The history of the Salvation Army in World War 1.
Evangeline Booth, National Commander, April 1918.
The popularity that came to the Salvation Army as a result of it's overseas work during World War 1 was greatly out of proportion to the quantity-though not the quality-of it's service.
The entire overseas assignment of officers was 241 men and women, with supplement workers bringing the total to about 500 individuals. These were backed up by 268 members in the United States.
In france the salvation army won the affection of the 'doughboys' and the gratitude and respect of the whole nation, yet the spirit of those salvationists who went to france was no different from those whose stayed in america and ran slum nurseries, homes for the destitute men and women.
But the eyes of the nation were on those who went to france, and millions of americans learned of the spirit of the s.a. (salvation army) for the first time.
The director of war work in France was Lietenant Colonel William S. Barker, who left new York with adjutant Bertram Rodda on June 30th 1917.
Armed with a letter of recommendation from Joseph P. Tumulty, president Wilson's secretary. who arranged for him to see General Pershing.
Meanwhile in the united States,preperations were underway to follow the boys overseas. Evageline Booth, national commander of the s.a. borrowed $25,000 from international headquaters to finance the war work.
Colonel Barker asked for some women to help them with their cause and although Evengeline Booth was surprised at his request she carefully selected women officers and sent them over to france.
The work of the 'sallies' justified Barkers wisdom in making this request.
The salvation army in france first went to work in the area of the First Division.
The first division landed in france on august 22nd 1917 and work on the first division began on september 1st.
The first 'hutment' as it was called, was a long sectional building 40 by 150 feet with 10 windows on each side. It had staff of five men and six women, all of whom were musicians, who gave concerts and conducted long services in addition to operating the canteen. They also gave bible classes but their building was available to other denominations or fraternal orders. In it Jewish services were held and on one occasion the Loyal Order of Moose conducted an initiation.
A clothes-mending service was offered by the girl officers.
The first hut would multiply by a factor of 400 over the next 15 months. The tiny group of salvantionists and co-workers would set up that number of huts, hostel and rest rooms, all as nearly like home as human ingenuity could make them, some right on the front lines.
Although the doughnut became the symbol of the s.a. in france, pies and cakes were also baked by the women in crude ovens, and lemonade was served to hot and thirsty troops as well.
It was not just the home cooking but also the spirit with which it was served that captivated the men.
The simple secret was that the salvationist were serving not only the soldiers but God, and they brought to mind thoughts of home and their families.
At the s.a. hut the men could men could not only bring their uniforms to be mended, they could also bring their problems to share. As buttons were sewn on, a brief message of help was offered.
Soldiers in france often had more money than opportunites to spend and to discourage gambling and wines and spirits the s.a. officers encouraged the soldiers to take advantage of the s.a.'s money-transfer system. Soldiers would give their money to an s.a. officer who would enter the sum on a money order blank and send it to National Headquarters in New York. From their it went to the corps officers nearest the soldiers home who would then deliver the money in person to the soldiers family or nearest relative.
The money-transfer plan also worked in reverse on occasion when friends sent money to soldiers overseas.
One of the things that the american soldiers marveled at was the fact that the s.a. followed them right to the front. the women as well. Often they were in danger from shells and gas.
Financial support fir the s.a. war programme came with a rush. A plea for a million dollars, endorsed by president Wilson and secretary of War Newton Baker in december 1917 was soon answered.
In 1918 the s.a. joined the YMCA, YWCA,War camp community service, National Catholic War Council, Jewish Welfare Board and the American Library Association in a United War Work Campaign to raise $170 million of which the s.a. was to receive $3.5 million.
This drive was underway when the armistice was signed on November 11th 1918.
S.A. war work in (europe) did not end with the armistice, hospital visitation and nursing aid continued after the war, as did other services for the troops in France and later occupied germany.
The salvationists were frequently given permission to get a watch repaired or to buy a christmas or birthday gift for a loved one.
They helped the troops returning home by sending telegrams announcing their expected return date and time and even helping families re-unite at busy docks.
I think we would all agree what wonderful work they did then and that they have continued to do their wonderful work.