Through out Australian WW1 records you will see M.E Chomley countless times – so who was M. E. Chomley ? She was the patron saint of Australian POWs in WW1.
More than 1,100 Australians were captured at Bullecourt, the most Australians taken in any battle of the war. The British blockade of German supplies caused shortages in food and clothing, which affected Germans and prisoners alike. The Australian Red Cross Prisoner of War Department supplied prisoners with parcels of food and supplies, which helped the men survive captivity.
Mary Elizabeth Chomley, