An Australian in the civil defence of Britain
Pauline Crosby was an Australian who served in the British Women’s Voluntary Service* during World War II. The experience she gained from this organisation, during the war years, greatly influenced her later participation in other voluntary organisations, and in every organisation she gave herself wholeheartedly and selflessly in fulfilling their aims.
Born Pauline Medwell on 16 February 1915, in Burra, South Australia, Pauline would spend her life committed to serving others in the name of Jesus.
Pauline was only four years old when her parents died from pneumonic influenza during the ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic. Following their deaths, Pauline was cared for by her uncle and aunt. Her childhood was spent in Adelaide where she became involved at Prospect Church of Christ from an early age.
Her commitment to her Lord began at this time, and she became involved in worship, Sunday School, Christian Endeavour and Youth group. A life-time interest in the Girls’ Life Brigade (later the Girls’ Brigade), led to her becoming a leader, State Commissioner and first Federal Commissioner. She was honoured with Life Membership as a tribute to her dedication.
Following their marriage in 1939, Pauline and her husband, Keith Crosby, sailed for England where they spent the years of WWII. The experience gained as a member of the Women’s Voluntary Service was well used in later years. Returning to Australia in 1946, the Crosbys renewed their membership in the Prospect Church of Christ, and Pauline served on many church committees at both local and state levels. And in 1970, she was Hospitality Convener for the Churches of Christ World Conference held in Adelaide, South Australia.
In 1948, she became a Churches of Christ delegate to the Women’s United Church Association – later to become the SA Women’s Inter-Church Council and then the SA Unit of ACW. Over a period of more than 40 years, Pauline held many positions on their executive committees, including Winifred Kiek Scholarship Convener, Treasurer, President, Community Concern Convener and Jubilee 150 Convener. She also served as the 1985–1987 National Vice-President.
In the late 60s, Pauline assisted in the organising of Hospital Visiting Training Courses. In 1971, she was approached by the Women’s Inter-Church Council to act as a liaison officer for a role within the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) to visit patients at the hospital. She accepted the challenge of liaising between the RAH Social Workers and community groups providing domiciliary care for newly discharged patients. This led to the founding of the RAH Volunteer Services, Lavender Lads and Ladies. This organisation was not planned, but to quote Pauline: ‘growed in Topsy fashion from nothing’. Today, it is a unique vibrant patient-oriented group – a lasting memorial to the vision of Pauline and others. After serving as Coordinator and President Pauline received Life Vice-Presidency in 1981. She continued to be active in the organisation until her death on 23 May 1993.
On the National Council of Women, Pauline served a term as Vice-President and later was President of her local Probus Club. In the 1982 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, she was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of her services to church and community. Like so many past and present members of ACW, Pauline willingly served various church and community organisations.
The South Australian Unit of ACW recognised the tremendous contribution that Pauline had made to ACW, and they honoured her as a State Life Member in 1988. Pauline’s clear thinking and ability with words were very evident in her involvement in the formulation and revision of constitutions and the Winifred Kiek Scholarship Deed of Trust. She gave of herself wherever she was – the text she chose as her own: 'I can do all things through Christ' was truly exemplified in her life. Her hospitality, her encouragement, her vision, led others in their service to our Lord.
One of Pauline’s ACW colleagues wrote: 'We give thanks to God and pay tribute to the tremendous contribution Pauline made in so many places. A listening ear, and encouraging word, an example of faith, the challenge of a new task, a vision for future development – this is the legacy she left.'
*According to the UK National Archives, the ‘Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) began in June 1938 to prepare women for civil defence work. By September 1939, the WVS had 336,000 members, increasing to 1 million members during the war. ‘One of the main tasks of the WVS was to recruit women for Air Raid Precautions services (ARP). They also ran field kitchens and rest centres for people made homeless by bombing; provided canteens at railway stations for soldiers and sailors; escorted children being evacuated; running clothing centres for those who had lost all their possessions; operating car pools once petrol rationing was introduced; helping people salvage their personal belongings from bombed-out houses; and doing domestic work in hospitals and clinics. The WVS was also the official 'sock darner' for the Army – darning 38,000 pairs a week for British and American soldiers!’
This blog post was adapted from the tribute to Pauline Crosby in the Honouring Australian Church Women records in the ACW National Archives. Please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any errors in this tribute, and they will be corrected and noted in the archives of ACW.