Red Cross Society in Queensland
The Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society began on 13 August 1914 at Government House, Melbourne, nine days after the outbreak of the First World War. The Queensland Division was inaugurated just a day later, at a meeting at the Town Hall, Brisbane.
Presiding over the meeting was Lady Morgan, and the Mayoress of Brisbane, Mrs. Jenkinson. Queensland’s Governor His Excellency Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams was the founding patron, and his wife, Lady Goold-Adams the founding president.
Within weeks, 196 branches were established across Queensland, as the Society’s mission and ideals spread and thousands of people, mostly women, volunteered in towns all over the state.
Joining the Society gave its volunteers a dutiful purpose, and a sense that they could contribute to the war effort from the home front. Their tireless work provided money, clothing, comforts for the sick and wounded, and equipment for military hospitals in Queensland and overseas.
Geographical distance between branches presented many challenges, and the nature of district activities was adapted for each branch location. Some branches held fundraising events, knitted and sewed socks, towels and vests, while others sewed uniforms, or put together comfort parcels containing soap, cigarettes, fruit cake, tinned foods and handkerchiefs. Remote branches with few resources sometimes simply collected money.
The Queensland division established its headquarters at 409 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, and it became the communications centre and distribution point for all goods made, collected or donated in the branches. From headquarters, goods were repackaged and sent to military hospitals in Queensland, or overseas to England for distribution, directly to troops in France and Belgium, or to field hospitals in Europe, the Middle East and India.
In 1915, several Queensland branches raised £450 to buy motor ambulances to send to the front line. An Information Bureau was also established in 1915, to help families obtain information about their loved ones overseas. By 1917, the Queensland division had turned its attention to providing supplies for Australian prisoners of war in Germany. By June 1918, there were 225 Red Cross member-based branches in Queensland. Most were run by women, many of whom remained with the organisation after the war, to provide a lifetime of service.
State Library recently digitised a number of resources published by the Queensland division of the Red Cross Society during World War 1. Some were already in the State Library's collection, and others were very kindly lent to us for digitising, by the Queensland office of the Australian Red Cross. They are now all available via our One Search catalogue, and provide a wonderfully detailed record of those critical early years of the organisation in Queensland:
Red cross magazine. The Australian Red Cross Society, Queensland Division.
Mrs. Leslie Corrie. Queensland guide to Red Cross work, 4th ed. British Red Cross Society, Queensland Division, 1918. (digital version only)
Executive Committee Minutes. Red Cross Society, Queensland Division Records 1915-1935.
Annual reports. Queensland Division, Australian Red Cross Society, 1914/15 - 1933/34. (digital version only of complete holding)
The Downs Red Cross Herald. Red Cross Society of Queensland, Darling Downs Branch, 1917-1918. (digital version only)
Many thanks to the Australian Red Cross Queensland office for lending their World War 1 holdings, so these important historical records could be digitised and made accessible to everyone.
Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland