Bill Tonkin

As early as the 20th of December 1922 an article had appeared in "The Spectator" suggesting arrangements should be made for a creche, where the smaller children of family parties could be left, while the others made the grand tour of the exhibition. This was immediately taken up by the Executive Committee of the Red Cross at their meeting on 24th Jan 1923. The Chairman Sir Arthur Stanley stated that the Central Council for Infant and Child Welfare (C.C.I.C.W.)were anxious to undertake this work, and had expressed a wish to work with the British Red Cross Society (B.R.C.S.) if they were taking part in the exhibition. The Secretary Brig-General H.B.Champain was authorised to get in touch with the C.C.I.C.W. and draw up some concrete proposals for a scheme, and setting out some approximate costs.

On 1st Mar 1923 the Secretary was able to report that he had been in touch with the C.C.I.C.W and a Major E. A. Belcher C.B.E., one of the Directors of the British Empire Exhibition (B.E.E.), and from the conversations he had had it appeared that the Directors of the Exhibition would welcome the assistance of the B.R.C.S. in furnishing first aid posts and ambulances as well as nurseries and playgrounds for children.

It was agreed that a small Sub-Committee be set up and it was decided to invite Mrs St. Loe Stracey and Dr Woodcock, the County Director for Middlesex to serve as representitives of the B.R.C.S. and to work in conjunction with representitives of the C.C.I.C.W. It was further agreed that the Finance Sub-Committee should be asked to consider favourably any application from this Sub-Committee for a grant of money to carry out the necessary work.

Undoubtedly of all duties carried out during 1924 the work at Wembley stands out above all others. The First-Aid work was undertaken by the Society and The Order of St. John in alternative months. The First-Aid work was particularly interesting, and of great value from the point of experience. For this work there was never a lack of volunteers.

The following Shifts were filled

Men 764

Women 359


The B.R.C.S. took over the whole of the First-Aid duty at the Exhibition from 5th May until 31st May, and during that period 18 women V.A.D. members and 71 men were on duty daily. The number of cases dealt with totalled 2,500. The B.R.C.S. also took over from the 7th July until the 2nd August. and during this period treated 4,012 cases. One accident occured during July to a Mr S Thomas of Woolwich while he was on one of the domes of the Stadium. Private James Armstrong V.A.D. from Dumfriesshire went to his aid climbing the iron ladder on the face of the dome.

Picture not available.

British Red Cross Personnel on duty at Wembley, the corrugated roofed

building in the background is the Fire Brigade Rest House.

The numbers were supplemented on various occasions at the request of the Exhibition authorities when special events in the Stadium brought unusually large crowds to the Exhibition. The B.R.C.S. were again present from 1st Sept to the 4th of October, when 3,978 cases of accident and sickness were dealt with.

The Medical Report of the British Empire Exhibition 1924. by Major-General S. Guise Moores, C.B.,C.M.G., Director of Medical Services to the B.E.E. makes interesting reading but is a bit too long to give in its entirety. I have picked out those parts that reflect the degree of planning that went into the organising of such a large event by people who gave their services unstintingly, over a long period, and who in the main had no previous experience of such an event to fall back on.

Extracts from the Medical Report

Exhibition crowds are made up of all classes and all ages, from infancy to decrepitude. It was therefore necessary to provide for the special requirements incidental to these extremes, quite apart from the ordinary medical and surgical happenings ordinarily associated with a communal life.

To meet all requirements provision was made for.

(1) Immediate assistance at "First-Aid" cabinets placed in

different parts of the Exhibition grounds and buildings

(2) Early transportation of patients by motor ambulance from the

cabinets direct to the Main Ambulance Station.

(3) The attendance day and night of a medical officer and complete

staff at the Main Ambulance Station.

(4) The dispatch of selected cases by motor ambulance from the Main

Ambulance Station to hospitals, nursing homes, railway

stations, or patients residences.

