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BSM

Women's Legion Drivers

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BSM

During their stay in Britain during WW1 the AIF Mechanical Transport sections employed drivers etc. from the British Woman's Legion. Does any member have any information they wish to share or know if there is a publication chronicling their activities during the conflict. Their operational organization and basic uniform details would be a bonus. Have actually seen a photograph in my travels that included a couple of Legion members wearing Australian rising Sun badges. They were attached to an AFC Unit.....Regards....Rod

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old-ted

Hi Rod.

Nothing specific on the driving units you mention but we picked up quite a bit from a couple of books about Lady Edith Londonderry who was their founder and commandant. These are;"Societies Queen" by Anne de Courcy and "Retrospect" which is her autobiography.

The Londonderry Papers deposited by the family at the Northern Ireland Records office & at Durham Records office hold a lot of information on the formation of the Womans Legion.

Durham Records also published a reference book cataloguing the Londonderry Papers held by them.

Sorry we can't be more specific at present.

Regards

John & Kathleen.

Edit; just found this; http://womenslegionmotordrivers1919photos....longing-to.html

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BSM
Hi Rod.

Nothing specific on the driving units you mention but we picked up quite a bit from a couple of books about Lady Edith Londonderry who was their founder and commandant. These are;"Societies Queen" by Anne de Courcy and "Retrospect" which is her autobiography.

The Londonderry Papers deposited by the family at the Northern Ireland Records office & at Durham Records office hold a lot of information on the formation of the Womans Legion.

Durham Records also published a reference book cataloguing the Londonderry Papers held by them.

Sorry we can't be more specific at present.

Regards

John & Kathleen.

Edit; just found this; http://womenslegionmotordrivers1919photos....longing-to.html

Good evening J&K and thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately there is much still to be digitised so it can be remotely accessed by researchers and interested parties in general.Things are definitely on the improve down this way although the current "financial crisis" that we are all sick of hearing about is no doubt having an effect on same. That was an interesting link you provided, even more so when you had a closer look at the "bloggers" i.e., the Brit. couple living in Thailand (for quite some time it seems) who have said scrap book in their possession. Haven't had time to look more closely as yet but there could well be a couple of good snippets of info re the subject. I am in the latter stage of a book on AIF MT (WW1) and as these ladies were a component of the force in England at this time I believe they are worthy of a mention supported by some details hence the post.

Obviously did not explain myself as well as I should have.....from the information/books you have can you provide me with any generic info relating to the Drivers. Similar to the Military they would have had some sort of structure and there should be some mention as to their attachment to ASC/AASC Units/tasking. Please advise.....Rod

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Sue Light
.....from the information/books you have can you provide me with any generic info relating to the Drivers. Similar to the Military they would have had some sort of structure and there should be some mention as to their attachment to ASC/AASC Units/tasking. Please advise....

Rod

Women's quasi-military organisations of the Great War have never been the subject of much research - I think you will struggle to find any published sources above the absolute basic details (which all seem to revolve around Lady Londonderry). Most of the surviving paperwork is held at the Imperial War Museum, and forms part of their 'Women at Work' collection. This is an extensive collection, compiled after the war, and is now held as on online database,fully searchable, but available only at the Imperial War Museum. However, I believe it is now administered by Gale Databases, and there is access at a number of academic institutions worldwide. I think that this may be your only chance of getting any in-depth information on the Legion.

Sue

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BSM
Rod

Women's quasi-military organisations of the Great War have never been the subject of much research - I think you will struggle to find any published sources above the absolute basic details (which all seem to revolve around Lady Londonderry). Most of the surviving paperwork is held at the Imperial War Museum, and forms part of their 'Women at Work' collection. This is an extensive collection, compiled after the war, and is now held as on online database,fully searchable, but available only at the Imperial War Museum. However, I believe it is now administered by Gale Databases, and there is access at a number of academic institutions worldwide. I think that this may be your only chance of getting any in-depth information on the Legion.

Sue

Ta much Sue...no mischief intended but I find the IWM site not as user friendly as the AWM and NAA ones over this way. Had a look anyway and did not come away with anything meaningful. I do not require a lot of info therefore I will probably settle for the following style of general overview and similar from other sites......source a number and then cross reference with the odd official record!

