Pen and Sword, 2012 (published 19 April)
204 pages, with black and white illustrations throughout the text
ISBN: 978 1 84884 173 4
This book is the latest in Pen and Sword's series of family history guides and will prove a welcome addition to the series. Although not confined solely to the Great War, much of the content concentrates on women who saw service during that period. It covers all the main organisations that were active in supporting the armed forces between the Crimean War and the 1920s, and includes some groups that have been sorely neglected in the past and remain poorly researched or understood.
The book is divided into eighteen themed chapters, each concentrating on one particular aspect of women's service. In addition to the more familiar military nurses, there are sections on less well-known groups including army schoolmistresses, military masseuses, the Women's Forage Corps and the Indian Army Nursing Service. Each chapter works as a stand-alone research guide, giving a short background and history of the service, with details of printed and online sources, and of archives who hold relevant material. Individual catalogue references are supplied throughout, which cuts through many difficulties and helps make what could be a lengthy search very simple indeed. Descriptions of uniform, badges and insignia are accompanied by contemporary photos, providing an easy guide to distinguishing the different groups. Each chapter also includes some details of honours and awards, and of casualties suffered.
There is so little written on women's work during the Great War, and what exists often takes the form of memoirs, reminiscences and diaries. Until now there has been a dearth of factual information and detail to help the family historian uncover the working life of their female ancestors, with other military sources often failing to recognise how many of them served alongside, or gave support to, our grandfathers, cousins and uncles. Mary Ingham has used her extensive knowledge and meticulous research skills to produce a comprehensive guide that is unique in supplying a wealth of information previously unpublished. It will prove an invaluable aid both to those taking their first steps in family history, and also to the experienced researcher approaching a new and previously untrodden path.
I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in women's history.
Reviewed by Sue Light.