(5) The treatment, care and feeding of paralysed ex-soldiers and

others suffering from disabilities incidental to age.

(6) The care of persons visiting the Exhibition from epileptic


(7) Adequate "rest house" and drying arrangements for people

falling into the lake. Some 150 cases have been attened to.

(8) Special outdoor facilitiesto accommodate numbers over-come by

the "heat and burden of the day".

(9) The admission of infectious cases to special hospitals.

(10) The admission of colonial natives to special hospitals.

(11) The occurrence of "crises", such as the Whit-Monday food-

poisoning epidemic.



April 329

May 2,500

June 4,804

July 5,006

August 4,570

September 3,978

October 2,201


Of this total of 23,388, some 400 may be classed as serious. These include caes of hemiplegia, fractures of skull, thigh, leg, arm, forearm, etc., dislocations of shoulders etc., appendicitis, gastric and duodenal ulcer, etc. 124 cases were sent to the Willesden General Hospital, the remainder were dispatched to their homes or elsewhere by motor ambulances. the combined distance covered by these was 10,625 miles.

At the Stadium Ambulance Station a medical offier and First-Aid attendants were on duty during all ceremonies and performances.

(1) The Opening Ceremony.

(2) The Empire Thanksgiving Service.

(3) The Rodeo Displays.

Mention was made in the report of the Whit-Monday food poisoning epidemic, the incriminated article of food was the veal and ham pie issued that day to the restaurants in the Exhibition. There were some 4,700 pies sold, and it is probable that as many as 7,000 persons partook of these. 87 cases were admitted to the Main Ambulance Station, but it is certain that there were other caes, probably less affected that went direct to their homes from the Exhibition. The total number attacked was approximately 75% of the partakers. This fact points to the probability of only a small consignment which found its way into the Exhibition to meet a Bank Holiday demand.

Picture not available.

The Day Nursery

A Day Nursery for chilren had been built close to the north entrance of the B.E.E. in which mothers could leave their children, either for the whole time that they were at the Exhibition, or for a rest during a part of the day's excursion. The C.C.I.C.W. had the responsibility of its administration, and the staff was partly professional and partly composed of V.A.D.s. There were three trained nurses with V.A.D.s to help them, and besides this the older childrenwere looked after by trained kindergarten teachers and helped to play organised games, and to make full use of the toys provided for their amusement. There were also cots in which the babies could take a rest. The fee to mothers was 6d per child for a 4 hour period. In the June issue of "The Red Cross" (the Official Journal of the British Red Cross) it was able to state that since the opening of the Day Nursery at the end of April, 1,153 children had been cared for.

Picture not available.

The playground

Her Majesty the Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince George, and attended by Lady Cynthia Colville and Mr Verney, visited the Day Nursery on Friday 30th May. A letter sent by the committee, expressing their grateful appreciation of the fact that Her Majesty had been able to honour the Day Nursery by her presence, brought the reply.

Buckingham Palace

2nd June 1924

I am commanded by the Queen to thank you very much for your letter on behalf of the Chairman and Committee of the Day Nursery at the British Empire Exhibition, and to inform you that Her Majesty greatly enjoyed her visit to the Nursery last Friday.

The Queen was much struck by the charm and quietness of the surroundings in the heart of such a busy section of the Exhibition, no less than by the cheerful pleasant rooms in the Nursery itself. The generally happy aspect of the chilren as also of the efficient and capable looking staff made a most favourable impression on the Queen, who considered the Day Nursery an ideal institution for its purpose.

By the time the Nursery closed on 1st November 11,091 children had been cared for. The children who came to the Nursery often arrived tired out by a long journey, they were immediately fed, and put to bed, and slept happily until it was time to go home. Some of the children were daily visitors their mothers being employees in the Exhibition.

In 1925 the Nursery was again opened at the request of the Exhibition Authorities. The C.C.I.C.W. did not co-operate with the B.R.C.S. as they had in 1924 and the Order of St. John took their place. It was decided to staff the Nursery on rather different lines, and a permanent staff were engaged for the whole season, volunteers only being called for on occasions when a very large attendance of children was expected.

