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Vera Deakin and Red Cross

21 OCT 1915: World War I and the Australian Red Cross Missing and Wounded Enquiry Bureau is established. Miss Vera Deakin, daughter of ex-Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, establishes the Australian Red Cross Missing and Wounded Enquiry Bureau in Cairo. The Missing and Wounded Enquiry Bureau handled many thousands of enquiries from Australian families seeking information on wounded and missing soldiers during the First World War.

From the outbreak of WWI Red Cross helped Australian families in their desperate search for news of the fate of loved ones, forming a Wounded and Missing Persons Information Bureau in each state.

Thousands of civilians at home had either lost their loved ones or had no certainty of their fate on battlefields on the other side of the world.

The NSW Bureau was formed in July 1915 and within four months over 500 cables had been requested on behalf of relatives of Gallipoli casualties.

By 1919 Red Cross was handling 36,000 cases discovering the fate of the missing and wounded. Those Red Cross letters can be read on the Australian War Memorial website.

Red Cross letters dating back to WWI paint a powerful picture of the plight of families searching for any news of family. “I would like to know how long he lived after the wound’, one mother Ellen Jones from Armidale in northern New South Wales, pleaded. “Did he suffer much, and was he conscious, did he ask for his parents in any way and did he send any message … I am so anxious to know all about my dear boy”.

By June 1918, towards the end of the war, Red Cross had established over 2,400 membership branches in each state. Most of these branches were run by women, who went on to give a lifetime of service in their local communities – a remarkable legacy of humanitarian service borne out of WWI. Photo: The Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau in London, 1916. More;

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