9th Oct 1915. Women’s Volunteer Reserve Corps



A meeting under the auspices of the Rugby Women’s Volunteer Reserve Corps was held in the Benn Buildings on Friday evening in last week. There was a good attendance, and a number of the members present wore the smart uniform authorised by the Corps. Mr J J McKinnell, J.P. (chairman of the Rugby Urban District Council) presided, and he was supported by Colonel Hopkins and Captain Sutherland (C.O and Adjutant of the Birmingham W.V.R), Major West and Adjutant Moss, of the Rugby Corps.


The CHAIRMAN, in opening the proceedings, said he took it that one of the bases underlying the principles of the movement was the necessity of discipline for women. All of them had noticed the very great improvement in the men who had joined the Army and came back after a few months’ training ; and this improvement was not only physical, there was something else besides. There was, for one thing, increased self respect. They could all be quite sure that if it pleased Providence to spare them, these men would be much better citizens than they would have been had they not had this military training. He believed that there was no military element in the movement. Although the women were to be drilled and disciplined, there was no idea of their ever taking part in active service. They were to be drilled to act at a unit if need be, and to take on any sort of reasonable service. With regard to the physical training, he thought it was enormously important that the physical state of women in these times of stress and strain should be looked to (applause).


Col HOPKINS, who had the honour of being presented to His Majesty the King on his recent visit to the Birmingham munition works, and who has also received the Order of the Red Cross from the King of Serbia for services rendered in the raising and dispatching of medical stores for that stricken country, addressed the meeting, and said she thought there was a good opening for such a corps at Rugby, where there must be, among the busy ones, a number of ladies who had plenty of time. This movement was first instituted with the idea of preparing women so that they could be of service in case of invasion. That idea was most excellent, and they still had it in mind, for they were learning signalling, camp cooking, telegraphy, and other things whereby, if they were wanted in case of invasion, they would be well prepared. They also aimed at making themselves useful now, and it was surprising the things that had been found for them to do in Birmingham since they had been disciplined. Their difficulty now was to get through all the work they were being asked to undertake. She would like to contradict the Chairman and point out that they were ready for active service, some were already driving motor ambulances, and others had gone abroad as stretcher-bearers or to do V.A.D work. They were quite prepared to do all that kind of work, and there was only one part, that which the men ought to do for them, the fighting, that they were not prepared to do. The speaker then detailed the activities of the Birmingham members, and said among other things they had helped with the National Register, they were now engaged with the pink forms, and they were entirely responsible for running the canteens on both sides of the Birmingham munitions area. They had to work day and night shifts, and she was pleased to say that her girls had never failed her once. In a numbers of cases girls had taken the places of men, and they were now training some of them to work on the land to remedy the shortage of labour that there would undoubtedly be next year. The movement had now been recognised by the Authorities, some of the girls were employed by the War Office, and the Birmingham Corps had been asked by the Officer commanding the Birmingham military area to provide a contingent to take part in a great recruiting march with 6,000 troops.


Captain SUTHERLAND then addressed the meeting, and said their motto was “ Service ; ” they were out to do anything that they could at any time, no matter what form that service took, and it sometimes took a form that was not enjoyable. It very often consisted in the individuals being very much in the background. Another thing that the members learned was self-sacrifice-they were bound to give up doing what they wished to do themselves and do that which somebody else wanted them to do. Then, too, they learned self-reliance. The aims of the girls were very much enlarged, as were also their general outlook on life. As a rule, girls only mixed with girls of their own class, but the W.V.R did away with this, and it was very improving to the various members to see how other girls who did not happen to be born in the same class as themselves, looked upon things. It helped to put an end to snobbery, because they were all women working for the good of their country (applause). Referring to the value of the discipline which the girls learned, the speaker said this reacted on their home life, and had a very good effect. It was one of the crying evils in England that for a long time growing girls had acknowledged no discipline and no authority but their own, and it was good that they should learn these things now. The speaker expressed the hope that the members of the Rugby Corps would give the same loyalty to their officers that the Birmingham girls had given to their officers, and she concluded by repeating the advice which the Bishop of Birmingham gave to the Birmingham Corps at their recent Church parade:

“ Wear your uniform proudly, and remember that it is a sign that you, too, are serving your country ” (applause).

The CHAIRMAN briefly thanked the speakers for their addresses, and said he thought all were agreed as to the loftiness of the ideals and extreme usefulness of this movement. There was no doubt that organized, disciplined women could be exceptionally useful to the country in the present crisis.


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