SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years
I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.
My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.
Being a skilled pilot, a qualified surgical nurse and having witnessed the plight of the war wounded first-hand, she merely had to put the three elements together to hit upon the idea of an air ambulance service. It became her crowning achievement. She formulated courses for the nurses of the air and in 1935 became the world’s first certified flight nurse.
The sight of an air ambulance extracting critically ill patients from conflict zones and disaster areas for lifesaving treatment is common in our day. It was not always so. What is perhaps one of the most important advances in military medicine of the 20th century began due to the visionary efforts of Marie Marvingt. She was an outstanding pilot and balloonist, a world-famous athlete, a perceptive inventor and a caring nurse. She was only the third woman in the world to be awarded a pilot’s licence and set some of the first aviation records for women.
Marie Félicie Elisabeth Marvingt was born on February 20, 1875, in Aurillac, Cantal, in France. She gained global fame by winning numerous prizes in swimming, cycling, gymnastics, fencing, shooting, ski jumping, speed skating and other sporting activities. She won a rifle shooting competition against an entire army division. In 1908, she tried to enter the Tour de France, the world’s most gruelling cycle race, but was not accepted. The organisers may have felt justified in excluding a female because only 36 of the 114 males who participated that year could complete the race. But Marie was not one to accept defeat and cycled over the entire course alone. She was the first woman to climb most of the peaks in the French and Swiss Alps. In March 1910, the French Académie des Sports awarded her a Gold Medal “for all sports”, the only multi-disciplinary medal they ever awarded.
Her aviation feats were no less impressive. In September 1909, she made her first solo flight in a balloon. On October 26, 1909, she became the first woman to pilot a balloon across the English Channel from Europe to England. The following year, she gained her balloon pilot’s certificate. But fixedwing aviation was taking the world by storm and Marie did not wish to be left behind. She took flying lessons from Hubert Latham in an Antoinette monoplane, becoming one of the first women to solo in it. The Aero Club of France awarded her a pilot’s licence in November 1910.
When World War I broke, women were not accepted in the French Army. But Marie disguised herself as a man and served on the frontlines. However, after about three weeks her ruse was discovered and she was sent home. In 1915, she flew a few missions over German-held territory as a volunteer pilot, including the aerial bombing of a German airbase in Metz. She thus probably became the first woman in the world to fly combat missions and was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Military Cross) for her feat. Between the two World Wars, she worked as a journalist, war correspondent and medical officer with French Forces in North Africa.
Marie Marvingt’s brief foray into combat did not blind her to aviation’s potential for peace. “If we have given wings to the world, we have the obligation to ensure that they are the wings of the dove of peace,” she once said. Being a skilled pilot, a qualified surgical nurse and having witnessed the plight of the war wounded first-hand, she merely had to put the three elements together to hit upon the idea of an air ambulance service. It became her crowning achievement. She formulated courses for the nurses of the air and in 1935 became the world’s first certified flight nurse. This and similar schemes caught the imagination of the young women of France and by the start of World War II there was a sea change in the quality of care provided to injured soldiers. She also established a convalescent centre for wounded aviators and invented a new type of surgical suture. Later she worked for the establishment of air ambulance services throughout the world.
Marie Marvingt died on December 14, 1963. Of all the women who received official awards in the history of France, her tally of 34 medals and decorations stands out because they were conferred in the most varied fields. She even wrote fiction and prize-winning poetry. Although she was named “La fiancée du danger” (the fiancée of danger), a name she espoused for her autobiography published in 1948, she was essentially a safe flyer, justly proud of her record of never having been involved in a major crash for her first 900 flights. It was a feat unequalled at the time. She had the joy of flying in her, saying: “This new sport is comparable to no other. It is, in my opinion, one of the most intoxicating forms of sport, and will, I am sure, become one of the most popular. Many of us will perish before then, but that prospect will not dismay the braver spirits. In devoting themselves to the new cause, those who have the true aviator’s soul will find in their struggle with the atmosphere, a rich compensation for the risks they face. It is so delicious to fly like a bird!”