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Agent’s WW1 charity, 100 years on

Charity WW1 image“At the outbreak of World War One the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association was the only charity set up to care for the families of servicemen.

Just days after the start of the war the government called upon the charity to help ensure families were not left to struggle by the departure of men heading to the front.

“Within a few weeks the charity had grown from 7,000 volunteers to more than 50,000. After the first 15 months of the war more than £5 million had been raised by The Prince Of Wales’ National Relief Fund.

Our firm held auctions to raise funds and soldiers and families were grateful and reliant on this charity and the Red Cross.

Members of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs). All members were trained in first aid and some trained in nursing, cookery, hygiene and sanitation. The majority of female VADs volunteered as nurses, trained by the Red Cross. They were dispatched throughout the UK and Europe during the conflict.

During the war, they provided auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes for wounded servicemen. Many people offered their properties to the cause. Hospitals were set up in town halls, elementary schools, and private houses.

Red Cross working parties throughout the country organised the supply of clothing for soldiers in hospital. They also made vital hospital items such as bandages, splints, swabs and clothing. Their work was coordinated by The Central Work Rooms.

We have found a unique record of how our firm helped raise funds in 1916 which included coordinating the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund in an appeal to raise £500,000.

The collecting cards have the name of the collector and details that it is an appeal for sick and wounded soldiers. It was not only money that was given, and it is quite heartbreaking to see how everyone was prepared to do their bit however small. Some donate as little as two shillings and sixpence, others five dozen eggs, half a sack of potatoes, cheese, geese and ham.

Our firm also held an auction of donated items including cattle, donkeys, sheep, swine, dogs, implements, poultry and rabbits, flowers and vegetables. By the end of the war the Red Cross had provided 90,000 VADs, who had volunteered at home and abroad.

Over 1,786 auxiliary hospitals had been established, with patients arriving by staffed ambulances, hospital trains and motor launches. After the war, equipment from the auxiliary hospitals was distributed to local general hospitals, rehabilitation centres, sanatoriums and other medical centres.

Over £21,885,035 had been raised through fundraising efforts and the majority of the money was spent on hospitals, medicine, clothing and care for the sick and wounded.

Our firm and the farming fraternity of Dorset did their bit for the cause and it is something we are very proud of.”

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