" Launched in July 1915 by the Marchioness of Londonderry, the Women's Legion became the largest entirely voluntary body. Although it was not formally under Government control or part of the army, in the spirit of the times its members adopted a military-style organisation and uniform. The WL volunteers became involved in many forms of work, including cooking and catering for the army in England. The success of the WL was a definite factor in influencing the Government to organise female labour in the latter half of the war." (NB- this sample from the Long Long Trail)

As you suggested, this and similar web entries cover the basics and should provide sufficient for my needs. Was a bit surprised to actually come across one of their HBs up for auction which was a bonus. Another site mentions the fact that they sometimes adopted the ASC badge when attached to same so this would possibly explain the use of the AIF Rising Sun on girls attached to said Units....in this case the AFC.....Tks....Rod

Sue I almost forgot....a curiosity question....not long back I purchased a journal via ebay. Title..."Carry On" - British Women's Work in Wartime. Mainly pics with a small amount of text. One pic is of 2 female "motor drivers". Badge or title on hat and collar appears to be "S crown O". Are you familiar with same?? Rod

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frev

Hi Rod

Glad to see we have a book on the Motor Transport Service to look forward to. Having read a very extensive diary of one of these men, I'm looking forward to finding out more about the truly amazing work they did. You'll be sure to let us know when it's published!

I doubt you'll find anything too indepth as far as structure goes, but you may pick up snippets from the newspapers that could help flesh out your overview of the Women's Legion.

Following are just a few extracts taken from The Times after a very limited scan. (if you don't already have it, you can gain on-line access to this simply by joining the National Library of Aus)

The Times, Wed Jan 3 1917:

CAMP COOKS AND MOTOR DRIVERS

ARMY WORK FOR WOMEN

……………………………………………..

The Women’s Legion, with headquarters at 72, Upper Berkeley-street, who supplied the first women military motor-drivers last June, have at the present moment heavy demands made upon them from about 30 provincial centers for women motor-drivers for the Army Service Corps. ……………………………………………..

As has been already stated in The Times, after a month’s probation these women are supplied with the same military overcoat as is worn by the men, and are allowed to wear numerals on the shoulder. The Women’s Legion supplies them with khaki coats and skirts and felt hats similar to those worn by the Women’s Volunteer Reserve.

………………………………………..

…………….. should apply to Miss Christobel Ellis, the commandant, at the headquarters of the Women’s Legion at once. ……………………………. The pay is 35s. a week and 5d. an hour overtime.

………………………………………………………..

The Times, Mon Mar 18, 1918:

WOMEN MOTOR-DRIVERS AT THE PALACE

INSPECTION BY THE QUEEN

………………………………………………..

Lady Londonderry, president of the Women’s Legion, wearing the khaki uniform of the corps, presented to her Majesty the vice-presidents, the headquarters committee, the staff of the headquarters, and the staff of the motor section superintendents in charge of dismounted squads. Those presented included.

Lady Selbourne, Lady Pembroke, Lady Titchfield, Lady Massereene and Ferrard, the Hon. Mrs Eric Chaplin and Mrs Vere Chaplin, Miss Christobel Ellis, Mrs Nugent Allfrey, Mrs Cook, Mrs Whitburn, Miss Benjamin, Miss Meadows, Miss Ward, Miss Brocklebank, Mrs Antrobus, Miss Bradley, Superintendent Thomson (R.F.C.), Superintendent Bouchier James (A.S.C.), Superintendent Burnley Campbell (A.S.C. Scotland), and Superintendent Darton (A.S.C.)

There were 160 dismounted women drivers, and 65 on vehicles, all in uniform, and they represented the 2,000 women belonging to the motor section of the Legion, four coming from each unit, and some from such distant commands as Cornwall and Scotland. Five specimen cars were drawn up in front of the garden entrance of the palace – a staff car, a touring car, a dispatch rider’s cycle, a box-body van, and an ambulance. ………………

………………………………………………..

The fact that the motor-drivers of the A.S.C. and R.F.C. clean and wash their own cars amused the Queen, ………………………..

The Times, Fri Aug 23, 1918:

THE WOMEN’S LEGION

NEW RATES OF PAY FOR MOTOR DRIVERS

(a long article setting out the various rates)

Cheers, Frev

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Jim Strawbridge
" Launched in July 1915 by the Marchioness of Londonderry, the Women's Legion became the largest entirely voluntary body.

