The full title of this mammoth work, that was first published in 1921 in a very limited edition is “REPORTS BY THE JOINT WAR COMMITTEE AND THE JOINT WAR FINANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BRITISH RED CROSS SOCIETY AND THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM IN ENGLAND ON VOLUNTARY AID RENDERED TO THE SICK AND WOUNDED AT HOME AND ABROAD AND TO BRITISH PRISONERS OF WAR 1914-1919”
It is the most comprehensive, single-volume record of the Red Cross and its commitment in the First World War.
Members of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments (the term VAD later came to be used for an individual member as well as a detachment). All members were trained in first aid and others trained in nursing, cookery and hygiene and sanitation. Throughout the war VADs worked in hospitals, convalescent homes, rest stations, packing centres, medical supply depots and work parties. The Joint War Committee organised the volunteers alongside technical and professional staff. The Committee also supplied the machinery and mechanisms to provide these services in Britain and in the conflict areas of Europe, the Middle East, Russia and East Africa.
The Joint War Committee was the first to supply motorised ambulances to the battlefields. The first convoy arrived in France in September 1914 and proved much more effective in the war terrain than the horse-drawn ambulances used in previous conflicts.
Reports by the Joint War Committee and the Joint War Finance Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England on Voluntary Aid rendered to the Sick and Wounded at Home and Abroad and to British Prisoners of War, 1914-1919.
Like its title this really is a huge book on our beloved Red Cross and St. John’s in the war. Apart from “how to apply a triangular bandage”, this book tells you just about everything you want to know; or perhaps didn’t even want to know, about those organisations during the First World War.
Its 823 pages are crammed with answers to more questions than you could ever want to pose. Mundane subjects like management, finance and stores are covered. So too is the minutia of insuring and transporting vehicles, including X-Ray and bacteriological motor laboratory cars, to France. The contents of the latter really have to be read to be believed. Ambulances and related statistics are of course described in great detail. For example 7,250,286 cases of sick and wounded (often the same man twice) were carried by the Department in France and Belgium. But much more important information is given as well.
The work of the Voluntary Aid Department is described. So too are some hospitals and convalescent homes in Britain. Indeed appendices list hundreds of such places and their donors up and down the country. Various ailments are covered. The work of the organisations in the various theatres of war is explained in depth including many of the base hospitals they ran. This is not a book listing individual case studies nor does it catalogue wounded or missing men by name. There are other books for that. What is does do however is give a background the invaluable work carried out in the name of humanity by those wonderful organisations: the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John in England. If you want to know the part they played in winning the war; this is the book for you.