Picture not available.

The Toddlers Garden

The B.R.C.S. was to become even further involved and at a meeting on 3rd July 1924 Lady Beryl Oliver reported that the B.R.C.S. had been asked by The Boy Scouts Association to set up a hospital for the Boy Scouts Camp (The Imperial Jamboree) which was to be held from the 15th July to the 15th of Aug. Lady Oliver said she had discussed the matter with the Secretary and had provisionaly undertaken to organise the hospital. She had been successful in obtaining the services of Surgeon Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Hill, who had consented to take charge of the medical arrangements. It was estimated that the cost to be borne by the B.R.C.S. would not exceed #200, and it was hoped that this sum could be found from the grant of #2,000 which had already been approved. Major Abrahams said he was extremely interested in the Boy Scouts movement and regarded this connection between the B.R.C.S. and the Boy Scouts as such an excellent one that he asked to be allowed to make a donation of #200 to cover the expences, this offer was gratefully accepted.

The following is the report sent to the Imperial Headquarters of the Boy Scouts Association by Sir Robert Hill after the Imperial Jamboree had finished.

I beg to forward the following report on the medical arrangements for the Boy Scouts Camp at Wembley (Imperial Jamboree), and a medical report on the health of the scouts while in camp.

On 23rd June I received a request from the B.R.C.S. that I should take medical charge of the Boy Scouts Jamboree Camp to be held at Wembley Paddock from 15th July to 15th Aug. I was informed that the greatest number of scouts in camp at one time would be 12,000, and that the average number would be 10,000.

Having accepted I considered the organisation fell under the following heads, (a) Accomodation, (b) Personnel, (c) Equipment, (d) Arrangements for serious cases and also for infectious diseases.

(a) Accomodation. Taking 10,000 as the average, I worked on a basis of 1 per cent sickness requiring treatment in bed. The hospital as planned consists of.

4 marques, each capable of taking 25 beds

1 bell tent for observation cases

1 bell tent for stores and wardmaster

1 bell tent for nurses

1 bell tent for orderlies

3 bell tents for the 3 medical officers

In addition there were three bell tents distributed through the camp as first aid posts to collect cases and render first aid in minor injuries. The management of the Willesdon General Hospital kindly consented to receive any serious cases, and the Isolation Hospital at Acton our cases of infectious disease.

(b) Personnel. A sanitary officer appeared the great desideratum, and I was fortunate in obtaining the services of Colonel Percy Evans, C.M.G., M.B., D.P.H. (retired), who worked with the Camp Commandant before the arrival of the Scouts and throughout the existence of the Camp. Surgeon-Captains Osborne and Horley accepted my request that they would help me. They were both retired naval medical officers whome I had known during their service. I thought myself particularly fortunate in getting Captain Osborne, as he had had long experience in boys training ships and at Shotley. As store officer and dispenser, I secured Mr Blackman, a retired wardmaster, R.N. Lady Oliver procured a matron and the nursing staff. Miss Reid, R.R.C., retired Matron, Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.I.M.N.S.), accepted the position of Matron, and was supported by three sisters Q.A.I.M.N.S. (retired) and one sister Q.A.I.M.N.S. (reserve).

The nurses and orderlies were obtained from the members of the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments (V.A.D.). Four V.A.D. nurses and four V.A.D. orderlies started at the camp until the 31st July, and were then supplemented up to the 9th August. During this period there were,

Red Cross V.A.D. nurses

2 Commandants, 13 nurses.

Red Cross V.A.D. Orderlies

1 Commandant, 4 Section Leaders, 1 Quarter-master,

3 N.C.O.s, 9 Orderlies.

Mr Stuart Lang (a Rover Scout), of Albany Street, offered his services to look after any Scouts requiring emergency dental treatment. During the quiet period Scouts were sent to his house, but from the 1st to the 9th August he came to camp and on four occasions administered gas.

