Flora Sandes was born in 1876 in Britain and grew up as a tomboy. When Word War I broke out, she immediately volunteered to be a nurse, but was rejected due to her lack of qualifications. So instead she joined a St. John Ambulance unit and left England for Serbia to provide humanitarian aid in August 1914.
She joined the Serbian Red Cross, and began working in an ambulance for the Second Infantry Regiment. When she became separated from her unit, she decided it would be to her benefit to join the Serbian Army. Sandes felt it offered her greater protection, and it had the added benefit of food rations. She rose through the ranks and became a Corporal.
She was involved in a Serbian advance on Bitola in 1916 and became seriously wounded by a grenade in hand-to-hand combat during the advance. For her valor and bravery, she was promoted to Sergeant Major and given the Order of the Karadorde’s Star, the highest decoration of the Serbian military. Her wounds prevented her from returning to active combat so she spent the rest of the war in charge of a hospital. That same year, 1916, she published an autobiography to try and raise money for the Serbian Army.
When the war ended, she became the first woman in the Serbian military to be commissioned as an officer, and she was demobilized in 1922. She was married and living in Serbia when World War II, broke out and she was recalled to service to protect Yugoslavia. However, the invasion was over before she even began her military duties. She was briefly imprisoned by the Germans before being released on parole. After the war, she returned to England where she lived until her death in 1956.