Wednesday, 20 August 2014

British Red Cross Society


The Executive of the British Red Cross Society (Scottish Branch)  [requests] that all medical and surgical stores, such as bandages or bandage rollers, dressings, or crutches, be sent to 137 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.  Everything else, such as cardigan jackets, caps, flannel, gloves, handkerchiefs, etc. should be sent to St Andrew's Halls, Glasgow.

It is necessary here to point out that according to the Geneva Convention the Red Cross Society can only provide for sick and wounded—those soldiers, in fact, who have ceased to be combatants.  The society cannot provide clothing, food, and comforts for troops in the field.  There has apparently been considerable misunderstanding with regard to this point in some quarters, for such supplies have been sent to the society.  Provision for combatants will, it is understood, be made by-the Regimental and Territorial Force Associations, and these will shortly make a public announcement with regard to the acceptance and forwarding of clothing and comforts for combatants.....

Some criticisms have appeared in the press of those women who are helping the Red Cross Society to provide comforts for our wounded soldiers instead of paying their unemployed sisters to do such work.  Such criticisms, however well intended, show an inadequate consideration of the facts of the case.  This voluntary work is not a substitute for paid work, but an addition to it.  It can provide at most but a fraction of the articles required.  Many of these must be and are purchased for or by the society.  These are the product of paid labour.  It is of course open to anyone who desires to do so to organise paid working parties.  The society's primary duty is to organise voluntary help in general, and it is impossible for the Central Executive to attempt the arrangement of these smaller details.

(Glasgow Herald, 20th August 1914.)

[I chose this piece because (a) it lists the kinds of things that volunteers were sending Red Cross and (b)  it says clearly that the Red Cross is only providing for non-combatants - all the men's clothing that they were collecting was destined for sick and wounded soldiers.  Many people were evidently confused about that - indeed, a booklet produced by the Red Cross (available here) contains knitting patterns that could be equally useful for men at the front (gloves, mittens, cardigans, a cap-scarf,...), so the confusion is perhaps understandable. 

There was a lot of confusion too about the roles of volunteers v. paid workers, not just in making things for the Red Cross, but also in providing comforts for men on active service   - several later posts will be about this too.  The last paragraph above doesn't help at all in clearing up the confusion, to my mind.]      

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