Lady Sale in Kabul, 1842

Amid the disasters of the First Afghan War, the courage and buoyancy of Lady Sale stands out — James Lunt describes her as the shining epitome of “a soldier's wife."

The duke of York, who was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army for over thirty years, once saw his footman turn away a woman from his front door. He asked what the woman had wanted and was told that she was only a soldier’s wife who had come begging. “Only a soldier’s wife!” exclaimed the Duke, “and pray, what is your mistress but a soldier’s wife?” The woman was called back and given food and money.

Soldiers’ and sailors’ wives are a breed apart, as they have need to be if they are to bear with the frequent partings, moves and disturbances inseparable from their husbands’ nomadic ways of life. In centuries past, soldiers’ wives who wished to accompany their husbands overseas also ran the risk of enduring severe hardships.

Historians have seldom paid adequate tribute to the courage of these women, without whose devoted care and attention many a soldier would have succumbed to the wounds of battle or disease. No finer example of the breed exists than Florentia Sale, whose proudest boast was that she was “a soldier’s wife.”

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