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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Elsie and Mairi


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Met Diane Atkinson last week in Ieper and she has just written a fantastic book about the two women of Pervasse. Its an account of the first "Biker Chicks" who came over to flanders in WW1 and helped our men in the trenches. Serving Soup, and giving medical attention.

"Elsie and Mairi go to war"

Elsie was a qualified nurse and keen biker.

Mairi was 18 years old and ran away from home determined to come to Belgium to help the soldiers.

They came over as voluteers so had no income and had to go back to London to raise money for funds.

A facisinating insight into the women of WW1 and wonderfully interesting and well written book.

See website for more details of book and campaign for a memorial of Elsie and Mairi

Website www.dianeatkinson.co.uk



I think that Elsie and Mairi deserve a statue to commemorate their heroic work and selflessness. They were from a golden age when people, famous or otherwise, did what they did for altruistic and noble reasons. With the exception of aid workers I do not know of anyone now who does what they did. Elsie and Mairi would be shocked at what motivates many celebrities today, and how their shallow lives are splattered over the pages of magazines and on the television.

Elsie and Mairi were not paid for the work they did in Belgium. They spent their savings and sold their beloved motorbikes to keep their first aid post open to patch up Belgian soldiers. They lived close to death and in extreme danger for nearly 4 years and would have still been at the post until the end of the war if they had not been almost killed by arsenic gas in the spring of 1918.

If you would like to add your name to the campaign to commission a bronze statue of them, ideally by a woman sculptor, situated in Whitehall or on the Embankment, please sign up and try and get them in the right place in time for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014. Contact me and let us see if we can stop Elsie and Mairi on their motorbike and sidecar and cast.

Diane Atkinson

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  • 3 months later...

The first two chapters of this book concern themselves with the family history and background of Elsie and Mairi and include the complex build up to their 1914 adventure. Although they are born into middle-class Victorian families, their lives are not immune from death, divorce and break-up, right from the start, and it is this part of their story that I found of great interest. Elsie was one of only 380 women granted a divorce in England and Wales during 1912. The family stories branch out and encompass the other members and bring the reader a glimpse of the life led by the 'Officer Class' that went to the War, and predictable it is not.

I look forward to the rest of the book where they head for Pervyse. Having read a 2005 thread started by Marina in the 'Women' section, it should at the very least be a ripping yarn. Anyone else read/reading it?


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