New Zealand Red Cross and WWII

On 3 September 1939, Britain, France, New Zealand and Australia declared war on Germany. New Zealand Red Cross and the Order of St John created the Joint Council to perform the same tasks they had carried out during World War I (WWI).

By 1942, 600 food parcels were being sent a week and 4,000 clothing parcels were sent over the year. These were lovingly packed by 1,500 voluntary workers. Between 1941 and 1946, 1,139,624 parcels were packed and sent overseas. A nutritionist, Dr Muriel Bell from Otago University, gave advice to the New Zealand Red Cross Society of the vitamin value of the food parcels.

In addition, there was a communications bureau to talk to POWs. In the final year of the war 177,276 communications were sent.

Red Cross also staffed Medical Units in the war and provided supplies to hospital ships. New Zealand Red Cross had three hospital ships under their care - the “Maunganui”, “Oranje” and the “Somersetshire”. Relief was also sent to our troops in the Pacific, such as infrared lamps to be used on the hospital ships and ambulances for the medical units.

After the war, VADs were on hand to help ex-servicemen and women by providing clothing, food and transport. At Christmas a special effort was made to see that every man in hospital or convalescent home received what was termed a “Christmas Stocking”.

A total of 14,680 stockings were made and they usually contained a pocket wallet of leather, cigarettes or cigarette tobacco, tissue papers, toothpaste, shaving soap, mirror, razor blades, chocolate, handkerchiefs, sox and reading matter.