Red Cross's role in the Great War

THEY were the unsung heroes of World War One.

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Stobhill was used as a Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital
Stobhill was used as a Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital

While the soldiers battled bullets, gas and the trenches, members of the British Red Cross fought to save lives. As JANICE BURNS discovered the volunteers in Glasgow played their part at home and abroad.

A MASSIVE 90,000 volunteers for the British Red Cross gave up their time and skills to save lives during the First World War.

They played a massive part helping the sick and wounded between 1914 and 1918.

The worldwide humanitarian charity provided supplementary aid to naval and military medical services and carried out other vital roles including making clothes for wounded soldiers and dressings from sphagnum moss.

The Scottish divisions of the British Red Cross were split into Western, Eastern, Central Eastern and North-Eastern areas and run independently by the Scottish Branch and the War Office Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid in Scotland.

When war broke out, the divisions opened 160 auxiliary hospitals with 6344 beds all over the country, many of them in Glasgow.

The majority of buildings offered were loaned by members of the local community, and ranged from castles to parish halls to private residences.

Many of these hospitals had no furniture and relied on donations from locals to help convert them, including installation of baths, toilets, heating and lighting.

The main Glasgow hospitals were at Bellahouston, Stobhill and Springburn, where hundreds of wounded servicemen were cared for by volunteer nurses and auxiliary staff.

Another important hospital for the Red Cross in Scotland was the one on board H.M. Hospital St Margaret of Scotland.

A total of 2190 patients were cared for on this lifesaving ship, and 178 operations were performed in 1917 during her time sailing in the Mediterranean.

There were extensive appeals throughout Scotland to raise funds, totalling £20,000, to equip her in the Clyde.

The ship was entirely staffed by Scottish doctors, nurses and orderlies and became a symbol of national pride.

The Red Cross in Scotland also set up auxiliary hospitals abroad.

The 'Hospital de I'Ecosse' in Paris and 'The Scottish Ward' in the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd were established by Scottish Voluntary Aid Detachments.

A Scottish hospital, assigned 'No.11 Stationary Hospital' was also organised in Rouen.

The auxiliary hospital had 50 beds but this number increased to over 300 in 1918 owing to the increased number of soldiers arriving from the Western Front.

The hospital was staffed by Scots volunteers, including four medical officers, 29 sisters, 16 VADs, four dressers and 44 orderlies, who all cared for sick and wounded patients.

A total of 3213 nursing and 1372 general service members worked in France, Malta, Egypt and Macedonia during the First World War.

Scots donated £237,000 to provide ambulances to transport sick and wounded servicemen from railway stations and ports, especially from warships in the Forth and Clyde, to local hospitals.

Nearly £370,000 was spent on all transport work at home and abroad - equivalent to nearly £16 million in today's money.

But the Red Cross in Scotland didn't just save lives: an army of volunteers made garments for the sick and wounded returning from war in tattered clothing, often covered in blood.

These working parties sent their creations to depots at St Andrew's Halls, Glasgow, which later moved to Sauchiehall Street, as well as Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The depots collated and despatched clothing to soldiers in auxiliary hospitals at home and abroad.

Surgical stores were also created to organise store supplies including sphagnum moss, chloroform and ether.

Young volunteers played a very active role in supporting their work, and one of their most important tasks was to collect sphagnum moss, which was made into dressings for the wounded.

In 1918, the British Red Cross supplied nearly two million dressings for wounded soldiers.



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