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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Exhilarating young women

Tuesday, December 15th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

London yesterday. Visit to L. G. Brock, secy. of National Relief Fund at 3 Queen Anne's Gate. Formerly house of Sir E. Grey.
I then went to inspect establishment of Womens Emergency Corps at Old Bedford College, Baker St. Miss Ashwell in charge.

Actresses Lena Ashwell, Gertrude Kingston and sisters Decima and Eva Moore reacted rapidly to the outbreak of war by forming the Women’s Emergency Corps, recruiting women for all kinds of war work and to replace the men who would soon be needed abroad. Notices were sent to all the daily newspapers calling women to a public meeting at the Shaftesbury Theatre at 3pm on August 7th, 1914. The corps stated aim was to compile a register of all women and their particular skills, who wished to help the war effort. Any woman volunteering would be required to state in specific terms what work she was capable of and what she was prepared to undertake. The register would then be made available to any authority requiring such services. On the first day, many hundreds volunteered, and within two months the number had reached six thousand. Within a year, the number had topped twenty thousand and the corps could boast amongst its officers the Duchess of Marlborough and Viscountess Castlereagh - who had taken over as Colonel-in-Chief. The corps objective was to provide women to help in all sorts of emergencies and to utilise the abilities and energies of their volunteers in the best possible way. Among the numbers enrolled were over one thousand interpreters, many with as many as four languages. Many of the volunteers could ride and look after their own horses, drive motor cars or even motorcycles, and do the running repairs, and so on. Many had knowledge of agriculture or husbandry and offered to cultivate waste pieces of land to grow vegetables or raise stock for food supplies. Many were nurses, and a few women doctors, who said that they were prepared to follow the troops to the front lines to care for the wounded. In addition, there were dispensers, caterers, cooks and secretaries. Only the most efficient were accepted since it was the aim of the corps that it should only be made up of women who were capable of actively taking up the work they had promised themselves for. Nor was the rifle forgotten, with many of the women spending time on the firing ranges learning to handle rifles and other firearms. Some proved to be remarkably good shots, and all were prepared to defend their homeland if the Germans ever invaded.

Vast effect of femininity. A general exhilarating effect. The young women badged as messengers, standing in two lines in outer entrance hall, earnest, eager, braced, made a specially characteristic feminine effect. One stopped me at once as I entered, and asked me if she could do anything for me, and then if I was A.B.
I returned by 5.30 train.

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