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100 years serving the armed forces

"100 years of cuppas" - Salvation Army service to Australian armed forces

On Remembrance Day, 11 November 2001, a special ceremony was held at the Inala Senior Citizens Residence to commemorate a century of Salvation Army service to Australian soldiers in the field of battle.

A bronze plaque is being placed in the Rose Garden at the Inala Village, 220 Middleborough Road, Blackburn VIC. The plaque has been funded by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and will form part of the Remembrance Day Service conducted by the Red Shield Sub-branch of the RSL in the Inala Chapel at 2 pm Sunday 11th November.

The Boer War 1899-1902

The Salvation Army has shown an interest in the Armed Forces since its earliest days in England. There were Salvationists serving in the Royal Navy and British Army and they regularly banded together for meetings and often independently provided physical and spiritual help to their fellow serviceman.

In November 1894, in England, the "Naval and Military League" was officially established. Its function was to provide worldwide facilities for Salvation Army servicemen where they would find fellowship, home-comforts, and religious meetings.

In October, 1899, Britain and the Boer Republics were at war, and it was immediately apparent that there was a need to provide welfare facilities for all servicemen, not just Salvationists serving in the Armed Forces.

Australia was the first of the Empire's Colonies to respond to the call of 'Mother England' and have troops in South Africa. Contingents from Australia disembarked on 26th November 1899 at Cape Town. In England, General William Booth experienced feelings of deep anguish. So deeply did he believe in Christian brotherhood and the internationalism of The Salvation Army that he promptly sent a relief party to "minister comfort and practical aid to men of both armies - British and Boer alike."

Adjutant Mary Murray was selected and dispatched from International Headquarters in London and arrived at Cape Town on 15th November 1899, and there she headed a team of ten "welfare" Officers allocated to the different military Divisions.

The first contact between Australian troops and The Salvation Army's early "War Services" is apparently not recorded in detail, but it is likely that Welfare Officer Lieutenant William Hooper made contact with members of the Victorian Mounted Rifles Contingent as they advanced with General French's Column towards Kimberley in January 1900.

The provision of physical and spiritual welfare services catering to the Australian Contingents in the 1899-1902 South African War by these English Officers was continued and taken up in 1914 by the Australian operations of The Salvation Army; this Service came to be known as Red Shield War Services.

A close relationship between The Salvation Army and Australian service personnel has lasted from the Boer War, through two World Wars, the Korean War, the armed policing actions in Malaya and Borneo, Vietnam, U.N. service in Somalia and Cambodia, and operation "Desert Storm".

East Timor 1999-2002

One hundred years, almost to the day, after the commencement of the Anglo-Boer War and the appearance of Salvation Army Welfare Officers on the field of battle, three Australian Red Shield Welfare Officers were sent to the Australian peace-keeping force in East Timor.

The Salvation Army's ministry to Australian service personnel continues today.

Next: 20th Century Overview