This article argues that the motivations for British women to volunteer for the First World War were more nuanced and complicated than the formulaic binaries of patriotism versus pacifism. It reads the war-time memoirs of two women in military medical care, May Sinclair’s A Journal of Impressions in Belgium and Olive Dent’s A Volunteer Nurse on the Western Front to demonstrate how understandings of gender roles and nationalist affiliations rendered complexity to the reasons why certain women volunteered for war-work. These two women volunteered very early in the war and published their life-writing during the war (1915 and 1917 respectively). Consequently, they did not have the advantage of hindsight, and their writings were the product of the immediate pressures of the war environment. By reading the memoirs of these women and unpacking their overt motives to volunteer, this article reveals the nuances in the reasons women volunteered to engage in military medical work during the First World War.