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Fond Memories Of Red Cross For ANZAC Day


17 April 2008

Fond Memories Of Red Cross For ANZAC Day

The delivery of Red Cross parcels containing basic food items proved to be a life saver for many soldiers during both the First and Second World Wars.

As ANZAC Day approaches, 63 years after the end of the Second World War, many Kiwis can vividly remember the difference New Zealand Red Cross, as part of the International Red Cross Movement, made to them during the war.

Returned Serviceman Mr Ken Longmore of Eastbourne, Wellington still recalls fondly the Red Cross emblem on the food parcels delivered to him while he was held as a prisoner of war.

While in prisoner of war camps in Italy and Germany Mr Longmore says the Red Cross food parcels were vital as the amount of food given by their captors was very minimal.

“We would have been in dire straits if the parcels hadn’t arrived. In our camp we put someone in charge of food and when the parcels arrived there were great scenes of jubilation. When the parcels came in we were allowed to keep everything but the tinned stuff. We gave the tinned stuff to the chap who was looking after the food and when the times were hard the chap would allocate extra rations,” says Mr Longmore.

Red Cross food parcels delivered to prisoners of war consisted of cheese, coffee, milk, butter, dried fruit, tea, jam, canned meat, dried peas, chocolate, honey and raw sugar.

The food parcels were packed by thousands of volunteers here in New Zealand and shipped to Geneva where they were distributed by the International Red Cross Red Movement.

Here at home during the First World War New Zealand Red Cross as a branch of the British Red Cross and Order of St John was responsible for supplying hospitals, hospital ships, and ambulances and provide clothing and comforts to those sick and wounded during the fighting.

When New Zealand’s first hospital ship the Maheno steamed out of Wellington bound for Gallipoli it had been fully equipped by the New Zealand Red Cross branch. Having arrived at Gallipoli on 26 April the ship departed two days later with 445 injured soldiers on board.

During both wars many New Zealand women trained as voluntary aides and were able to assist in hospitals and deliver first aid.

Jean Beale of New Plymouth recalls her training at Stroud General Hospital in England which she started in 1943 after joining New Zealand Red Cross. While in paid employment Mrs Beale completed her nursing training during weekends plus one training lecture during the week.

“Red Cross volunteer nurses worked as support for the ‘official’ nurses at the hospital often getting the harder or dirtier jobs. Myself and two friends decided to train together as nurses, as at the time everyone was required to work for the war effort,” says Mrs Beale.

During the Vietnam War, New Zealand Red Cross again played an influential role providing welfare personnel in the field who were accredited to the New Zealand Army. New Zealand Red Cross was also responsible for delivering telegram messages from soldiers in the field to family at home in New Zealand.

Even today New Zealand Red Cross continues to have a presence in conflict zones with the deployment of humanitarian aid workers to countries such as Afghanistan, Timor Leste and Sudan In these volatile environments our aid workers are using their specialist skills in fields such as health, water and sanitation and organisational development to help vulnerable people.


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