LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
[Letters of the length of one of our leading paragraphs are often more read, and therefore more effective, than those which fill treble the space.] RED CROSS WOMEN.
(To TEE Eerroa or THE " SPECTATOR.")
Sia,—Anonymous communications, always to be deprecated, and particularly alien to the spirit of the British Red Cross Society, are often better left unanswered. The letter, however, which appeared in your issue of the 13th inst. over the signa- ture of " Members of a London Detachment " (which is prac- tically identical with an anonymous letter of November 5th addressed to Sir Arthur Stanley, as Chairman of the Joint V.A.D. Committee, and which I have before me as I write), has raised cordial resentment among other workers, and, though I resigned from the post of County Director of London some time ago, I ask you to be good enough to allow me space to comment upon it.
Presumably the "gratuity " to which the writers refer is the system of allowances instituted by the Joint V.A.D. Com- mittee, with the concurrence of the War Office. Joint V.A.D. Circular Letter No. 159 of February 13th, 1918, acquainted County Directors that "allowances would be made to members working in Auxiliary Hospitals, to include board, lodging, laundry, grants towards uniform, and travelling expenses." Such workers were to be whole-timers; namely, working forty- eight hours per week. In the County of London, .439,250 has been distributed in such allowances since February, 1918. Your correspondents' complaint that such a scheme was not universal brings up the whole question of the voluntary nature of the V.A.D. Organization (upon which I do not propose to enter), and ignores the financial proposition involved. No one would wish to disparage for a moment the claims of those, such as the writers of the letter, who gave their week-ends, their evenings, and their holidays, but it is perfectly obvious that definition was necessary somewhere, and it may be justly asked whether the whole-time worker had not a greater claim on the amount available than the part-timer, who, however meritoriously, gave her spare time to the work. On the financial aspect, in the County of London alone, there were, at the end of 1918, 158 Red Cross Detachments, with a total personnel of 14,216 members, though this figure includes General Service members, who do not come within the scope of the present complaint.
Of the report of the officer of the Detachment of her inter- view with myself, I will only say that this officer has either been guilty of deliberate misrepresentation or is afflicted with a singularly inaccurate memory. I am glad to think that there are few in the County of London who would credit me with having uttered the strange words attributed to me.
Your correspondents complain that their Detachment has never been officially disbanded. So far from disbanding Detachments in London, I have consistently asked Com- mandants to keep their Detachments together, for the 'better accomplishment of the peace programme of the Society under the new Charter.
A further complaint that the writers have not received "one word of thanks" reflects on the officer of the Detachment. Copies of the "Army Council's Tribute to the Work of V.A.D. Members " were circulated to all Divisions in London, with Circular Letter No. 54 of October 9th, 1919. Previous to this I had sent out a printed letter (Circular Letter No. 155 of November 25th, 1918) expressing the appreciation generally felt of the work done, for distribution to every member of all Detachments, and, subsequent to it, I endeavoured once more to express ray appreciation in a letter of November, 1919, to Commandants, which the majority read to their Detachments.
As regards air-raid work, the thanks of the Loudon County Council and of the Commissioner of Police were conveyed to Divisions in Circular Letter No. 181 of 1918, with a request that such letter should be read to all Detachments.
On the question of thanks from Headquarters, it must be within the knowledge of your correspondents that a return of cards, to be filled in by every member, has been called for by the Society, in order that the Society may know to what grade of recognition, whether by medal, certificate, or letter of thanks, the work of each member has entitled him or her. Again, Commandants have, by request, furnished the names of members of their Detachments whom they consider proper recipients for the certificate of the Roll of Honourable Service, which certificates have been issued.
I have pressed very earnestly for greater recognition of the services of the V.A.D.'s. but it is only fair to say that my experience of the 185 Detachments (British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John) in the County of London is that they were not out for thanks. The magnificent work done by the V.A.D.'s was originally prompted by a feeling that it was up to each individual to strain every nerve to help the nation through its time of stress, and that the workers, who gave their best, have their best reward in the knowledge that, without their service, it must have fared ill with thousands of men whose restoration to health and strength is a lasting monument of the work.
Not so these ladies; they say they can no longer work for the Red Cross because they " have been treated—to say the Ieaat—shabbily," and yet they sign themselves "Members of a London Detachment." I am sorry such a cry should come from a London Detachment, and so alien is it to the spirit which inspired, pervaded, and sanctified the work of the V.A.D.'s that I feel no doubt that if they send in their resignations on the ground given in the letter, those resignations will be accepted. The Red Cross has stood at the head of the work of mercy in the war, and it is the earnest hope of all who have concern with the future of the Society that it may do so in times of peace. I have no apprehensions as to the numbers that will be available for that work, nor as to the spirit which will stimulate them.—I am, Sir, &c.,
J. F. BADELEY,
late County Director for the County of London. County Director's Office, 24 Eaton Square, S.W. 1.