Rod, The only issue that I have is the statement that the Women's Legion became the largest entirely voluntary body. I would have thought that the Voluntary Aid Detachment, the O of St.J/Red Cross and for that matter, the Scottish Women's Hospital would all have been larger.

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BSM
Hi Rod

Glad to see we have a book on the Motor Transport Service to look forward to. Having read a very extensive diary of one of these men, I'm looking forward to finding out more about the truly amazing work they did. You'll be sure to let us know when it's published!

I doubt you'll find anything too indepth as far as structure goes, but you may pick up snippets from the newspapers that could help flesh out your overview of the Women's Legion.

Following are just a few extracts taken from The Times after a very limited scan. (if you don't already have it, you can gain on-line access to this simply by joining the National Library of Aus)

The Times, Wed Jan 3 1917:

CAMP COOKS AND MOTOR DRIVERS

ARMY WORK FOR WOMEN

……………………………………………..

The Women's Legion, with headquarters at 72, Upper Berkeley-street, who supplied the first women military motor-drivers last June, have at the present moment heavy demands made upon them from about 30 provincial centers for women motor-drivers for the Army Service Corps. ……………………………………………..

As has been already stated in The Times, after a month's probation these women are supplied with the same military overcoat as is worn by the men, and are allowed to wear numerals on the shoulder. The Women's Legion supplies them with khaki coats and skirts and felt hats similar to those worn by the Women's Volunteer Reserve.

………………………………………..

…………….. should apply to Miss Christobel Ellis, the commandant, at the headquarters of the Women's Legion at once. ……………………………. The pay is 35s. a week and 5d. an hour overtime.

………………………………………………………..

The Times, Mon Mar 18, 1918:

WOMEN MOTOR-DRIVERS AT THE PALACE

INSPECTION BY THE QUEEN

………………………………………………..

Lady Londonderry, president of the Women's Legion, wearing the khaki uniform of the corps, presented to her Majesty the vice-presidents, the headquarters committee, the staff of the headquarters, and the staff of the motor section superintendents in charge of dismounted squads. Those presented included.

Lady Selbourne, Lady Pembroke, Lady Titchfield, Lady Massereene and Ferrard, the Hon. Mrs Eric Chaplin and Mrs Vere Chaplin, Miss Christobel Ellis, Mrs Nugent Allfrey, Mrs Cook, Mrs Whitburn, Miss Benjamin, Miss Meadows, Miss Ward, Miss Brocklebank, Mrs Antrobus, Miss Bradley, Superintendent Thomson (R.F.C.), Superintendent Bouchier James (A.S.C.), Superintendent Burnley Campbell (A.S.C. Scotland), and Superintendent Darton (A.S.C.)

There were 160 dismounted women drivers, and 65 on vehicles, all in uniform, and they represented the 2,000 women belonging to the motor section of the Legion, four coming from each unit, and some from such distant commands as Cornwall and Scotland. Five specimen cars were drawn up in front of the garden entrance of the palace – a staff car, a touring car, a dispatch rider's cycle, a box-body van, and an ambulance. ………………

………………………………………………..

The fact that the motor-drivers of the A.S.C. and R.F.C. clean and wash their own cars amused the Queen, ………………………..

The Times, Fri Aug 23, 1918:

THE WOMEN'S LEGION

NEW RATES OF PAY FOR MOTOR DRIVERS

(a long article setting out the various rates)

Cheers, Frev

Frev, good evening. Your input is much appreciated. Also knowledge gained re the new source of info is a bonus. You can never stop learning. I have a couple of image copies from the National Library for inclusion and I hope to be ready for release in the short term. Will check out the access you have brought to my attention. The 2 items you have supplied are basically on the money and from a reputable source re citing etc. As a piece of interesting trivia....in archival material it mentions that there was an attempt to get Australian Ladies to rise to the occasion with a nett result of "2". Accordingly the Womens Legion filled the gap. Thanks again....Rod

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BSM
Rod, The only issue that I have is the statement that the Women's Legion became the largest entirely voluntary body. I would have thought that the Voluntary Aid Detachment, the O of St.J/Red Cross and for that matter, the Scottish Women's Hospital would all have been larger.

