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Our Campaign

St Mary's C of E Primary School 

CHILDREN at a primary school in Woodbridge helped launch our one-month centenary celebration campaign, which honours Suffolk’s past and present volunteers and servicemen.

The pupils of St Mary’s C of E Primary School staged their own ‘Red, White and Blue Remembrance Day’ on FRIDAY 5TH OCTOBER, where they were visited by members of the armed forces, tried on army clothes, saw wartime artefacts including ration books, and heard from our Volunteering Officer Jo Belfield about how volunteering played an important role during The Great War.

St Mary’s was previously judged as the winner of the School’s Garden of Remembrance contest, staged at the Suffolk Show. Its pupils have been learning in detail about the changes in society’s role over the last 100 years, which marks the ending of the First World War. On the day of the campaign’s launch, St Marys School was on BBC Radio Suffolk. Please click on the audio clip below to listed to the broadcast.

Audio File

Jo was invited to the school to help launch Community Action Suffolk’s countywide campaign called ‘100 years of volunteering – Then and Now’. CAS is adding their voice to Remembrance and reminding youngsters and adults of the continued importance of volunteering in Suffolk.

As a base for a month-long campaign, Community Action Suffolk will be recalling stories of how voluntary work was crucial to support the soldiers of WW1 and their families and communities back home. They will be asking the pupils at St Mary’s in Woodbridge whether any member of their families have a story to tell, and what roles do they think are available for children and adults today.

Also supporting the centenary activity is George Vestey, High Sheriff of Suffolk for 2018.

Headteacher, Karen Read, said a number of her staff are committed to volunteering in their spare time, and that the remembrance event linked with Volunteering Then and Now was a valuable opportunity to help youngsters understand why and how people chose to volunteer in wartime, and why people today decide to volunteer in peacetime.
“The children have heard inspiring stories from their teachers who have volunteered over this summer and why they did so,” she said. “Friday was a fantastic opportunity to go back in time and learn what it was like to be in the army, and learn what schoolchildren and teachers gave then to Britain”.

George Vestey added: ““Linking CAS’s Then and Now Campaign to the School’s WW1 celebrations – where the main focus will be on remembering and honouring our military heroes – is an excellent way to remember and commemorate the thousands of unsung heroes who undertook volunteer roles in the UK to support our armed forces.” He also made the point that the need for such volunteering remains vitally important today in order to enhance the lives of those in need within our community.”

As part of the centenary celebration of volunteering, Community Action Suffolk will also be will also be out and about in the county promoting the campaign, handing out poppy seeds and encouraging those who haven’t considered volunteering before to recognise the many types of volunteering that are available.

Paul White, Volunteer Manager at CAS, said: “We are excited to raise the profile of the many people, ordinary men and women of Suffolk, who did extraordinary things voluntarily during WW1. I really hope that we can commemorate them and encourage their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to do the same.

The intention of the campaign is to inspire more people of all ages to give their time to their community and to visit our volunteering opportunity website Volunteer Suffolk (www.volunteersuffolk.org.uk) to find the diverse range of volunteering opportunities available today. If a person was inspired by a stories of people helping the Friends Ambulance Unit then, perhaps they would consider being a Community First Responder now”.

Louisa Higginson

“When one takes a walk one always meets with the same thing: smells and bells”

Louisa Higginson was a volunteer nurse for The British Red Cross in First World War, leaving the open green spaces of New Zealand, for the cramped, sweltering hospital in Malta and Egypt.

On the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli in 2016, Louisa’s diary revealed the sights, sounds and smells of hospital life as she treated injured soldiers from the battle.

Hard graft started. It was unglamorous work and Louisa scrubbed and cleaned the hospital from top  to bottom, cleaning ‘thousands’ of  dishes in one day, which held a few unwelcome surprises. She spent the morning sewing at the hospital and the afternoon sewing uniforms.  We hired a machine - it was a good one and “fleas were given gratis.”

Meanwhile, as the battle raged, wounded soldiers were passing through a Red Cross causality clearing station. The less serious cases were sent to a hospital at Mudros on the Greek Island of Lemnos, where the British Red Cross opened a free entertainment buffet in the harbour serving patients.

The badly wounded and sick men were taken by hospital ship or hospital carrier to Egypt, and in some instances straight to England. We gave each casualty warm, fresh bedding for the journey.

Louisa’s long wait

Louisa and her friends waited for the first patients to arrive, suspense grew among the young volunteers about what they have to deal with.

They did their best to prepare in difficult circumstances, resorting to ingenious (or should that be alarming?) alternatives to hospital instruments .

On Wednesday 9 June 1915, Louisa wrote: “Waiting for patients all day….. I do hope we will be able to look after our patients well for I hear the cases are the worst that have arrived so far in Malta.”

“We went out this evening to try and get some instruments but found it very hard to do so. We got knitting needles for probes (Mary’s idea).”

Sweat and sandflies

When the patients arrived, they came thick and fast, “nearly everyone a stretcher case. With spraying and dressing we did not get off till 11pm. We have been going for all we are worth.” Louisa quickly got to know her patients. A week after the first arrivals she writes: “Lost our first patient, whose name was Rogers. The poor chap was only 17 and so nice - it is dreadful to see all the suffering though it is marvellous how the other cases are getting on.”

Nursing that many wounded patients was hard enough, but the boiling heat made life truly difficult: “The heat is awful, one is in the state of mopping one’s face the whole time. The chief things to worry me are sandfly bites - I am bitten all over the arms and face.”

Anyone who has ever worked night shifts will also sympathise with her struggles to get enough sleep. Her mood and health were both affected, each day brought highs and lows.

“Felt this morning life was not worth living but after a sleep, felt better. We lost one of our patients today (Barratt) and we felt very broken up about it. He was a nice boy, only 20 years of age.”

 But the day ended on a flourish: “a party of French people came and gave a variety of entertainment and it was good, especially the conjuror.

Were any of your family members from Suffolk and volunteered as a nurse during The Great War like Louisa? Are you inspired to volunteer now?

With special thanks to The British Red Cross – redcross.org.uk/WW1