The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY)
FANY - or more properly - the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry - was formed in 1907 with the purpose of assisting the Military and Civil authorities in times of Emergency. This purpose remains the same today. Always on call, FANYs are resourceful and unique women, who come from all walks of life, and are united in their aim to be of service in whatever capacity is asked of them.
The Corps offers a wealth of new experiences and a huge amount of fun: weekly training nights, based in Westminster, cover skills in First Aid, Major Incident Response, Advanced Driving (of military vehicles) Navigation, Radio Communications, Self Defence, Weapons Handling and much more.
The FANY is a voluntary organisation; the only female yeomanry unit and the most decorated female Corps. FANYs served in both Great Wars, in roles previously considered to be for men only. In the Great War FANYs drove ambulance convoys in Flanders and in France and ran field hospitals on the battlefields. In World War 2, they were drivers, coders and signallers.
Today the Corps concentrates its efforts in Communications Roles: FANYs registered missing people from the Tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, they worked on the Ops Room Media desk during the Fire-fighters Strikes and dealt with casualty enquiries after the Potters Bar and Hatfield train crashes. In the London Bombings of July 2005, FANYs were called out by the City of London Police to open up the Casualty Bureau; they went on from there to give assistance to the overworked Met Police in the Fusion Cell at Scotland Yard for over two and a half weeks, following the incidents.
Did You Know?
Early in their history, the FANYs had few rules and regulations. As they were not 'Army' they only saluted an officer once in the morning as a simple recognition of the position that officer held. Also as a few women near many thousands of men, they had to be careful. One golden FANY rule was that an individual FANY did not go to dinner with a male friend by herself. Another FANY would accompany her. Entertainment in a war zone was vital to take away the monotony of their life. In Calais, the FANYs created the 'Fanytastiks' while in St Omer their entertainment group was known as the 'Kippers'. Groups such as these entertained the troops.
Applicants had to be over 23 years of age and had to be interviewed at the FANY headquarters in London. Those who passed the interview were then put on probation for four months. Those who passed this were then attached to a FANY unit but had to provide their own uniform (though an allowance was given for this). When it was required, all FANYs had to pass the BRCS driving test. When posted abroad, all FANYs had to obey the commanding officer of wherever they were stationed. Failure to do so resulted in dismissal from the unit. Every six months duty brought two weeks leave.
Many of the female agents sent by SOE to France were commissioned into the Corps. Twelve died in concentration camps. Three of these courageous women - Odette Hallowes, Violette Szabo and Noor lnayat Khan - were awarded the George Cross, the last two posthumously.
There are around 100 active FANYs, as well as retired members who attend the reunion and church service every October, and many who assist the City of London Police Casualty Bureau when called up but take a lesser role in other activities owing to family commitments or for geographical reasons. Corps members are unpaid and training is one night a week and some weekends - all of which is voluntary after the initial recruit training programme has been completed. There is an annual camp held over bank holiday weekend in May. All FANYs must hold a current first aid certificate. Activities include shooting, hillwalking, parachuting, codes and ciphers, survival training, and anything else individual members can organise.