Dorothy Lawrence: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Dorothy Lawrence.

  • Dorothy Lawrence was an English woman who wanted to be a journalist. When World War I broke out in 1914, she disguised herself as a man to report from the front lines.

  • She was born in October, 1896 in north London although she did not know for sure who her parents were. When she was a baby, she was adopted by a church member.
  • When war broke out, Lawrence went to Paris in an attempt to report on World War 1 as a freelance correspondent. She was told that the job was too dangerous for a woman to do.

Dorothy Lawrence

  • She made friends with two British soldiers in France, who helped her disguise herself as a man. She had her hair cut short, darkened her pale skin and learned how to walk differently.
  • Her forged identity papers said she was Private Denis Smith.
  • She lasted almost 2 weeks in the British trenches, spending time with a division placing land mines. She slept in a nearby derelict cottage and lived on food smuggled to her.
  • Dorothy Lawrence gave herself up after 10 days. At first she was declared a prisoner of war and was also ordered not to write about her experience.

Dorothy Lawrence as a soldier

  • After the war ended, Lawrence wrote a book about her experience which received good reviews. However, because of censoring by the War Office it was not the big seller she hoped it would be.
  • By the early 1920s she had no money and was living in a London mental hospital. She spent the last 40 years of her life in various different hospitals and asylums.
  • Dorothy Lawrence died in 1964 and was buried in New Southgate cemetery, London. The cemetery contains the graves of over 200 soldiers and German prisoners from World War I.
  • She is slowly being recognized for her achievement. The 100th anniversary of World War I in 2014 saw a book about her life, as well as a small exhibition in London’s Imperial War Museum.