100th Anniversary of the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau


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Vera Deakin White was, for many families of Australian soldiers missing and wounded in the First World War, a voice of hope.  In 1915, seeking to make a contribution to the war effort abroad, Vera travelled with a friend to Cairo and, on 21 October 1915 opened the Australian Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau.  When the Australians moved to the Western Front, Vera and the bureau moved their headquarters to London.

The Bureau was the conduit between official sources and the families of soldiers who had been taken prisoner, or were missing, killed, or wounded in action.  When official accounts gave families few details of the fate of their loved one, Vera and the team of searchers conducted research and interviews to seek out and provide the family the most complete picture possible.  In one year alone, the organisation answered 25,000 queries.

Portrait of Mrs Walter White OBC (nee Vera Deakin)
Portrait of Mrs White OBE (nee Vera Deakin)

During her work Vera discovered her own remarkable leadership skills and was awarded an OBE in 1917.  Vera also found love in the course of her work.  She met Thomas White who had been a prisoner of war in Turkey, they married in 1920 and raised four daughters together.  

Vera continued her passionate contribution to the Red Cross and other charities through her life as well as helping Tom in his political career.  The war changed Vera and Vera made an impact on the war.  By seeking answers for grieving families, Vera was able to provide some closure for the families of loved ones who would otherwise have simply been known as ‘missing’.