The Red Cross had some activities in Beecroft prior to a branch being established. For example Red Cross Nurses demonstrated an accident ward in the 1905 Primary School concert .
The inaugural meeting of the Red Cross was held at the commencement of World War I in August 1914. There was no sense amongst the women that the troops would be home by Christmas. The initial office bearers were: Mrs Rygate (President) Mrs Fearnley (Treasurer) Mesdames Dobbie & Holcombe (Secretaries) with the committee comprising Mesdames Holt, Skellett, Green, Higgins, Vicars, Alcock, Hayward, Caddy, Lyon, Nixon, Ogilvie, Twine and Misses Friend and Tulloch. The initial activity was to raise funds to support the people of Belgium but making things to support the troops was also clearly a priority as within a few months Mr Robert Vicars (of Vicars Woollen Mills) donated 500 yards of flannel and a hundred weight of wool while the Presbyterian ladies formed a sewing circle .
By 1915 the branch was meeting for 2 hours, twice a week in the School of Arts. The activities included raising funds to sponsor hospital beds for wounded soldiers and the making of clothes (including pyjamas, socks, balaclava and mittens) for soldiers. In 1916 it had 129 members. A fundraising tennis tournament in November 2016 at both the Beecroft and Cheltenham Clubs had 60 couples participate. At the 1917 Annual General Meeting it was reported that they had phenomenally produced 900 articles of clothing as well as medical supplies (such as 3200 pads, 10,898 swabs, 425 abdominal swabs, 219 sling bandages and the like) that year alone .
The Committee and workers were all female however in 1917 the Annual General Meeting was chaired by a male. At the following year’s meeting a man again chaired but in addition, men catered for the ladies “to indicate the admiration and pride felt by the men-folk of the district for the splendid work done by the ladies in providing comforts for our wounded.” The work proposed for the branch now included sending money overseas to purchase Christmas plum puddings and the provision of actual food supplies to Randwick Hospital. They also established a Junior Red Cross .
By the end of World War 1 many of the same names were still shouldering the offices: Mrs R Vicars (President) Mesdames Holt and Seale (Secretaries) Mrs Stobo (Treasurer) Mesdames Holcombe, Caddy, Payten, Ogilvie (Vice Presidents) and the Committee of Mesdames Priest, Forsyth, Craig, Giles, Laurie, Lyon, Clark, Alcock and Miss Harris . As the work of the Red Cross was considered finished the branch was disbanded.
Some years after the end of World War 1 the health of the returned soldiers, especially the presence of tuberculosis, led to the re-establishment in 1926, in Beecroft, of the Red Cross. Those who called the public meeting were Violet Vicars and Kath Swan. Following that meeting the new committee once again represented the local stalwarts of the past Mesdames Robert (Violet) Vicars, Brodrick, Dobbie, C (Kath) Robertson Swan, Whitehouse, Burrell, Holcombe, Holt, Nossiter, Seale, Taylor, Rohrsmann, Wyly and Misses Darvey and Newman .
The Branch then went into hiatus once more until again coming together in a time of need – this time because of “the bad times that exist for so many” in 1931 . Mrs Robertson Swan discussed her fundraising, by charging friends to see her collection of tea pots, to assist the Red Cross in 1932 because the branch had raised three thousand pounds less in income over the previous year .
The Branch was still active in 1971 .
1. Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 25 November 1905
2. Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 9 September 1914; 3 October 1914; 22 May 1915
3. Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 20 February 1915; 17 July 1915; 26 August 1916; 21 October 1916; 18 November 1916; 25 November 1916; 11 August 1917.
4. Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 11 August 1917; 31 July 1918; 21 September 1918
5. Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 27 July 1918
6. The Sun, 23 July 1926 p 3
7. Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 19 March 1931
8. The Southern Mail, 22 April 1932 p.2.
9. Northern District Times 17 March 1971