Miss Edith Lena Prance

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Born in 1874, Edith was a vicar's daughter and lived in Northants in the rectory at Maidwell.

 

At the age of 16 she became interested in Votes for Women and began working for NUWSS (National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies)

 

When the Great War was declared she answered a call by Dr Elsie Inglis for owner drivers.  Edith was the first volunteer driver to arrive in France.  She could not have imagined how her life was about to change forever.

She was issued with her French driving license on 5th January 1915. At the age of 40 she was the oldest of the female drivers.

She was remembered by the patients as the driver who played her violin for them.

Edith aquired the nickname Libellule or Dragonfly due to her style of driving and her personality.  Miss Prance served in France, Greece and Serbia. At the end of her 6 months in Serbia she decided to return to France as she was very run down and tired after her time there. Also her brother Ernest was in France and she wanted to be on the same front as him.  After the Armistice she and Ernest stayed on in France to help with the refugees.

A record card in the National Archives shows that she was awarded The Victory Medal and British War Medal for her service under the British Committee of the French Red Cross from December 1914-November 1918.

 

Between the two wars Edith travelled to South Africa to visit a brother and also kept house for him. On their return to the UK they lived in Great Totham where the house was divided into 3 to accommodate the siblings.

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With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, five of the original SWH girls established the Royaumont Canteen Unit. Edith was then 65 years old, she acted as Cook and Housekeeper to the others as the maid was forcibly evacuated by the French authorities.  When the Germans arrived in 1940 the women had very little time to escape.  Luckily Edith had her 2 seater Singer sports car which carried 2 passengers plus luggage back to UK.  On June 14th the order came to evacuate, Edith would drive right down to the South of France trying to escape.

She left Metz on 14th June 1940 and would not reach Bayonne until June 19th.

Edith gave her car away to the French Army and boarded a Dutch boat which zigzagged its way to England.  She arrived in Plymouth on June 22nd. Two days later she was driving ambulances in London.  She was to say later “I was a bit tired”

 

Edith lived until 1957 when she gifted her house and land in Wickham Bishop to the Scout Association.

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