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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree August 2019 > NEWS


Karen Clare reports on the latest genealogy news. Got a story to share? Email

Tribute to female WW1 soldier hits the right notes

An opera group plans to celebrate and commemorate the life of the only British woman to fight for the Allies in the First World War.

Stars from the international opera world have joined forces with the British Army to create a unique musical tribute to Flora Sandes (1876-1956). Born in Yorkshire to Irish parents, she volunteered overseas as a St John Ambulance volunteer but later joined the Royal Serbian Army in combat. She was promoted to sergeant major and, after the war, captain, and was highly decorated. Flora’s best friend Emily Simmonds, who was a nurse and aid worker on the Allied Front, also features in the story.

Librettist and opera singer Lila Palmer has written the piece, called Dead Equal, along with composer Rose M Hall and the director is Miranda Cromwell, whose recent hits include Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic. The team is now trying to raise £5,000 to produce the show with the help of a crowdfunder page at

Dead Equal was created as a response to the press critique of women being allowed into frontline combat roles in the British Army in 2016,’ explained Lila at the launch of the fundraising campaign at the Army Officer Training Corps headquarters in London.

The cast of Dead Equal

Watch a video about the campaign

‘We decided to respond by uncovering the reality that women have been serving unofficially in frontline positions for over a century, that the ground is already broken. The battle is already won in reality, if not in imagination. Now the imagination is our job.’

The project team hopes to launch the opera at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, followed by a tour. It is backed by the British Army, ENO, the Canada Arts Council, Gemma Classical Music Trust and Help Musician’s Fusion Fund. Follow progress at

Flora Sandes
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If a picture tells a thousand words – what stories can our old family snaps reveal to us about our kin from times gone by? • Learn how to date your old family photos and unlock the clues to your kin with our bumper guide on ‘How to date family photos’ by vintage photo expert Jayne Shrimpton. • Discover how to trace long lost family with Dr Penny Walter’s advice on tracing adopted family members and tracing your own birth family if you were adopted. • Travel back in time two centuries to the time of Peterloo – when innocent ancestors were slain on the street, simply for peacefully marching for their hopes for democracy in Manchester 1819. • New to family history? And stuck? Get simple steps to discover more about your family tree Find all this and more in the latest issue of Family Tree!