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Summaries

University of Kent (Canterbury) The Women’s Emergency Corps and the Work of Three Members:Grace Vulliamy, C.B.E., Lena Ashwell, O.B.E., Mrs Gartside-Tipping, Croix de Guerre When, in August 1914 war was declared, many women involved in the suffrage campaign were joined by non-suffragists to form the Women’s Emergency Corps. Their initial concern was women who would suffer as a result of the war and possible waste of resources due to overlap of relief by different groups. Soon they were involved in providing food for English families and then in caring for the thousands of Belgian and French refugees pouring across the Channel. I shall look at the work of the Corps and how most of it was gradually taken over by the Government-supported War Refugees Committee. As this occurred, and as refugee relief settled into established routines, some members separated from the main Corps. For example, in France Mrs Wilkie ran the Women’s Emergency Canteens for troops as well as for old people and mothers with young families and one of her workers, Mrs Gartside-Tipping, was killed. In addition, I shall look at two other members of Corps. Using papers which are on loan to me by the Vulliamy family, I consider Lena Ashwell, the actress, who was President of the Advisory Board and Chairwoman of the Kitchen Committee. She was one of the first to suggest artists be gainfully employed to boost troop morale by providing entertainment, a request dismissed by Military Authorities. Ashwell had close connections with the royal family and a request from them was less easy for officials to ignore. Ashwell was, or became, a close friend of Grace Vulliamy, who was originally head of the Emergency Corps’ Interpreting Department. She was a trained psychological nurse and had a unique career during the war. While still a member of the Corps she acted as representative for the Friends War Victims Relief Committee working in Holland and was head-hunted by the Admiralty and War Office to help in the exchange of civilian and military prisoners. After the war she established her own relief fund to assist those suffering from the famine in Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Corps officially closed on 13th April 1916, but their Hostel kept open till 10th January 1917. They disbanded in November 1919.

University of Portsmouth Grace Charlotte Vulliamy, C.B.E. Forgotten War Heroine For More information Click Here

Miss Georgiana Sutherland Fyfe, a nurse from Glasgow.In the First World War Georgiana Sutherland Fyfe was a relief worker in Belgium in one of the most bitterly fought-over and devastated areas - that of Ypres - where she ran hospitals and maternity homes. A forerunner of Nicholas Winton, she rescued over a thousand children from the area near Ypres and took them into safety in Switzerland. One of the boys, Albert Ryckaert died 3 August 2016 aged 104. Picture of Albert RyckaertAt the outbreak of war, Fyfe joined Dr. Munro’s unconventional ‘Flying Ambulance’ Corps as Directrice of the Toyers Ecossais. When Munro joined the R.A.M.C. Miss Fyfe stayed on. As volunteers people needed either to have sufficient money of their own, or to be supported from Britain by a specially instituted Fund. In Georgie’s case ‘When the first call for help came from Belgium, a few friends rallied round [her] and sent her to that country.’ Fyfe’s Belgian Front Relief Fund, which was accepted by the Scottish Red Cross, began in October 1914. It was started by money being raised among friends, and was operated by her parents and a Committee of Glasgow ladies. The funds were used for both civilian and military relief. For example, a field hospital for the wounded was supplied with an electric plant and huts were provided for soldiers’ recreation. By December she was working at the Furnes hospital helping relocate refugees to England.During quiet periods of warfare she persuaded mothers to allow their children to be sent to areas of safety and found that they were more willing when there was shelling and also once gas was used after 2nd Ypres in April and May 1915. Miss Fyfe and a nurse frequently escorted them. She evacuated 1,341 Belgian children from the war area into France, including Paris, and Switzerland, and kept very careful records to aid their repatriation at the end of the war. Elisabeth, Queen of the Belgians, was patron of her hospitals, making her frequent visits to Fyfe’s hospital at Hazebrouck. She was also present to see each group of evacuees off on their journeys to safety. Christmas 1916, she gave Georgie an enormous box of chocolates with a card inscribed ‘with best wishes from Elisabeth. In January 1917 she wrote home that the Prince of Wales and his Chief of Staff had carried out ‘Firstfooting’. As well as donating personally to the Fund, the Queen helped with fund-raising, making a direct appeal to ‘the generous womanhood of America’ for the ‘unoffending civilian population – the aged, the infirm, the women and the children.’ The funds and goods this appeal raised were very helpful to Fyfe’s work.Although not much is known about her after the war, in early August 1919 she received a permit to go to Cologne and report to the British Armies of the Rhine so it appears her work continued during the Armistice and possibly thereafter.

The University of Worcester’s Annual Women’s History Conference