Just two weeks after the formation of the Australian branch of the British Red Cross on 13 August 1914, a branch was formed at Inverell. Immediately arrangements were made for the first full day sewing meeting which resulted in 139 garments – most likely from donated materials. The Inverell Branch’s first annual report records that in just six months 1056 garments were made. During the same six month period, many Red Cross members also worked for the War Chest Fund and helped assemble another 1844 articles.
In addition, items such as stationery, soap, bandages, milk jug covers, walking sticks, magazines and books were forwarded to Head Office. Members also made presentations of knitted items to all departing soldiers. These activities continued throughout the war
To raise funds the Red Cross organised functions such as sock and tobacco afternoons, stalls, sports days and concerts. They ran raffles and sold Red Cross buttons. During 1917 in addition to making clothing, members picked fruit and made over 1500 large tins of jam for sick and wounded soldiers.
At Inverell and beyond, Red Cross branches supported the North West Soldier’s Convalescent home in Moree by sending food and clothing. Moree Red Cross managed the home and VAD girls from various towns around the region worked there. The 48 members of Tingha Red Cross forwarded many articles to the men at Rutherford camp and sent Xmas parcels for the boys in hospital in Egypt. Moree branch obtained khaki to make uniform coats and tunics. The fabric was cut free of charge by a local tailor and Red Cross helpers undertook the sewing.
Men also contributed to Red Cross by supporting and assisting with major fund raising activities, making monetary donations, as well as donations of wool, proceeds of stock sales, and quantities of produce. All this activity took a considerable amount of organisation. On sewing days, carrying firms picked up and delivered sewing machines free of charge. Men packed goods and transported them to the railway to be sent to Sydney – just the first part of their long journey to our soldiers.
The collective value of this voluntary work towards the War effort was enormous.