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About the book
  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409050506
  • Imprint: Preface Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

Elsie and Mairi Go to War

Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front




The extraordinary and moving story of two women whose courage and charisma made them the most famous women in the First World War.

When they met at a motorcycle club in 1912, Elsie Knocker was a thirty year-old motorcycling divorcee dressed in bottle-green Dunhill leathers, and Mairi Chisholm was a brilliant eighteen-year old mechanic, living at home and borrowing tools from her brother. Little did they know, theirs was to become one of the most extraordinary stories of the First World War.

In 1914, they roared off to London 'to do their bit', and within a month they were in the thick of things in Belgium driving ambulances to distant military hospitals. Frustrated by the number of men dying of shock in the back of their vehicles, they set up their own first-aid post on the front line in the village of Pervyse, near Ypres, risking their lives working under sniper fire and heavy bombardment for months at a time.

As news of their courage and expertise spread, the 'Angels of Pervyse' became celebrities, visited by journalists and photographers as well as royals and VIPs. Glamorous and influential, they were having the time of their lives

  • Pub date: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409050506
  • Imprint: Preface Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

About the Author

Diane Atkinson

Diane Atkinson was born in the North-East and educated in Cornwall and London, where she completed a PhD on the politics of women's sweated labour. At the Museum of London she worked as a lecturer and curator specialising in women's history. She has an MA from the University of East Anglia in Life-writing. She is the author of Suffragettes in Pictures, Funny Girls: Cartooning for Equality and Love and Dirt: The Marriage of Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick, which was published in 2003.

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Praise for Elsie and Mairi Go to War

“Diane Atkinson has uncovered the lives of two extraordinary women who brought medical comfort and relief to the wounded of World War I. Her book is as absorbing as it is thorough, as entertaining as it is warm-hearted. A terrific story.”

Joan Bakewell

“The true story of best friends Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who, when the First World War broke out, set up a first aid post on the Western Front. Their courage frequently made the headlines in Britain and both were awarded medals for their bravery. This biography is a fitting tribute to their role on the frontline.”

Charlotte Vowden, Express

“A terrific, true story, brought vividly to life.”

Mail on Sunday

“Brilliantly readable”

Lancashire Evening Post

“A compelling story of famous but forgotten heroines: two exceptional Edwardian ladies in the front line mud and mayhem of World War I.”

Kate Adie


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