It all began in 1915. The First World War was in its second year and many of our men were away in France fighting for their country, and suffering almost unendurable hardship in the trenches. They needed help.
A plan was hatched, the League of Remembrance established and, using volunteers in a central hospital location, we set to work to make frostbite socks, mosquito nets, gas masks and other necessities to make life in the trenches just that little more bearable.
After the war we changed tack a touch. We now sought to honour the memory of all those brave men who gave their lives for their country by looking after some of their widows and families. These widows took over the work of making medical supplies for our hospitals, and in return we provided moral support, and assisted them financially by making ‘small grants-in-aid’. To reflect this work we called them ‘Remembrance Workers’, a name still in use today.
WW2 then came along and we again changed tack to meet evolving needs. This time our Remembrance Workers set up mobile units in our London hospitals, making surgical dressings and other items, and this work continued into the late 20th century, until due to technological advances it was no longer required.
Again, we changed with the times. We now formed partnerships with some of our great London hospitals where our Remembrance Workers (by now including Armed Forces veterans and retired nurses) started to work as volunteers within the hospital.
So, what exactly is their role? Well, they act as guides, or work in the hospital shop, or in reception, or the garden, or simply act as that oh-so-important friendly face and listening ear. They benefit from this immensely, gaining in confidence and self-esteem as they develop a purpose in life and a social network. The patients and family groups benefit hugely too, as their recovery from illness is made easier or accelerated; and the hospitals are able to focus their own hard-pressed resources on delivery of clinical services rather than welfare.
As we look towards the future will our work continue? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt? We make a difference, and form part of that fantastic fabric of Great Britain, a fabric which puts others before self. Here’s to the next 100 years.