In June 1915, armed only with a bicycle, her wits and a burning journalistic ambition, a young woman named Dorothy Lawrence set out from England determined to reach the frontline of fighting in northern France.
“I’ll see what an ordinary English girl, without credentials or money can accomplish. I’ll see what I can manage as a war correspondent!”
Sleeping in ditches, haystacks and flea-bitten dugouts, Dorothy wheedled, charmed and hoodwinked her way past suspicious gendarmes and the unwanted attentions of frustrated soldiers, to spend ten days under heavy shelling in the French town of Albert shortly before the Battle of Loos.
Eventually discovered and packed off home by an astonished military command, Dorothy was forbidden from writing about her experiences for the duration of the war. The account that she published in 1919 was not widely read, and her worsening health ultimately led to her incarceration Hanwell Lunatic Asylum in north London.
Dorothy died in 1964, having spent nearly 40 years in a psychiatric institution.
This incredible story has previously unexplored connections with Salisbury Cathedral Close. Dorothy was orphaned at the age of 13 and there is reason to believe that she was sent to live with Josephine Fitzgerald of 6 de Vaux Place. Mrs Fitzgerald was a wealthy widow and, it seems, an active member of the community, regularly involved in charitable giving. When Dorothy was committed to Hanwell in 1925, Mrs Fitzgerald was listed as her only friend.
100 years after Dorothy’s adventures in northern France, The Heroine Project Presents has ensured that she has been remembered World War One centenary activities in Wiltshire and beyond.