Friends to China : the role and impact of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit during the Chinese ‘War of Resistance’ (1937-1945).
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
The Friends’ Ambulance Unit, associated with the Society of Friends, was a group that provided an alternative option to military service for conscientious objectors during both World War I and II.1 They provided transportation and medical aid to those affected by the war, concentrating mainly on the European mainland. In 1941 however, they sent a section to China to help aid and relieve the suffering caused by the ‘War of Resistance’. China had been engaged in a bitter conflict with Japan since 1937 causing great suffering for the peoples of China. The China section of the FAU drew people from all over the world, including New Zealand. Members of the Society of Friends, Christchurch brothers Neil and John Johnson responded to a call for assistance and in 1945 they arrived in China. Their letters and other written material found in the Johnson archive located in the Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury, provide an invaluable source to illustrate the important role the FAU played in China during this time. It also demonstrated that because of the scale of the war, however, the FAU’s impact was more localized than general. Very little scholarly work has been done on the contribution made by New Zealand to the China section of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit during WWII. Only one book relates to this area; Caitriona Cameron’s Go Anywhere do Anything: New Zealanders and the Friends Ambulance Unit 1945-51.2 This essay aims to highlight this relatively unknown story. It also adds to the fields of a social history of China, scholarship that examines aid and relief work and New Zealand conscientious objector literature.