Women's Patriotic Association, Montrose - the first year
At the outbreak of war the ladies of Montrose organised themselves into the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA). They organised monthly collections of clothes and comforts from individuals and church guild work parties attached to the Parish Church, Melville’s, St John’s, St George’s and St Luke’s Churches. The work of the WPA was financed by public subscriptions with the Town Council making large contributions. Other significant contributors included the Boer War Fund and a range of local societies such as the New Club and the Burns Club.
By the beginning of September 1914 the WPA had already held two collections, acquiring 629 items. Parcels were sent to local Red Cross Society and the Highland Cyclist Corps stationed in Carnoustie. The bulk of the collection was forwarded to Glasgow to be sent to combatants in the field. This pattern of collection and division continued throughout the war. In early October 1914 the WPA sent off 700 garments. A large number were destined for the use of the local men of the 5th Black Watch stationed at the Broughty Ferry Castle garrison under Captain Blair Imrie.
The WPA did not just collect clothes for combatants and convalescents. The ladies also collected comforts such as tobacco, sweets, soap, candles, books and playing cards. Montrose man, Sergeant Milne, accepted these on behalf of the Black Watch stationed in Broughty Ferry Castle. Sailors on minesweepers received a boxful of warm mufflers, helmets, socks and mittens. The Scottish Women’s Hospital in Serbia, run by Dr Elsie Inglis, received a box of blankets and sheets. In April 1915 the WPA were singled out by Montrose Town Council as being the "most interesting and helpful" society engaged in war work over the winter, having collected 8,300 articles of various kinds for the use of combatants and invalids. The Council granted £25 from the Common Good Fund for the WPA to purchase fabric, allowing them to continue their good work as they were "a credit to the town". POWs were not forgotten. In May 1915 the WPA sent comforts to nine Ferryden POWs, five held in Germany and four held in Holland. Each parcel contained a pair of socks and a shirt, half a pound of tea, one packet each of sweets and tobacco plus soup cubes, biscuits and a book.
During its first year of operation the WPA dispatched 11,219 items for use by the military in service, in training or in hospital. The Red Cross received 2,957 including 203 bags of sphagnum moss for wound dressing. The Black Watch men at Broughty Ferry Castle received 1,504 items, the men of the 5th Black Watch at the Front received 1,325 items and the convalescent hospital in Baltic Street, Montrose received 559 items.
Nothing is known about the ladies who supported the Association with such energy. No minute books have survived and the Montrose Review reports statistics and collection dates but omits to name the ladies involved. Only the names of the subscription secretaries are currently known - Mrs Thompson and Mrs Leckie, both wives of provosts. The work of the WPA continued with unabated enthusiasm for the duration of the war.