Saturday, March 21, 2009

World War I - Red Cross Related labels


Today's items are related to labels issued in India during world war I. These labels were issued mostly either to raise funds for sick and wounded soldiers or to support hospital ships in service. And each label carries a unique similarity: red cross symbol.

First of such label is shown below. This label depicts a nurse with wounded soldier. The label exists in imperf or perforation of 12, both conditions with various red shades. These labels were used from 25th August 1917 to 5th December 1917 as per "Patriotic & Propaganda of the British Commonwealth" catalog by Clive Edwards.

The label was issued in denomination of 1/2 anna. The label has message in Hindi and Bengali language. Even though the label carries symbol of red cross, by that time official Indian charter of Red cross was not operational. Most of nurses during world war I serving in India either belonged to "Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service" or to the "St. John Ambulance" association and the joint committee of the British Red Cross. During their work, the army nurses were armed for they carried revolvers to ward off enemy and robbers.

During British Raj years, the medical needs of the British Army and their families were met by the QAMNS (Queen Alexandra's Military Nursing Service) for India (known as the QAIMN[I]) until they were amalgamated to the QAIMNS in 1926 by the War Office.

The QAIMNS (Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service) with the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) continued to care for British servicemen and women and their families. While the Indian servicemen were cared for in Indian Military Hospitals which were staffed by Indian doctors, orderlies and members of the Indian Military Nursing Service (IMNS). Conditions were much different under this culture and hygiene standards were much lower than what any QA's would have approved.

Indian Red Cross society was officialy created much later in 1920.

Another of such label issued is shown below. The label was issued for "Central Provinces War Relief Fund" organised by lady Robertson.


This label also carries red cross symbol and text "For the wounded" in English, Urdu and Hindi. The label was issued in denomination of 1/2 anna. Exact date of issue of this label is not known but I have another copy of this label where the label carries postal seal dated 12th December 1917. Thus, I assume this and first label both were issued on same date.

Just for information, Lady Robertson was wife of Field Marshal Sir William Robert Robertson who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1916 to 1918 during the first world war.

Another of such popular label of world war I era is shown below. The label depicts H.S. Madras (Hospital Ship Madras) at sea and carries a text "Madras War Fund". The label also has red cross symbol.


This ship was built in 1914 by British India Steam Navigation Company for BI's Calcutta-Far East service named as Tanda. The ship was taken over by Indian authorities as soon as first world war started, converted to hospital ship duties and renamed Madras.

The idea behind converting this ship to hospital ship was of Lord Pentland who was British Governor of Madras Presidency from 1912 to 1919. He was known for his outstanding war work between 1914 and 1918 in the Presidency of Madras, ably assisted by his public-spirited wife Lady Pentland. Both of them together raised a large sum of money for equipping the hospital ship. The ship was majorly maintained by the people of Madras who contributed whole heartedly for its successful run. This Hospital Ship created military history by plying regularly between Africa and India, and subsequently between Mesapotomia and India and rendering a splendid and much needed medical service in those hectic and turbulent days.

She was returned to BI in November 1919, resumed her Calcutta-Far East service and re-acquired her original name, Tanda. New BI ships made Tanda redundant and she was sold to Eastern & Australian SS Co in 1924. Following the outbreak of WW2 she was requisitioned to provide passenger and cargo services between Australian and Indian ports.

She was torpedoed and sunk by U-181 off Mangalore on 15the July 1944 en route from Colombo to Bombay and carrying a crew of 177, 12 gunners and 27 passengers, with 18 crew and 1 passenger losing their lives. The remainder were rescued by HMIS Bihar and landed at Colombo.

Last of all, I want to show another world war I label which also carries (a rather large) red cross symbol. This label is listed in Delandre's Red Cross catalog of 1914-1917.

The label has a text "Pondicherry", a french colony in India on east coast near Madras during that period. I could not gather any more information on this label.

I would really appreciate if a reader can share any information on any of labels shown here. None of these labels are described in detail in any of catalogue or books. Most of my research is based upon couple of hours of internet surfing. Hope you will enjoy the stories irrespective of their correctness!

2 comments:

Pablo (yo) said...

I don´t know anything about it, but the last one is amazing, very colorful for a label.

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