Female British officers in WW1

Family history has it that my grandmother was one of the first female officers in WW1. She was a doctor and initially had a hospital in Leith, but later practiced as a surgeon in France (location unknown). I don’t know if she actually qualified as one, but I’m guessing they weren’t too fussed… I was very young when she died and she didn’t say much about it to my father, so I’ve very little to go on. I’ve done some digging to find out more and come to a dead end: the RAMC did not commission female officers until very much later, and according to the National Archive, all records of temporary commissioned officers of WW1 were destroyed in the early 1920s.

If not the RAMC, with whom would she have served?

WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) and WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Serivce) are possibilities.

Female Auxilary Nursing Yeomanry maybe/

And yes I am aware of the unfortunate initials but it was and is a real outfit.

It was the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry actually. But it was all female. I believe it was renamed a few years ago, maybe because of the initials.

Edit: Wikipedia says it’s now the Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps.

From what I have read FANY’s in WW1 were never considered part of the army, and so did not have officers, as can be seen in the 11th paragraph of this article. So your grandmother probably wasn’t a member of that organization if she was an officer.

I’ve emailed them anyway. Maybe they’ll be able to point me in theright direction.

I think it would be strange for a female to have any officer status in the Great War (as in the military sense). If you see the series “Not Forgotten” there were a few very brave females who did medical services virtually at the front line.

And there were many at home who worked in the munitions factories.

I can’t speak to the British Army, but the Canadian Expediationary Force’s Nursing Sisters (as they were known) were all given officer rank (i.e., the basic starting rank as Lieutenant). This was done for two main reasons: firstly, to give the women somewhat better mess (food), living, and recreational facilities; and secondly, to avoid them dating (or “walking out with”) other ranks (the British/Empire term for “enlisted men”), as it was forbidden for officers and o/rs to fraternise. Male officers, for example, were not allowed to drink alcohol with their men.

Granted, their officer status related pretty much only to medical matters–but they did hold a Temporary Commission (same as the new Lieutenant in an infantry battalion). Compare this to the military chaplains, who were only “honourary” officers.