Friends' Ambulance Unit

Friends' Ambulance Unit

The Friends' Ambulance Unit (FAU) was a volunteer ambulance service, founded by individual members of the British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in line with their Peace Testimony. The FAU operated from 1914-1919, 1939-1946 and 1946-1959 in 25 different countries around the world. It was independent of the Quakers' organisation and chiefly staffed by registered conscientious objectors.


First World War

The Unit was founded as the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit at the start of World War I in 1914 and later renamed as the 'Friends Ambulance Unit'. Members were trained at Jordans, a hamlet in Buckinghamshire, that was (and is) a centre for Quakerism. Altogether it sent over a thousand men to France and Belgium where they worked on ambulance convoys and ambulance trains with the French and British armies. It was dissolved in 1919.

econd World War and aftermath

It was refounded by a committee of former members at the start of World War II in September 1939 with the establishment of a training camp at Manor Farm, Northfield, Birmingham. More than 1,300 members were trained and went on to serve as ambulance drivers and medical orderlies in London during the Blitz, as well as overseas in Finland, Norway and Sweden (1940), the Middle East (1940-1943), Greece (1941, 1944-1946), China and Syria (1941-1946), India and Ethiopia (1942-1945), Italy (1943-1946), France, Belgium, Netherlands, Yugoslavia and Germany (1944-1946) and Austria (1945-1946).

Two 12-man sections with eight vehicles, FAU Relief Sections Nos 1 and 2, landed at Arromanches, Normandy on 6 September 1944 from a tank landing craft. Attached to the British Army's civilian affairs branch, the FAU sections provided relief to civilians in Normandy. No 2 FAU was then posted to a newly liberated refugee camp at Bourg Leopold, Belgium, managing reception, registration, disinfection, catering, dormitories and departures.

In November 1944, in response to a request from 21st Army Group, a further five more sections were established and arrived in Europe at the end of 1944. One new member was Gerald Gardiner, who subsequently became Lord Chancellor in Harold Wilson's Labour Party government of 1964-1970.

After a period in Nijmegen, assisting local civilian medical organisations during Operation Market Garden, No 2 FAU cared for a colony for the mentally ill near Cleves in Germany which grew to a population of 25,000. By April, the main work had become the accommodation and care of displaced persons until they could return home. No 2 FAU was heavily involved with the care and support of inmates at the newly liberated Stalag X-B prisoner-of-war camp near Sandbostel, between Bremen and Hamburg in northern Germany in May 1945.

The FAU was wound up in 1946 and replaced by the Friends Ambulance Unit Post-War Service, which continued until 1959.

The work of the Friends' Ambulance Unit was referred to in the 1947 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Quakers worldwide and accepted by the Friends Service Council and the American Friends Service Committee.


The original trainees in the 1939 training camp issued a statement expressing their purpose:

We purpose to train ourselves as an efficient Unit to undertake ambulance and relief work in areas under both civilian and military control, and so, by working as a pacifist and civilian body where the need is greatest, to demonstrate the efficacy of co-operating to build up a new world rather than fighting to destroy the old.

While respecting the views of those pacifists who feel they cannot join an organization such as our own, we feel concerned among the bitterness and conflicting ideologies of the present situation to build up a record of goodwill and positive service, hoping that this will help to keep uppermost in men's minds those values which are so often forgotten in war and immediately afterwards.

