The forgotten British woman hailed a First World War hero in Serbia

Despite being a decorated war hero, you probably have not heard of Flora Sandes.

The only woman officially fighting in the First World War, Flora fought on the brutal Balkan front alongside Britain's ally Serbia.

She was honoured for her bravery with Serbia's equivalent of the Victoria Cross after being badly injured by a grenade in 1916.

As a child, Flora dreamed of being a soldier. She ended up in the trenches after a year working for St John Ambulance in Serbia, becoming fluent in the language while nursing injured soldiers.

She was then taken in by a Serbian army much in need of competent fighters.

Flora Sandes with members of the Serbian army. Credit: ITV News

Flora proved to be more than component, and was embraced by her male colleagues as one of them - they even called her brother.

While there were other women who took part in combat during World War One, they disguised themselves as men. Flora was the only female fighter who was there as a woman.

She rose quickly through the ranks to Sergeant-Major, but suffered extensive shrapnel wounds to her body and a broken arm in a grenade attack in Macedonia as she led an attack on the Bulgarian army.

Flora’s bravery under fire was recognised and she was awarded the King George Star by the Serbian government.

The daughter of a rector, Flora shunned the genteel pastimes Edwardian women were expected to follow, preferring hunting and shooting to embroidery and flower arranging.

Flora was awarded the King George Star by the Serbian government. Credit: ITV News

Her great-nephew told ITV News:"She didn't want to sit at home and have cups of tea and needlework and that. She wanted to go and hunt and ride and shoot and be a boy. A real tomboy."

This woman's extraordinary war record - matched by only a few men - is little remembered or known in her home country. But she is a war hero in Serbia - not for being a foreign woman who came to fight for them on the front line, but as a genuine war hero.

There is a road is named after her in the country's capital, Belgrade. But the only British memorial to her is a plaque in the church in her home village of Marlesford, Suffolk.

'Flore Sends' road in Belgrade. Credit: ITV News

Flora found post-war life dull and could not settle back into ordinary life in England. She decided to return to Serbia, marrying a White Russian officer 12 years her junior in 1927.

The couple settled in the newly created Yugoslavia and when the country was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1941, Flora, then aged 65, enlisted to fight. The Yugoslav army were defeated in 11 days and Flora was briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo.

She eventually returned to Suffolk where she died on 24th November 1956 aged 80.