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Ada Maria Hogg - Voluntary Aid Worker, Red Cross


frev

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blog-0236092001402469309.jpgWhen war erupted across the world in August 1914, many Australian women visiting England, found they could ‘do their bit’ by joining the various aid organizations. Mrs Ada Hogg was one of these, although she was actually en-route to Paris as the news broke. Having been widowed the previous year, Ada had joined a round-the-world tourist party in May 1914, and parted from her tour group in Milan on the 1st of August to attend the International Esperanto Congress in Paris. Arriving to a city in turmoil, she was told that Paris was closing her gates that night and all foreigners must leave immediately. Tired and hungry she joined the mass evacuation to Dieppe, and after a night spent in the pouring rain on the wharf, finally caught one of the boats to England. After a short rest she wasted no time in volunteering her services, taking on the position of Assistant Treasurer with the Soldier’s and Sailors’ Families Association (SSAFA) at Shepherd’s Bush.

 

Considering it a privilege to be helping in such important work, Ada was not afraid to put in the long hours needed to assist the families of the dead and wounded as the war progressed, especially as she was no stranger to work. The daughter of a teacher, Ada had also gone on to teach, and together with her late husband had established the Adelaide Shorthand & Business Training Academy in South Australia. For some years she had also been the President of the Adelaide Esperanto Group (a language developed in the 1870s for use in international communication)

 

In 1915 working in London was not free from danger, as Ada attests to in the following letter dated September 9th 1915:

“I retired quite early, weary after my strenuous half-holiday from my self-imposed office duties (which I spend at the Woolwich Arsenal canteen). I had heard our anti-aircraft guns firing at the Zeppelins the previous night, but hoped not to be disturbed again. However, 11 o’clock came, when the roar of machinery, and the noise as of a rushing, mighty wind heralded the near approach of a Zeppelin. Of course, I did the thing we are particularly warned not to do, which was to rush out on to my little balcony, and from there I saw an immense, grey monster, resembling in length a tube train on wings; and flash, flash, boom! boom! explosion. Bombs were dropped in rapid succession. The result was indescribably terrifying. There was the noise of the concussion, of the smashing and falling of glass from hundreds of windows, and the screams upon screams from the poor little crippled children who sleep out in a hospital across the way.

 

This was all rather too close to be pleasant, so I got back to my room, groped around for dressing gown and slippers (the electric light had been cut off), and, still groping, found my way down five flights of stairs to the basement. All this time (in all about 15 minutes, though it seemed much longer) the deafening noise continued, but it was now our anti-aircraft guns and the added whirrrr-birrrr of pursuing aeroplanes. In the basement I helped to quieten the crying babies and the hysterical maids. The latter had been asleep at the back of the hotel, and had been rudely awakened, poor things, by the explosion and the shattering glass. Then, still aweary, but this time provided with candle and matches, I got back to my room. However, the fires caused by the bombs seemed too near to be pleasant, so I watched for an hour until they were well got under, and then to bed and sleep, for there was work to be done on the morrow.

 

This morning I visited the square and saw the huge excavation made by a bomb almost in the centre, and the poor, hurt-looking buildings all around (four of which are hospitals), with glass-less windows, all so pitiful. But how much worse it might have been if the bomb had fallen on one of the hospitals, or even on the hotel. As it is, I don’t think one life was lost just here, but as I said before, it was all quite too close to be pleasant. Some experience, eh?”

 

In December Ada resigned her position with the SSAFA to take up the position of honorary secretary of the Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital in Le Touquet, France. She had been working at this British Red Cross Hospital for nearly 2 years, before returning to England for a rest in the latter half of 1917. However, once again she was harassed from above:

“Two days after my arrival from France for a hard-earned rest, about 207 Gothas bombarded us with disastrous results. Finding this not conducive to a rest cure, I went to the country for a month. I had no sooner got back than we were treated to the moonlight raids. What with the whirr-rr-rr of the double-engined hostile machines overhead, the pop-pop-pop of the machine guns, the thud of falling bombs, and the booming of our anti-aircraft guns (two of the biggest are not a quarter of a mile from here), is it any wonder that we are developing nerves? Then a three-weeks’ interval, and this time an early evening noise and explosions from the barrage of zone of fire put up by our anti-aircraft. I don’t go out to see the sights now; my inquisitiveness was cured by my Zeppelin experiences.”

“I am off to France next week for a little sleep and quietness, for, in spite of the fact that the newspapers tell us that we are perfectly calm, which, of course, we are, it is rather a nerve-racking experience.”

 

Before the year of 1917 was over, Ada had transferred to the Secretary-ship of the Leith War Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland. A year later when this hospital was taken over by the U.S. Navy, she returned to London, and as a representative of the Australian Red Cross, began a six month course at the Surgical Requisites’ Association. She was only a week into her course when the armistice was signed:

“At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the firing of the anti-aircraft guns around London signaled – not an air raid this time, but that they were a thing of the past; then the sirens on the river shrilled their shrieks of joy, and London went mad. Bunting appeared magically, shops were closed, and streets filled to suffocation. Every taxi carried its merry load – on the roof, bonnet, anywhere. Motor and horse-driven vehicles overflowed with excited, yelling humanity. Flags were brought at any old price, and wildly waved, bells clanged, bands played, and Bedlam was let loose. Outside Buckingham Palace the immense crowd demanded the King. Believe it was Australians who started the chant, “We want George; we want George,” until he appeared, and then changed the tune to “We want Mary; we want Mary,” until she came also.

