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.
As she left, Miss Lawrence said: “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, she 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, Miss Lawrence 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 in St Bernard’s Mental Hospital in north London.
She died in 1964, having spent nearly 40 years in a psychiatric institution. But this incredible story has previously unexplored connections with Salisbury.
One hundred years after Dorothy’s adventures in northern France, a new theatre group called the Heroine Project has been created and aims to give a voice to women from history who have been overlooked or misrepresented.
Lizzie Crarer, of The Heroine Project, said: “In the First World War centenary year, we are making our first piece of theatre about this extremely brave but forgotten heroine.
We are offering a theatre workshop on women of World War One to residents of the wards of St Martin’s and Cathedral and St Edmund’s and Milford, where the workshop is taking place.
“We want to stimulate a wider interest in preserving Salisbury women’s World War One stories, so participants are invited to bring along any material that they might have relating to female relatives who lived in these areas during the First World War. The workshop will provide an opportunity to explore these stories using creative techniques developed by The Heroine Project in our devising process. Absolutely no experience is necessary – just an interest in theatre and/or local First World War heritage.”
The workshop is this Saturday at Hale Hall, Salisbury from 2pm to 5pm.
It is free and anyone who lives in the wards of St Martin’s & Cathedral or St Edmund’s & Milford can participate.
Contact Lizzie Crarer for further information and to book a place email íizziecrarer@hotmail.com