The Japanese Red Cross at Netley, 1915-1916 by Gordon Daniels

by Gordon Daniels
Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society (2016)
Published in association with the Japan Society
ISBN-13: 978-0-907473-16-9

Review by Gill Goddard

In this piece of detailed research, Dr Daniels has brought into focus the role of the Japanese Red Cross Relief Mission to Britain during the 1914-1918 war. For most of 1915, a team of highly qualified nurses and doctors brought their expertise in caring for battlefield casualties to the newly built Red Cross Hospital at Netley, near Southampton in Hampshire. The medical and nursing work of this early foreign medical assistance to Britain was much appreciated at the time as many British medical staff had already gone overseas to work at the frontline, while replacement volunteers often lacked the necessary training and expertise.

Using a variety of both Japanese and British resources, Dr Daniels examines the background to the sending of a detachment of Japanese Red Cross personnel half way round the world, and through examination of previously untranslated material has illuminated further the motivation of the Japanese government, and the detailed briefings given to the group in preparation for their departure. Newspaper coverage shows that on the journey to Britain via Hawaii and across America the US Japanese community gave them a great reception, and that Hampshire society also was generous in its welcome to the party of 20 female nurses, two male doctors, an interpreter and an administrator.

Additionally, the story of the origins and formation of the Japanese Red Cross itself is covered in some detail, giving the reader an insight into the development of military medical expertise in Japan and its ready availability to assist its allies in time of need. That all of the expense of the mission to Britain and the sister missions to Russia and to France was borne by Japan is rightly not overlooked.

As the British media continues its fascination with the 1914-1918 war, the timely publication of this interesting monograph focuses on Japan’s contribution not on the battlefield but in the humanitarian field of military nursing and medicine. As Dr Daniels points out, this aspect of the Japanese government’s interpretation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance gave their country honour and indeed face in a world still politically dominated by the Western powers.

The Japanese Red Cross at Netley is available to Japan Society members for the discounted price of £8 including postage and packing (usually £10). Orders with cheques payable to “Hampshire Field Club” should be sent to Julia Sandison at 22 Clifton Road, Winchester SO22 5BP.

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