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Soldiers' Christian Association

24 QSAs were issues to the Soldiers' Christian Association.

The origins of their service in South Africa are contained in a report written by Mr. A H Wheeler, General Secretary of the YMCA:

'When the war clouds began to gather in South Africa, knowing the great value of the tent work carried on by the Young Men's Christian Associations of America in the late war with Spain, the Soldiers' Christian Association took steps through its council, to obtain permission from the War Office to send suitably equipped tents and qualified workers to the front. The results, at first, were disappointing. Nothing daunted, the Council made preparation to carry out the object they had in view, applying to the authorities at the Cape for the necessary permission, and before the first band of workers was ready to start they received the following gratifying cablegram: "Permission granted; send tents at once." Messrs. Hinde and Fleming sailed from Southampton for the Cape on Saturday, November 11th [1899], and already, on the previous Thursday (November 9th), the following notice had been published in Orders for the day, issued from the Castle, Cape Town: "Permission has been given to the Soldiers' Christian Association to send out tents and writing material for the troops. Facilities are to be accorded to the Association to put up tents at fixed stations as far as military requirements will permit."'

Tents were set up wherever British troops were gathered in numbers and were sometimes used as hospitals, shelters for refugees and as overnight marquees. The tent in Bloemfontein was opened by Lord Roberts. The role of the SCA tent was described in an article in The Friend, the Bloemfontein newspaper edited by Rudyard Kipling and other war correspondents:

'A prominent feature of camp life at Bloemfontein is the erection by the Soldiers' Christian Association of large marquees for the use of our troops, for the purpose of writing, reading, and recreation. Within a week of British occupation, the first of these was pitched within the Highland Brigade's lines, and since then another has been established in the 1st Division. Field Marshal Lord Roberts has at all times taken an active personal interest in the work of the Association, and has already inspected the marquees, and expressed his cordial approval of the work which is being done in them. It may be of interest to mention that within three days of the erection of the first tent five thousand sheets of note-paper and envelopes had been supplied (gratis) for the use of letter writing. The marquees are brilliantly lighted after dark, and short bright religious services are held there. The informal character of these gatherings and the hearty singing of well-known old hymns and choruses attract a nightly crowd of men, with which the accommodation provided is quite inadequate to cope'

Source: Year Book of the English Union of Young Men's Christian Associations 1900-1

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