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The Channel Islands and the Great War
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Salvation Army Women in the Great War
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"I insist on the equality of women with men. Every officer and soldier should insist upon the truth that woman is as important, as valuable, as capable and as necessary to the progress and happiness of the world as man. "

Adjutant Mary Booth

So said William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, in 1908. He proved that he meant what he said when he placed Brigadier Mary Murray in charge of the Salvation Army's "Naval and Military League" at the time of the Great War. She, together with Staff Captain John Aspinall and Ensign May Whittaker went to Belgium and France in 1914 to see what help could be given to the men of the British Expeditionary force. The result of this was a service which eventually provided forty camp centres near the war zones, and later a war graves visitation service for bereaved relatives, initially under the direction of another woman officer, Adjutant Mary Booth.

Not only were these services organized by women officers, but also many of their volunteer war workers were young working class women. My aunt, Ada Le Poidevin was a typical example. Her family were ardent Salvationists, and she was one of the third generation of the family to attend St Sampson's Corps, where her father was a bandsman for over 50 years . Ada was born in Guernsey on February 5th 1895, the second daughter of John Wesley Le Poidevin, a charrotier in a local quarry, and his wife Alice, née Roberts, a midwife. She attended school until the age of about 12 before going into domestic service with her sister, Alice, in the household of a local doctor. A brother, John Wesley Robert Le Poidevin was born in 1910, when their parents were in their forties.

Adjutant Mary Booth
By April 1917, the recently formed the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry was in training prior to going to France. Ada's sister was recently married, with a young child. Her only brother was too young to serve and her father was too old. Her brother-in-law, three uncles and several neighbours and colleagues from the Salvation Army were among those who had volunteered or been called up. Also an advertisement had appeared in the War Cry, a Salvation Army journal which the family read regularly, asking for "25 women Salvationists to assist in our Refreshment and Recreation huts with the Troops in France". In addition to this, a Staff-Captain Dalziel from the Salvation Army London headquarters visited the island and talked about Salvation Army work among the troops. Money was being raised for ambulances and comforts for the troops at the Front, and in addition local growers organised gifts of fruit and produce. Ada herself by this time was working at the Victoria Hospital in Amherst, which was a class A military hospital dealing with wounded soldiers who had been repatriated. However she must have decided that she had to make a further contribution to the war effort.

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