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This month, I’ve been so delighted to see my first book, ‘The War Nurses’ available as ‘Wapenzusjes’, in the Netherlands.

To see your work in translation is always special for an author, and to see it in Dutch is particularly special for me, because my Grandad Alfie was from Amsterdam. He came to England in the 1920’s. 

I’d love to say he was a wonderful Grandad and this is my tribute to him but alas, he was a ‘bit difficult’ – I was never sure if it was from fighting with the Dutch Free Army during the Second World War, or if he was just always a ‘bit difficult’.  When they met, my Nana Mairi from Poland, couldn’t speak the same language as him. She told me she thought when they kissed she’d fall pregnant so she agreed to marry him. I think once they began to speak the same language it all fell apart.
 (Suffice to say, if I was writing this as historical fiction, I would probably jig around the story a bit. 😊) 

Anyway, to see my book in Dutch is a huge deal, not least because I’ve always said I’m a 16th Dutch, to which most people say, ‘but how? you’re really short’.  (Another reason to resent Grandad Alfie.)

The War Nurses began when I was reading a thread on Mumsnet about ‘women who have done extraordinary things’ and Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm’s name came up. I had never heard of them before but something about their story struck a chord with me and I decided to explore more.  

I found that Elsie was a single-mother of a young boy, a trained nurse, and had the nick-name Gypsy. 

She and Mairi were both motor-cycle racers, free spirits, and fiercely independent. As soon as the war broke out, they volunteered to join Dr Munro’s ‘flying ambulance team’ in Belgium where their role was to transport wounded soldiers to hospitals (by ambulance or motorbike and sidecar) . After a couple of months of this, they realised that men were dying on their way to the hospitals, men who could be saved, so they decided to move closer where they could treat soldiers within the all-important ‘golden hour’.  They moved to a cellar of a ruined house right next to the Western Front and turned it into an Emergency Centre. They lived and nursed there for over three and a half years, treating anyone – Belgian, British, French and even German - who needed it. They took fund-raising tours of the UK and at one point they were known as the most photographed women of the time. 

They lived among lice, rats, spiders, washed in a nearby river and slept on beds of straw.  There were also parties, boyfriends and marriages. Later, Elsie and Mairi’s relationship fractured – their once close friendship did not endure after the war and I was interested in looking at this.

I admired them enormously and I realised quickly that theirs was a story I wanted to tell, to bring to a wider audience.

Writing The War Nurses story has given me some wonderful experiences.  I travelled to Ypres in Belgium where I saw the trenches, the cemeteries, the museums and the nightly ceremony at Menin Gate. I visited the Imperial War Museum in London where Elsie’s diary is an exhibit and the Natural History Museum had an exhibition on nursing in World War one.

I was extremely fortunate to be published by Bookouture and to work with my fabulous editor Kathryn Taussig. Meeting other authors there has been a highlight too. I’ve held book events in my hometown, at shops and libraries and also at one of my favourite places, Stow Maries airfield, which also appears in the book.

Recently, I discovered that Elsie’s son had two sons before he was killed in the 2nd World War, and that Elsie had a Great grand-daughter – who lived in London. It was a huge privilege to meet Sally Knocker who read The War Nurses and said, ‘Your book brilliantly captures my great grandmothers’ personality and her friendship with Mairi’. Sally Knocker is involved in lots of work shining a spotlight on Elsie’s contribution – we both hope that Elsie will one day be a house-hold name, not just in the UK but all over the world.

Now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Polish translation, please!


1914 – Two young nurses pledge to help the war effort: Mairi, a wholesome idealist hoping to leave behind her past and Elsie, a glamorous single mother with a weakness for handsome soldiers. Despite their differences, the pair become firm friends.

At the emergency medical shelter where they’re based, Elsie and Mairi work around the clock to treat wounded soldiers. It’s heart-breaking work and they are at constant risk from shelling, fire and disease. But there are also happier times… parties, trips and letters. And maybe even the possibility of love with an attractive officer in their care…

But as the war continues and the stress of duty threatens to pull the two women apart, will Elsie and Mairi’s special nurses’ bond be strong enough to see them through?

A powerfully moving wartime saga – you won’t want to put it down!

Amazon UK:


Hello and thank you for stopping by.

I love reading ALL the books, and I've always loved reading the adventures of women in the past so it seemed natural to me to write historical fiction.

I live with my family by the sea in South East England. And with my dog. How did I forget my dog? I enjoy traveling and lived in Japan for several years. I've had lots of different jobs from waitressing and teaching to admin and bingo-calling - but being a writer is my absolute favourite.

I'd love to hear what you think of my books - feel free to send me a message on twitter @LizziePagewrite


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