Jim thanks for the input. I'm not all that knowledgeable re the VAD but given the huge number of wounded etc. requiring care I do not doubt your observation and well pointed out! May I add that in this case I was using it as an example in my chat with Sue re the type of OV info that one gathers, then cross references with reliable sources and then filters some key points to put in the core text....Regards...Rod

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royalredcross

The formation of the Women’s Legion (WL) took place at a meeting held at Londonderry House in July of 1915 “to provide a capable body of women whose services can be offered to the state as may be required, to take the place of men needed in the firing line or in other capacities”. Its founder, Lady Londonderry, had for some time been discontented with what she considered to be an excess of militarism which had been displayed by some of the women’s organisations which had been formed on the outbreak of war, particularly the Women’s Volunteer Reserve (WVR), of which she was Colonel in Chief. She believed that “it was absolutely necessary to re-organise the composition of the WVR. If the movement was really to grow and extend, it must be on less military lines”.

As first envisaged, the WL was to be an umbrella organisation and to comprise a number of different sections, of which the WVR was to be the first, plus Canteen, Ambulance and Cookery. After a few months, however, the WVR reverted to its original régime and severed connections. Other sections were formed before the end of the war, including Agricultural and Motor Transport. By far the most important, however, were the two sections which provided womanpower for the British Army, Military Cookery and Motor Transport.

The Military Cookery section has the distinction of being the first body of women, apart from nurses, to be employed with the British Army. It was formed on 22 July 1915 and, in the same month, a party of 20 cooks was despatched to Dartford Camp Convalescent Hospital. Parties for Eastbourne and Epsom camps soon followed and by the beginning of 1916, there were 120 cooks in place. The whole organisation was run from headquarters in the Duke of York’s at Chelsea by the Secretary, Mrs. Long. Lists of volunteers were kept and cooks and waitresses despatched as demanded by various units who engaged them through Labour Exchanges as civilian employees. The first Commandant was Miss Lilian Barker, who later went on to be Lady Superintendent of the munitions workers at Woolwich Arsenal. She was followed by Mrs. Burleigh Leach who later became head of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

The service expanded, not only to convalescent camps but to command depots and other units, their conditions of service being officially laid down in Army Council Instruction (ACI) 2034 of 1916. In January 1917 the Army Council appealed for 1000 women to enrol in the WL as cooks and waitresses. Some 26,000 replies were received. This success was such that the War Office decided to extend the service to France and to take complete control of the workforce. Thus, the Military Cookery Section of the WL ceased to exist on September 1917 when all 6,000 cooks and waitresses in the United Kingdom were absorbed into the newly formed WAAC. They eventually adopted WAAC uniform but were permitted wear their old WL badge on their lapel.

The Military Motor Transport section grew out of a plan formed in January 1916 to organise an Ambulance Corps to work with the Red Cross in France. This did not materialise and instead it was found more practical to develop a home service and the WL was approached to help. Miss Christabel Ellis was appointed Commandant and began the collection of experienced women drivers to work for the Army Service Corps(ASC). The first 20 women were supplied in April 1916 and on 30 October 1916 members of the section were given the privilege of wearing ASC badges and buttons on their uniforms. Drivers working with the Royal Flying Corps later wore that badge on their hat and shoulder titles. The women normally worked under a Superintendent in squads of up to 22, of which at least 10 were mechanics/drivers. The was also a Head Driver, Probationers and Garage Washers. Their conditions of service were laid down in ACI 221 of 1917.

On 16 March 1918 The Queen inspected a parade of 225 drivers who were representing the 2000 then employed from Cornwall to Scotland. On the formation of the Women’s Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, some 647 drivers who had been working with the Royal Flying Corps transferred into the new service. However, as the Quartermaster General felt that his army drivers should be controlled only by the ASC, those working at home never transferred to the WAAC

None of the sections of the WL served overseas during the war, though members of the Motor Transport section did so in some numbers after the Armistice. Many members of the Cookery section served in France, but as members of the WAAC

As with the ASC and the RFC, I would suspect that the women attached to AIF woudl have adopted their badge as a matter of course.

Norman

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old-ted

Norman.

Thanks for putting so much detail into your interesting reply.

I enjoyed reading it.

Regards

John

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frev

Ditto!

Frev.

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BSM

Gents thank you all for your informative input and yes Frev I have joined the ANL. Card should arrive by snail mail in a week or so. One would think that these ladies would have had some interesting tales to tell. Found the enclosed image whilst trawling for the odd snippet of info....Regards Rodpost-36102-1248345669.jpg

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old-ted

Thats an early one. Later badges had no wings on the victory figure. Colour of cloth insert denotes motor transport section.

