Updated on 16 November 2020
One of the rarest Quaker badges for collectors is the Friends War Relief Service (FWRS) China Convey Lapel Badge.
The badge was made for a small group of Quakers who served in China with the Friends Ambulance Unit. This unit became known as the ‘China Convoy’ and was made up of around 200 volunteers from Britain, China, United States, Canada, New Zealand, and others.
This Chinese made enamel badge is is decorated with the logo of the Friends’ War Relief Service. The reverse is stamped with a Chinese maker’s mark which translates to: “Jing Tai made, Shanxi Street, Chengdu” (Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province, which was one of the areas where the Friends’ War Relief Service were operating).
The Sino-Japanese War had led to deteriorating conditions in China and in 1941 agreement was reached for the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) to deploy 40 volunteers to deliver medical aid – dubbed the ‘China Convoy’. At first, their job was to secure the delivery of supplies via the “Burma Road”, the sole remaining route.
When Burma fell to the Japanese in May 1942, the FAU volunteers escaped to India and China. They regrouped and took on the distribution of medical supplies delivered by “The Hump”, the air transport route to Kunming. It is estimated that 80% of medical supplies to China were distributed by the FAU.
The FAU’s role expanded and they provided a range medical treatments, preventative measures and training of Chinese medical personnel.
This expanded further into the reconstruction of medical facilities, notably the hospital at Tengchong in 1944, and into agricultural improvements and training. The Unit continued to work on re-establishing hospitals until 1946, when they handed responsibility for work in China to the AFSC. At that time the Convoy was operating across the Provinces of Yunnan, Kweichow, Guizhou, Sichuan and beyond – an area greater than the size of France and Spain combined.
The activities in China were international, employing personnel, men and women, from Britain (the largest national group), China, United States, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere. Around 200 foreigners took part, eight died and others had their health permanently damaged. About half of the recruits were Quakers but all had a commitment to pacifism and wished to deliver practical help.
Image from smudge