First World War Women

Their war, their lives, their stories

Royal Red Cross Medal

Royal Red Cross medal - awarded for devotion to duty for nursing staff


Allied women showed considerable bravery. The British popular press even demanded to know - "Why not VCs for women?"

Reims memorial to dead allied nurses

Heroism came in many forms, unflinching service under fire, refusal to evacuate hospitals when caught in no-man's-land, saving comrades from certain death, sheer dedication to duty.



For those allied women, located in occupied territories, gallantry might mean being the Allies 'eyes-and-ears' as spies. For some, this ended inevitably in execution, But even then, these women were defiant to the end, As Gabrielle Petit eloquently told her executioners before they shot her, "I'll show you a Belgian girl knows how to die."


Allied women were awarded many medals from numerous countries:


  • Great Britain: Mons Star, War Medal, Victory Medal, Mentioned in Despatches, Military Medal, Distinguished Service Order, Royal Red Cross, Associate Royal Red Cross, MBE, OBE, Dame of the British Empire.
  • Belgium: Croix de l'Ordre de Léopold, Croix de Guerre .
  • France: Croix de Guerre, Croix de Guerre avec Palme, Légion d'Honneur.
  • Serbia: Karageorge Cross, Order of the White Eagle.
  • Germany: Iron Cross (Editor's note: A Belgian woman is the only known person to have been decorated by both sides in the war, receiving medals from Great Britain, France, Belgium and Germany).


(Photos of the Reims Monument Hommage aux Infirmières and Gabrielle Petit courtesy Wikipedia)

Gabrielle Petit

Page last updated: 26/3/17


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