People associated with the FAU

*Horace Alexander (1889 – 1989), barrister and advocate of international arbitration (ODNB entry)
*Laurie Baker (1917 – 2007), architect,
*Frank Blackaby (1921 – 2000), economist and peace campaigner (ODNB entry)
*Russell Brain, 1st Baron Brain (1895 – 1966), physician and medical administrator (ODNB entry)
*Sir John Bevan Braithwaite (1884 – 1973), stockbroker (ODNB entry)
*Richard Bevan Braithwaite(1900 – 1990), philosopher (ODNB entry)
*Laurence John Cadbury (1889 – 1982), chocolate and food manufacturer (ODNB entry)
*Cecil John Cadoux (1883 – 1947), theologian (ODNB entry)
*Demetrios Capetanakis (1912 – 1944), poet and literary critic (ODNB entry)
*Sydney Carter (1915 – 2004), English poet, songwriter
*St John Pettifor Catchpool (1890 – 1971), social worker (ODNB entry)
*Alan Clodd (1918 - 2002), publisher, book collector, and dealer
*Stephen Pit Corder (1918 – 1990), university professor (ODNB entry)
*Ralph Henry Carless Davis (1918 – 1991), historian
*Christopher Prout Driver (1932 – 1997), journalist and writer on food (ODNB entry)
*Theodore Fox (1899 – 1989), medical editor (ODNB entry)
*Gerald Gardiner, Baron Gardiner (1900 - 1990), Lord Chancellor from 1964 to 1970
*Ruth Harrison (1920 – 2000), animal welfare campaigner (ODNB entry)
*W. F. Harvey (1885 – 1937), writer of short stories
*F. R. G. Heaf (1894 – 1973), physician (ODNB entry)
*John Hick (born 1922), philosopher of religion
*Eric Holttum (1895 – 1990), botanist (ODNB entry)
*Kenneth Hudson (1916 – 1999), industrial archaeologist and museologist (ODNB entry)
*F. R. Leavis (1895 - 1978), literary critic
*Frank Lees (1931 - 1999), chemical engineer
*Kingsley Martin (1897–1969), journalist
*Henry Woodd Nevinson (1856 – 1941), social activist and journalist (ODNB entry)
*George Newman (doctor) (1870 - 1948), public health physician
*Philip Noel-Baker (1889 – 1982), politician, diplomat, academic . .
*Wilfrid Noyce (1917 – 1962), mountaineer and writer (ODNB entry)
*Lionel Penrose (1898 – 1972), physician (ODNB entry)
*Roland Penrose (1900 – 1984), artist, writer, and exhibition organizer (ODNB entry)
*Arthur Cecil Pigou (1877 – 1959), economist and mountaineer
*John Rawlings Rees (1890 – 1969), psychiatrist (ODNB entry)
*Lewis Fry Richardson (1881 - 1953), mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist
*Michael Rowntree (1919 - 2007), a journalist and Chairman of Oxfam
*George William Series (1920 – 1995), spectroscopist (ODNB entry)
*Olaf Stapledon (1886 – 1950), philosopher and author of science fiction
*Peter Derek Strevens (1922 – 1989), linguistic scholar and applied linguist (ODNB entry)
*Donald Swann (1923 – 1994), composer, musician and entertainer
*Frederick Tattersfield (1881 – 1959), agricultural chemist (ODNB entry)
*Lewis Edgar Waddilove (1914 – 2000), social reformer (ODNB entry)
*Richard Wainwright (1918 – 2003), Liberal MP
*John Seldon Whale (1896 – 1997), United Reformed church minister and theologian (ODNB entry)
*Herbert George Wood (1879 – 1963), theologian and historian (ODNB entry)
*Geoffrey Winthrop Young (1876 – 1958), mountaineer, poet and educator


Much archival material has survived and has been deposited at Friends House Library, Euston Road, London. The Library has produced Guides to the material:
*Conscientious Objectors and the Peace Movement in Britain 1914-1945 [ [ FRIENDS HOUSE LIBRARY GUIDE 8: Conscientious Objectors and the Peace Movement in Britain 1914-1945] . NOTE: This guide does NOT include the FAU. ] .
*Friends Ambulance Unit (1939-1959) [ [ FRIENDS HOUSE LIBRARY GUIDE 11: Friends Ambulance Unit (1939-1959)] . ] .





External links

* [ Memories of the FAU by Tony Reynolds.]
* [ Memories of the FAU by George W. Parsons.]
* [ Norman Ellis's experiences in the FAU by Norman's son (BBC People's War archive)]
* Olaf Stapledon [ 's experiences in WW 1]

ee also

*Military Service Act
*World War I
*World War II

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