John

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BSM
Thats an early one. Later badges had no wings on the victory figure. Colour of cloth insert denotes motor transport section.

John

Interesting addition John. If red was the backing colour for MT do you happen to know what the other sections wore?

The image I posted before with the wings is currently on a Militaria auction site with a reserve of AUD99.99

and I believe the image posted with this note is the other one you mention which is currently on ebay with a reserve

of 6 English pounds +.....Regards...Rod

post-36102-1248395993.jpg

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old-ted

Rod.

I've just found the auction site you refer to and according to the text the MT section had a Claret patch backing the badge. I can't remember where I read about the colours but I will try to hunt it out. I suspect it was in an old newspaper report.

Regards

John

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royalredcross

Cloth backings:

Pink - HQ Staff

REd - MT Section

Black - Sailors and Soldiers Work Section

Grey - Voluntary Service Section

Green - Agricultural Section

Yellow - Mechanics Section

Dark Blue - Horticultural Section

Light Blue - Canteen Section.

Whether or not all these sections were actually formed or operated, I can't say.

Norman

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old-ted
Cloth backings:

Pink - HQ Staff

REd - MT Section

Black - Sailors and Soldiers Work Section

Grey - Voluntary Service Section

Green - Agricultural Section

Yellow - Mechanics Section

Dark Blue - Horticultural Section

Light Blue - Canteen Section.

Whether or not all these sections were actually formed or operated, I can't say.

Norman

Thanks Norman. you've saved me hours of searching through files.

Regards

John

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Kiwidutch
On ‎24‎/‎07‎/‎2009 at 10:40, BSM said:

Interesting addition John. If red was the backing colour for MT do you happen to know what the other sections wore?

The image I posted before with the wings is currently on a Militaria auction site with a reserve of AUD99.99

and I believe the image posted with this note is the other one you mention which is currently on ebay with a reserve

of 6 English pounds +.....Regards...Rod

post-36102-1248395993.jpg

 

The photos below were taken by my Great Aunt. She has written on the back of the photo who they were. You can clearly see their badges as per the above. 

 

IMG_20170104_0055.jpg.b7d4a4c07098754d4bb7fbe8b59aa845.jpg

IMG_20170104_0056.jpg

Edited by Kiwidutch

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Marilyne

Thankd for reviving this thread. The information is very welcome in my search for the women casualties of the Great War. 

There were, according to the CWGC database, SEVEN fatal casualties in their ranks during WWI, all buried in Great Britain, so of no direct interest for my endeavour, but interesting to know nevertheless. 

 

M. 

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CorporalPunishment
On 23/07/2009 at 11:47, BSM said:

Gents thank you all for your informative input and yes Frev I have joined the ANL. Card should arrive by snail mail in a week or so. One would think that these ladies would have had some interesting tales to tell. Found the enclosed image whilst trawling for the odd snippet of info....Regards Rodpost-36102-1248345669.jpg

Just seen this thread. The badge shown, with the wings, has no connection with the Great War at all. This was a new design that was introduced in the 1930s following the formation of an air section of the WL. The wingless badge is the pattern worn in the Great War. Pete.

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CorporalPunishment
On 24/07/2009 at 10:55, royalredcross said:

Cloth backings:

Pink - HQ Staff

REd - MT Section

Black - Sailors and Soldiers Work Section

Grey - Voluntary Service Section

Green - Agricultural Section

Yellow - Mechanics Section

Dark Blue - Horticultural Section

Light Blue - Canteen Section.

Whether or not all these sections were actually formed or operated, I can't say.

Norman

Dug out my old badge lists from my collecting days, now well and truly over, and the WL list of backings I have is as follows. Dark red, Motor Transport. Light blue, Canteen and Household Staff. Pink, HQ Staff. Yellow, Clerical Staff. Orange, Mechanical Section. Brown, Horticultural. Green, Agricultural. Dark blue, Fruit Bottling. Black, Embroiderers. White, Special Services. Grey, Voluntary Services. Then there are the various special pattern badges for the Commandants, Supervisors, Superintendants, etc, etc. A fascinating subject for any would-be collectors out there, but an expensive one these days. Pete.

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