(c) Equipment. We were indebted to the Admiralty and the Medical Director-General R.N. for the loan of a considerable part of our equipment, but the B.R.C.S. had to purchase drugs and a great many other things which could not be obtained on loan. An ambulance was supplied by the B.R.C.S. and driven by one of the Red Cross orderlies.

The B.R.C.S. provided a surgical pannier, many surgical dressings and some stretchers, and the League of Remembrance sent some eye bandages.

I am glad to report that the health of the Scouts while in camp was excellent. The greatest number of beds occupied on any night was 50. The total number treated as bed cases was 172. An average of 250 attended daily between the 1st and 9th of August. These were cases of minor injuries and slight ailments not requiring bed treatment. About 25 minor cases were treated daily in each of the first aid posts.

5 cases were sent to Willesden General Hospital, 3 of appendicitis and 2 of broncho-pneumonia, and 5 cases were sent to the Isolation Hospital, Acton. 3 of scarlet fever, 1 of mumphs, and 1 of rubella.

In addition to the cases treated in the main hospital, the hospital in the Scottish camp, administered by Dr Hood, treated a considerable number of patients, but as Dr Hood had arranged with me that he would send any serious or infectious cases to the main hospital, it may be assumed that those generally treated in that hospital were of a mild type.

The camp appeared to me to be administered admirably from the sanitory point of view, and enormous difficulties had to be overcome to deal with the quagmire left by the storm on the night of August 3rd. The mud in the feeding marquees, mixed with food refuse, caused a most unpleasant and nauseating smell, the plentiful use of ashes and insistance on freer ventilation had the desired effect of reducing this. I cannot say that any cases of illness resulted from these conditions.

The food was wholesome and plentiful, and no cases of illness can be attribute to any food taken in the messes. "Wembley Rock" and too many ices claimed a certain number of victims (sickness, stomach-aches, etc.), but they quickly responded to treatment.

No serious injuries were sustained. A large number of minor injuries were treated, but really few, when the percentage of Scouts in camp is taken into consieration.

When considering the formation of future camps of a large size, approximating to 10,000, I do not think it would be safe to reduce the size and personnel of the hospital accommodation.

I am of the opinion it is unwise to allow boys of under 12 to come into these large camps, chiefly owing to the distances entailed between the tents and feeding accommodation. The cases of boys of 9, 10, and 11 taken into the hospital were much more due to exhaustion than to illness, and over-strain at that age will do more harm than camp life will do good. I wish to emphasise that these remarks do not imply that small boys ought not to camp out, on the contrary, I think it most healthful, but these camps should be composed of boys from 9 to 12, and each camp limited to small numbers.

The site of the camp at Wembley, except for the clay soil, was ideal.

In conclusion I wish to record my gratitude to Lord Glenusk, General Davidson, and Mr Montgomery, for their cordial co-operation with me in any suggestion I made.

I cannot sufficiently thank my own staff for their ceaseless work and devoted care and attention to their patients throughout a very strenuous 10 days.(I think they mut have caught the Scout spirit).

Especially do I wish to emphasise my indebtedness to Miss Reid, R.R.C., our Matron, whose thorough knowledge and experience of camp life were invaluable. Her tact and kindness in dealing with the staff prevented any semblance of friction, and her skill and loving attention to the boys I am sure will linger in her young patients memories for some time to come.

After the Imperial Jamboree was over the Chief Scout Sir Robert Baden Powell sent a personal letter of appreciation both to Sir Robert Hill and to Miss Reid, expressing his thanks to them for all they had done, and each letter was accompanied by the Boy Scouts "Badge of Thanks" in gold.

The Exhibition Study Group would like to thank Mrs M Poulter and

Mrs V Marchbanks of the British Red Cross Archives Section for their help and assistance, and also for permission to make use of their material.


© Exhibition Study Group 1992