The Camden Red Cross

On 14 August 1914, a time of great change in the world and Australia, a meeting was convened by Mrs Young, the Mayoress of Camden, to form the first branch of the Red Cross in NSW outside of Sydney (70 years of Red Cross in Camden, 1984). The meeting proved incredibly fruitful, not only for those attending who wished for the Camden Branch to be formed, but for Camden as a whole. The Camden Red Cross (CRC) started the week following the outbreak of World War One, and recently marked 100 years of service to the local community.

Red Cross ladies on a street stall in Argyle Street Camden. One has a spinning wheel and looks like there is a mock hut on the kerbside.

Red Cross ladies on a street stall in Argyle Street Camden. One has a spinning wheel and looks like there is a mock hut on the kerbside.

The first action was, like so many activities during this time, to help the war effort as part of the Home front. Indeed, the CRC was created as a response to the outbreak of war (Stillitano, 2013). Holding stalls, food donations (to aid in London’s food shortage), and cloth making were all undertaken by the CRC. This included raising money for the War Chest Fund, raising £320, a significant amount at the time and the first such activity in Camden (Willis, 2012).

Llewella Davies in Red Cross Volunteer Aid Detachment uniform during World War II. Taken in her garden in Exeter Street

Llewella Davies in Red Cross Volunteer Aid Detachment uniform during World War II. Taken in her garden in Exeter Street, Camden.

Although the above images of the Red Cross ladies in WWI and Miss Llewella Davies in WW2 have the iconic image of the CRC, with women in the typical uniforms, the organisation had many other types of members. During WWI it had a men’s division (Wrigley, 2013) as well as a Junior Red Cross Circle (Willis, 2012). Although the district youth helped the CRC as early as 1914, it was only in 1918 that the first circle was established. It reached its highest point in World War II, when seven JRC Circles formed in the area, from Bringelly to Burragorang, Menangle and Narellan. Of these only one, the Camden JRC Circle, would continue after the war and until the end of the 20th century. Here too, boys would join.

Their work is still benefiting the community, with activities as diverse as Community Visitor Schemes that reach out to socially isolated older people in the area, visits to nursing homes, and taking blood donations.

Numerous commemorations have been produced telling the story of the CRC. In 1984, 70 Years of the Red Cross in Camden was produced. More recently to mark the 100 year anniversary, Dr Ian Willis of the University of Wollongong and the Camden Historical Society wrote Ministering Angels, which focuses in more detail on the services of the Red Cross during and between the two world wars.

References:

n.a. (1984). 70 years of Red Cross in Camden 1914-1984: 70 years of dedication. [Camden, N.S.W.] Australian Red Cross Society, Camden Branch.

Stillitano, I. (2.10.2013). 100 years of Red Cross. Advertiser.

Willis, I. (22.2.2012). Little angels of the Junior Red Cross. Back then. The District Reporter. 

Willis, I. (31.8.2012). Camden ‘War Chest’ patriotic day 1917. Back then. The District Reporter.

Willis, I. (2014) Ministering Angels: The Camden District Red Cross 1914-1945. Camden, N.S.W: Camden Historical Society Inc.

Wrigley, J. (18.10.2013). Camden Red Cross Society- Men’s branch. Back then. The District Reporter.

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