Croydon heroine Flora Sandes celebrated in new biography
The life of Thornton Heath’s warrior woman Flora Sandes has been published in a biography dedicated to the only British woman to fight in the Great War.
Daughter to Reverend Samuel Dickson Sandes, Flora gave up her life in St Paul’s Road, Thornton Heath to join a nursing unit in 1914 travelling to Serbia where she became attached to a regiment and swapped medicine for the military.
Rising to the rank of sergeant major in the Serbian army, Flora was wounded badly in 1916 defending her position, an act of bravery for which she was awarded the Karageorge Star Author Lousie Miller has spent the past ten years researching Flora, who lived in Croydon between 1894 and 1918.
She said: "She really is a Croydon heroine. Throughout the War she was travelling back to Croydon to stay with her sister Sophia on Haling Park Road. She based herself out of Croydon and certainly saw it as home."
Such was her dedication Flora, who settled in the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia with her Russian husband, even attempted to fight during World War Two, aged 65, but was captured by German forces.
Following the war she returned to Britain and died in 1956 in Suffolk, aged 80.
Ms Miller, whose book A Fine Brother: The Life of Captain Flora Sandes, was published last week, said: "The story is little known but really quite remarkable.
"Rejected from fighting by her own country she realised her dream in Serbia and as far as I am aware was the only British woman fighting on the frontline."
Her connection with Croydon is perhaps most obviously commemorated through the naming of the Weatherspoon pub on Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath.
Ms Miller said: "She was a heavy drinker and smoker so I think she would have liked a pub being named after her."