South Australians at War
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Experiences of War : Women and War : Experiences of a South Australian woman in Germany during WWI

One South Australian woman had the experience of spending World War One in Germany. Ethel Cooper had gone to Leipzig to further her musical studies. When war broke out she chose to stay and throughout the war wrote a weekly letter to her sister, Emmie. These letters form the basis for the book Behind the lines: one woman's war 1914-1918. She tells in a letter dated 27 November 1914 of her anxiety about her fate,

Still here, and still not knowing what one may be doing or where one may be in the next few hours - I can't tell you how utterly sick we all are of the uncertainty. I believe we would all rather pack on the spot for a concentration camp than go on like this for another week. You see, there is only a handful of English here - the men are all in the Berlin concentration camp, and all that are left are the women and a few colonials like Mr Bennie.

However, she was not interned and despite the many hardships she managed to keep a pet crocodile, Cheops, in her apartment. In a letter dated 18 January 1915 she describes the death of Cheops,

We are very sad today, for our Cheops has suddenly died. It was very cold, and meaning well by him, I let him sleep up against the stove-I think it was too warm, anyway he got an intestinal chill, says the curator at the zoo, and died last night. We shall miss him very much-he was such a dear little thing. But we must have another, directly we have some money, and I shall get a bigger one this time, now that I understand their ways and how to manage them....

Women and war

Behind the lines : one woman's war, 1914-18 [extracts]
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