Chomley, Mary Elizabeth (Australian Red Cross Society, b.1872 - d.1960)

Accession Number 1DRL/0615
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 915 cm; Wallet/s: 48
Object type Papers, Album
Maker Chomley, Mary Elizabeth
Place made Australia, United Kingdom: England
Date made 1915-1920
Access Open
Related File This file can be copied or viewed via the Memorial’s Reading Room. AWM315 749/019/020
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Copyright expired. Copying permitted subject to physical condition. Permission for reproduction not required.

Collection relating to Mary Elizabeth Chomley, Secretary of the Australian Red Cross Society Prisoner of War Department, First World War.

Collection comprises of 48 wallets containing administrative papers relating to the organisation of the Prisoner of War Department, correspondence with captured soldiers, financial statements, and correspondence with ex prisoners of war following her visit to Australia in 1919-1920. Other collection items include an album kept by Chomley with photographs of imprisoned Australian soldiers. The photographs in the album are indexed and many have been individually captured under the Accession numbers P01981 and P03236.

Album of photographs and selected wallets have been digitised:

Album of photographs compiled by Elizabeth Chomley. The album contains photographs of wounded and ill soldiers who corresponded with Miss Chomley through her work for the Red Cross.

Wallet 45 of 48 - contains forty-one postcards collected by Chomley. It is likely that these postcards were sent to Chomley from ex-prisoners of war with whom she corresponded throughout the war. The majority of the postcards are photographic. The photographs include depictions of soldiers, nurses, and civilians in group or single-subject portraits, soldiers convalescing in hospitals, cemetaries and other landscapes. Two of the postcards are illustrated rather than photographed.

Wallet 46 of 48 - contains four photographs and one newspaper clipping. The photographs show the graves of Australian and British soldiers and sailors who died while Prisoners of War of the Ottoman Empire, and were burried in a cemetery at Belemedik, Turkey. Additionally the wallet contains a single newspaper clipping of an anonymous letter to the Editor of The Times.

History / Summary

Founded in July 1916, the Prisoners of War Department of the Australian Red Cross Society worked under the British War Office and in tandem with the International Red Cross, the Central Prisoners of War Committee, the Bureau de Secours aux Prisonniers de Guerre, and other international organisations at Geneva, The Hague, and elsewhere. The Department was responsible for compiling a list of Australian prisoners from information issued by the German Red Cross Society, the Turkish Red Crescent Society, and other sources such as personal correspondence from prisoners of war. Additionally, the Department was responsible for issuing parcels of food, clothing, and providing for special requests where possible. It also acted as the intermediary for friends and families of prisoners wishing to send letters and parcels to internees. Packages moving into enemy territory were censored, and at certain times the Australian Red Cross was the sole organisation with the ability to distribute ‘forbidden articles’ across these borders. According to the Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, from its inception in 1916 to the armistice, the Prisoners of War Department distributed 395,695 parcels of food 36,339 and parcels of clothing. Throughout the correspondences sent to Chomley and housed in this collection, many prisoners attribute their survival to the parcels distributed by the organisation.