Panel 2

    …………IN GREAT BRITAIN 1939–1945
  2. Panel – Assistance to compatriots
  3. Panel – Nursing Department and nursing courses
  4. Panel – S.R.N. – State Registered Nurse
  5. Panel – Location of Czechoslovak nurses
  6. Panel – CRC nurse uniforms
  7. Panel – Components of the uniform of Emília Součková
  8. Panel – Medical expeditions
  9. Panel – Marie Rechtová
  10. Panel – Period Press

Assistance to compatriots

After the outbreak of World War II, Czechoslovak emigration in Great Britain (GB) tried to help Czechoslovak soldiers, their families and other Czechoslovak refugees. These efforts resulted in the establishment of the Czechoslovak Welfare (CW) organization in December 1939, whose honorary chair was Hana Benešová. The organization was supposed to represent the Czechoslovak Red Cross, which still existed formally in the protectorate. Its activity was effectively stopped by the Nazis in November 1939, not long after their March occupation of Czechoslovakia. Its members were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps. In Slovakia, which in March 1939 proclaimed the Slovak State, a resolution of the Slovak government established the Society of the Slovak Red Cross as an organization of an independent, sovereign state, which was facilitated by the Geneva Conventions of the International Red Cross. In December 1941, the organization was codified.
After the definitive dissolution of the CRC in the Czechoslovak Protectorate (CSP) in August 1940, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile established the Society of the CRC abroad on September 1, 1940. The assets and agenda of the CSP were transferred to the CRC. It was governed by domestic statutes adapted to the conditions of war during the period of exile. Its activities reached through delegations to many countries of the world. The CSR helped Czechoslovak soldiers, took care of the nation’s prisoners of war, expanded its activities to include health and social care for Czechoslovak refugees in GB and beyond, and last but not least, it prepared for humanitarian aid to Czechoslovakia after its liberation.
It received funds from membership and state contributions, voluntary donations or from the collections and charitable events it organized. Voluntary donations, both financial and material, were sent by many Czechoslovak compatriots and compatriot associations from many free countries of the world, including the United States of America, Canada or Argentina.
It was subordinate to the Ministry of National Defence (MND) and the Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW). Their representatives vetted and approved elected officials of the Czechoslovak Red Cross (CRC) and employees, including nurses. CRC took over the organizational structure of CW. It consisted of governing bodies and unions. During the war, two incumbent presidents took over the leadership of the Czechoslovak Red Cross: Gen. Jaroslav Čihák, code name Znamenáček (“Omen”), in the years 1940–1943 and after his departure for health reasons, Gen. Alois Vicherek, codenamed Slezák (“Silesian”), who remained in this position after the war until 1950. Hana Benešová was appointed honorary chair.
The departments of the CRC were divided according to their field of competence and each was represented by its chair and vice-chair.

  • The health department provided medical care for Czechoslovak emigrants who received no care of the British army or another foreign medical institute. It supplied medicine to Czechoslovak refugees in GB and Czechoslovak soldiers, airmen and their families in the USSR. It collected supplies of medicines for post-war aid to liberated Czechoslovakia.
  • The Social Department organized social care for Czechoslovak emigrants. It provided the Czechoslovak school with clothes, various gifts, games for children and school aids, etc. It provided social counseling. It also trained volunteer social workers for the post-war period.
  • The Cultural Department led cultural activities and arranged visits of Czechoslovak soldiers, airmen and civilians in hospitals and sanatoriums.
  • The Youth Department cared for Czechoslovak children and youth in GB. It maintained a list of children in the Czechoslovak nursery and school. It organized courses, lectures and summer camps for them. It advised parents and guardians or published publications for children and youth in the Czech and Slovak languages.
    Nursing Department
    With the end of the war approaching, the CRC was preparing to return to its liberated homeland. From May 1945, gradually abolished foreign delegations and prepared for the transfer to Czechoslovakia the agenda of the headquarters. Back in its homeland, it continued in its undertakings from the pre-war Czechoslovak Red Cross.

    Illustration on the left:
  • Emblem of Czechoslovak Welfare. Silhouette of Prague’s Castle District Hradčany with linden branches in the cross. The first design depicted the silhouette of not Hradčany but Czechoslovakia , but was rejected. The author of the emblem was chair of the CW Department of Youth, Mr. Vančura.
  • Notice of establishment of the CSP. (Čechoslovák no. 8, 23. 2. 1940)
  • CSP membership card modified to the membership card of voluntary nurse Stella Fischlová. The card is signed by the honorary chair of CSP Hana Benešová (right) and the chair of the Nursing Department of CSP Marie Rechtová (left). (Private archive of Scott Velan)

Illustration on the right:

  • “To carry out the tasks entrusted to it, it needs the help and cooperation of all Czechoslovaks in the free world” – brief overview of the activities of the Czechoslovakia Chamber of Commerce published in the weekly magazine Čechoslovák. Similar calls for contributions appeared frequently in Czechoslovak newspapers in GB. (Čechoslovák no. 43-44, 28. 10. 1943)
  • Membership card of the CRC abroad. Signed by the Chairman, Gen. Jaroslav Čihák, code name Omen, chair of the CRC 1940–1943. (Private archive of Scott Velan
  • Membership card of the CRC abroad. Signed by the Chairman, Gen. Alois Vicherek, code name Silesian, chair of the CRC 1943–1950. (Private archive of Scott Velan)
  • Notice of the undertakings of CRC departments. (Čechoslovák no. 40, 1. 10. 1943)

CRC advertisement aimed at increasing foreign membership. This ad often appeared in the weekly Čechoslovák as of 1943.


Illustrations below:

  • CW wanted to present itself not only by its actions. The organization took what their emblem said to heart. The CRC did not use it abroad afterwards. (Čechoslovák no. 10, 15. 12. 1939)