This week, Ponytail Journal wants to talk about the women who involved in the war.  You may heard that ‘’ Where there are men fighting, there are always nurses’’ which not wrong at all.  Before the Second World War, women were expected to be housewives or perhaps to do certain ”women’s jobs”, like nursing, being a domestic servant, or shop assistant.  But the war changed the world of work for women for ever, they were called up for war work from 1941.  When men went to fight, women were called upon to fill their jobs, and this included many jobs that were previously thought of unsuitable for women, such as ; mechanics , engineers, Tank drivers…  Today Ponytail Journal would like to proudly introduce an extraordinary woman the only women in the French Foreign Legion, Susan Travers.

Susan Travers WAS and still IS the only woman to have been a member of the French Foreign Legion.  The French Foreign Legion is a military unit for foreign nationals who wish to serve in the French Armed Forces.  Commanded by French officers, it is one of the toughest military units on the planet.  Soldiers in the Legion hail from all over, a sense of cohesion is developed through rigorous training that is both physically and mentally extreme.  Get my gist?

Susan Travers’ entire life reads like an epic serial. Born in southern England as the daughter of a Royal Navy admiral, but raised as a young tennis-playing socialite in the south of France, Travers was among thousands of women who joined the French Red Cross at the outbreak of the Second World War.  Trained as a nurse, she spurned that as being “far too messy” for the more exciting role of ambulance driver, joining the French expeditionary force to Finland to help in the Winter War against the Russians.  After that she became the only woman in the French Foreign Legion, leading a daring wartime desert escape.  

By 1941, she was the chauffeur for a medical officer of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion, during the Syrian campaign in which Vichy French legionnaires fought Free French legionnaires.  She had a nickname,  “la Miss”, given by the legionnaires.  She then travelled to North Africa via Dahomey and the Congo.  On that journey, she had a brief affair with Georgian nobleman and Foreign Legion officer Dimitri Amilakhvari.  She was then assigned as driver to Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig and also became his lover, but before meeting this great love of her life, our brave beauty Travers had an affair with a White Russain Prince as well.  Of the significant engagements and campaigns Travers took part in, perhaps none is as significant as when Koenig’s forces held out against Germany’s Afrika Korps in the Western Desert for 15 days, against planes, tanks, and much heavier artillery than the French were equipped with.  When all other female personnel were evacuated, Travers refused to leave Koenig.  When supplies ran out, Travers, still formally the Colonel’s driver, led the fort’s forces in a daring midnight escape, flooring it across desert terrain littered with mines, and under heavy fire.  

“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark.”
– Travers.
 
 
 
After the war, Travers became an official member of the Legion, omitting her gender on the application, she created her own uniform.  She was also awarded the Légion d’honneurCroix de Guerre and Médaille Militaire by the French government.   In 2000, her book, “Tomorrow to be brave: A memoir of the only women ever to serve in the French Foreign Legion”, was published and finally she felt free enough to tell her story to the world.  YES Travers ! People need to know about your story! Susan died in Paris on December 18, 2003, at age 94, after such a extraordinary military career that any man would be proud of.
 

“La Miss “!  You have captured a unique place in history as well as a huge deserved one in our hearts.  You are a true woman of extraordinary destiny.

Written by Songyi Yan.