Staff and pupils at Sibford School launched a week of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice by welcoming Linda Palfreeman, author of the book ‘Friends in Flanders’.
Linda spoke to pupils about the work undertaken by the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) during the First World War.
“Most Quakers were of the opinion that any war was directly opposed to their beliefs and to the ‘law of love’,” she explained. “However many of the younger men in particular were anxious to carry out work in the war zones. They wanted to share the dangers and the deprivations being suffered by their countrymen who were risking their lives at the front and they believed that one way of being able to do this was by creating an ambulance unit.”
Linda went on to outline some of the work undertaken by the FAU, particularly in Ypres where the men worked tirelessly to try to alleviate the suffering of the townsfolk and where they faced the added challenge of a typhoid epidemic.
“In collaboration with the British Army, the FAU undertook three systematic measures to deal with the situation in and around Ypres,” she told pupils. “It was to identify all civilian typhoid sufferers and transport them to hospitals; to purify the water supply; and to open inoculation centres.”
The FAU’s actions were greatly appreciated by the people of Ypres as a letter subsequently published in the Quaker magazine ‘The Friend’ reveals: ‘Neither ourselves nor our poor will ever forget your generosity towards us,’ it reads. ‘We shall always keep a very happy memory of the English Ambulance … its only object had been to spread benefits around us and to distribute true comfort during these mournful days.’
Anna Jo Mathers, Sibford’s Assistant Head Learning and Teaching, said: “It was a real pleasure to welcome Linda. Not only did she inspire our pupils but she also stayed on to give a second talk at which we were joined by parents and members of the public.”