Nicolas II.
10) This woman married America’s most celebrated hero of World War I, Alvin C. York.
11) This French girl helped detain the German army.
A) Gracie Williams
B) Irene Castle
C) Empress Augusta Victoria
D) Marcelle Semmer
E) Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
F) Elizabeth, Queen of Belgium
G) Tsaritsa Alexandra
H) Clementine Churchill
I) Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee
J) Edith Cavell
K) Margaret Brown
Book and Movie Reviews
Courage Mountain: Heidi’s New Adventure
Heidi has grown into a young woman and uses the money that Clara’s grandmother gave her to attend a boarding school in Italy. Her adventures begin when the school is taken over as a military base. She and three other students are sent to an orphanage. To return to her beloved home on the mountain she must face insurmountable odds. Will she make it home? Watch it yourself to find out!
Warning: I always like to be told if there is anything objectionable in a movie before I watch it so I’m not surprised. There is one scene in this movie where a milkman stops at a house, a woman in a low cut dress greets him, and they start kissing. Another scene hints at New Age philosophy when the Grandfather remarks, "The mountain is inside you." Even with these faults it’s still a good movie.
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
Starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Before the war, dance couple Vernon and Irene Castle took the world by storm with their new form of dancing. When the war began, Vernon joined the Royal Flying Corps. Most of this movie is about their lives before the war but the climactic ending is set during the Great War.
Goodbye Miss 4th Of July
A Greek family immigrates to a southern state in the United States. The movie revolves around Niki the daughter who fights prejudice against blacks. Her outspoken opinions make her family a target for the Ku Klux Klan. Then the United States enters the world war. Even more frightening is when the town is gripped by the Spanish Influenza. Niki helps as a nurse at the hospital. This movie is very touching and one that is sure to inspire.
Sergeant York (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Alvin C. York was just a country boy who had recently given his life to God when the Great War began. He was drafted and sent to France although he had no desire to fight because he thought it was against God’s word. Finally he came to feel that God wanted him go to war and he served in France. When he captured 132 Germans and killed 25 enemy soldiers he became the most famous American soldier of World War I. His autobiography Sergeant York and the Great War was made into a movie in 1941 and inspired many people who would serve in the Second World War.
His autobiography is also interesting. York had very little education and wrote as he spoke. I found it delightful reading but someone who is a grammar fanatic might not be able to get through it.
Rilla of Ingelside
This is the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series and it tells the story of Anne’s youngest daughter Rilla (named after Marilla of course). When the story opens we meet Rill as a young girl of 14, excited that she is finally old enough to attend her first party. Her beautiful world comes crashing down around her that night when news that Canada has entered the war reached the party. The war changes everything and Rilla watches as her brothers and friends go off to war. She starts a Junior Red Cross Society and takes in a baby whose father is fighting in Europe. This book gives us a wonderful picture of life on the home front during the Great War.
Listen to the book.
Read the book.
A Note to my Canadian Readers
When I did my survey in December, a Canadian reader asked that I cover Canadian heroines too. This seemed like a wonderful idea to me and I thought I would share a story of a Canadian lady in the World War I issue of Heroines. Unfortunately after many hours of research I couldn’t find a heroine from there to include. There must be lots of brave woman who served as nurses and volunteers during the Great War and I was sad that I couldn’t find them. If anyone knows of a Canadian heroine that you would like to see included in an upcoming issue, please drop me a note letting me know, or better yet you can look at the line up of this year’s subjects and submit a story for possible publication.(View Writer’s Guide.)
Answers to Women of the Great War Quiz
1-E, 2-H, 3-I, 4-J, 5-F, 6-K, 7-B, 8-C, 9-G, 10-A, 11-D