Digitised@SLQ: Queensland Soldiers' Comforts Funds War Service Rolls
The Queensland Soldiers' Comforts Fund, a working subdivision of the Australian Comforts Fund, was inaugurated at a public meeting on 21 September 1915. The object of the Fund was to provide comforts for men on active service "as would help to preserve their health and spirits and thus maintain the efficiency of our forces", and it combined a large number of funds raised by Corps and Regiments to send all kinds of clothing, foodstuffs, amusements, musical instruments and books, as well as substantial sums of money, to Queensland troops over the course of the war. Hundreds of Queenslanders, mostly women, joined the Fund to do their bit to support the troops overseas.
President of the Fund was Lady Marie Cowley, daughter of William Campbell of Natal, and wife of Hon. Sir Alfred Sandling Cowley, Chairman of Directors of the Bank of North Queensland 1894-1917, and of the Bank of Queensland Limited in 1880. Two of the Cowley sons served in the First World War. Lady Cowley was appointed O.B.E. on 19 October 1920 for her work as President of the Soldiers Comforts Fund. Before this honour was bestowed however, the Fund gradually wound down its operations, and Lady Cowley received the gratitude of Fund members and contributors at a 'breaking up' afternoon tea at the Botanical Gardens kiosk on 13 May 1919.
Lady Cowley, who carried out the duties of president of the Queensland Soldiers' Comforts Fund during the greater part of the war, was yesterday the guest of honour at a tea party, given by the executive of the Queensland Soldiers' Comforts Funds and the representatives of the various battalion funds at St. Martin's League rooms. At the conclusion of the serving of tea, opportunity was taken by Mrs. J. S. P. Bourne to present to Lady Cowley a handsomely bound suede leather book, containing brief reports of the large amount of work performed by each battalion fund throughout the war period. In response, Lady Cowley referred to the great pleasure she had experienced in receiving the decoration of O.B.E. recently awarded her, for she felt it was a recognition of all comforts funds. Similar copies of the souvenir presented to Lady Cowley are being forwarded to the Public Library in Brisbane and the Mitchell Library, in Sydney. Amongst those present at the tea, in addition to the guest of honour, were Mesdames J. S. P. Bourne, W. S. Anderson, J. K, Cannan, Hubert Harris, Phillips, Ray Stanley, J. P. Peterson, A. D. Walsh, E.H. Macartney, E. North, Lockhart Gibson, Peirs Blundell, G. A. Ferguson, and Miss M. Jameson.
State Library holds this report, but recently digitised is another volume produced by the Fund after the war. On 22 April 1921, just days before Anzac Day, W.H.Brown Esq., Librarian of the Brisbane Public Library received a donation from Lady Cowley, in the form of a leather bound volume of hand-written names, titled the War Service Rolls. Compiled by the Queensland Soldiers' Comforts Fund and hand-printed by Miss Madge Roe, the volume was divided into two sections - two lists of names:
- The soldiers' and sailors' service roll and roll of honour
- War workers' roll
Lady Cowley offered the donation with a covering letter:
22nd April 1921
To W. H. Brown Esq.
Librarian Public Library
Following on my conversation with you through the telephone I now forward the volume inscribing the names of some of the War Workers during the late war, & beg your acceptance of it for the Public Library. An introductory note to the volume draws attention to the very incomplete record, which my Councillor much regrets – there were of course thousands of War Workers who did not send in their names to be inscribed. Such as it is, we hope the Role will be of interest and not unworthy of a place in your Library. The work – all hand work – was done by Miss Madge Roe daughter of R. Roe Esq. M.A., who made of it a labour of love. I shall be glad of a formal receipt of the volume & remain
Late President of the “Queensland Soldiers’ Comforts Fund”
The War Workers Roll listed not only the names of contributors, but also the group or fund with which they worked. Red Cross funds were also included. While the rolls are indeed by no means comprehensive, they do reveal the state wide participation in support services, and demonstrate how communities organised and pulled together to help ease the situation of soldiers serving overseas.
Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland