Badge sellers for the Willunga Red Cross, image courtesy State Library of South Australia B55417_2
Australian branches of the Red Cross formed in 1914 within days of the outbreak of the war. They were all branches of the British Red Cross Society, reflecting the close bonds with the ‘Mother Country’. Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the wife of Australia’s Governor General, established the Red Cross in Melbourne, and encouraged state governors’ wives to do the same. In South Australia, Lady Marie Carola Galway convened the inaugural meeting at Adelaide Town Hall on 14 August, 1914.
Thousands of South Australians, predominantly women, joined the ranks of the Red Cross, raising funds to support the soldiers and putting traditional skills to use, knitting, sewing and baking for the war effort. Branches sprang up all around the state, based on suburbs, towns, religious congregations and workplaces.
Later in the war the Red Cross opened an Information Bureau to help families search for missing soldiers.