Through Piccadilly one had to fight one’s way, but the jostling, happy crowd was exhilarating; the rain dampened our clothes, but not our enthusiasm. Tea was only procurable at a Chinese restaurant, all the rest had sold out. Then down the Mall, lined with captured guns, to Victoria. After two hours’ wait and struggle to buy a ticket, get through the barrier, board a train, and do a 10 minutes’ journey, I arrived home, wet, tired, disheveled, and dirty, but I wouldn’t have missed it for something. The funniest sights I saw were the traffic being held up in Regent street by a long line of arm-linked hilarious officers doing the goose-step; and, in a side street, a very drunk Scottie and a very drunk Aussie, solemnly kissing each other, French fashion, on either cheek. Yesterday I was one of the crowd of enthusiasts who welcomed Marshal Foch and M. Clemenceau. It was an inspiring welcome, too. Spend Friday evenings doing the waitress stunt at the Anzac Buffet, and just love it. Hope to be home before Christmas, 1919”

 

The Surgical Requisites Association, which was the orthopaedic branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, had been established by a group of Chelsea artists and sculptors to develop improvements in surgical aids. Their inventions of different types of artificial limbs, as well as splints, beds, ‘soaking baths’ etc, were groundbreaking in dealing with the relief and comfort of the many unique cases of twisted and distorted bodies and limbs that the war had produced. Working with these ingenious women for nine months, Ada then used the orthopaedic knowledge she had gained, in the service of the Surgical Requisites branch of the AIF.

 

With the war over, the Handley Page Aircraft Coy modified a number of their planes to carry passengers on the London-Paris route, and Ada didn’t allow her previous fear of enemy aircraft to deter her from experiencing life in the air on a more personal level:

“I have the distinction of being the first woman to attempt a flight in a Handley-Page passenger aeroplane de luxe. I say ‘attempt’ advisedly, for though we started off all right, with the six passengers sitting in armchairs – I the only Australian – we had two forced landings. We should have reached London three and a half hours after having left Paris. As it was, we only got as far as Amiens, and had, somewhat ignominiously, to catch a train, and travel in the more orthodox manner. No! I was not in the least sick when in the air. My experience of flying was that there seemed almost a cessation of motion, except when one struck an air pocket, then things were decidedly stirring. But I was upset in more ways than one by the forced landings. After them I am not ashamed to own that I had a nervous breakdown.”

 

Ada’s hope to be home before Christmas 1919 was never realized, but she was however on her way; spending Christmas on board the family ship Konigin Luise which had sailed from England on the 19th of December. In early February 1920 Ada finally stepped back onto Australia’s shores after almost 6 years absence. The following are some of Ada’s observations from the war:

“When the Australians felt the pinch of the war most, was having their dear ones so far away – they had to bear a terrible spiritual strain ,if not the actual physical strain.”

“I loved the French people. They seemed to me to be the very spirit of the war. Nothing ever crushed their indomitable determination.”

“One thing I learned thoroughly well when working among the wounded was the value of cheer. Still another was man’s love and kindness for his fellow-man. It did not matter what personal sorrow weighed on one’s heart, the boys had to be cheered up. We learnt to store – and repeat – every funny story we could get hold of. I was a great success with these! But I had a serious rival in a Catholic padre. When the boys on my side of the ward were laughing harder than the boys on his, Padre used to say: - ‘We must meet afterwards, Sister, and swap yarns,’ and we always did.”

 

It seems that Ada’s time away from Australia had given her the ‘bug’, and she spent the rest of her life traveling extensively and living in many different countries, possibly doing Red Cross work. She was made a life member of the Italian Red Cross, and apparently she received honours from the French and Italian Governments.

In 1937 however, Ada was home in Australia and living in Sydney, when following a brief illness, double pneumonia took her life on the 16th of June at the age of 66. She was privately cremated and her ashes were then transferred to Adelaide, where they are interred with those of her husband William in the Crematorium Section of the West Terrace Cemetery.

 

Endnotes: One of 12 children, Ada Maria HALLIFAX was born 16/4/1871 in Lexton, Victoria – the daughter of Augustus New HALLIFAX & Mercy ALLEN. Her mother died when Ada was seven, and her father remarried the following year. Her father had come to Australia as a convict in 1846, but went on to be a teacher & a J.P. Ada married William HOGG 13/12/1897 in Nth Adelaide, he died 13/6/1913, age 48. The couple had no children. In 1909 Ada was saved from drowning, and in a twist of fate, one of her rescuers drowned the following week! As well as the Victory & British War Medals, Ada was entitled to the 1914/15 Star (just!). In later life she sometimes seems to have been known as Mrs HALLIE HOGG – possibly a name that she wrote under. The AWM photo shows Ada (Assistant Quartermaster HOGG) in her Red Cross uniform c1919.

 

Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011

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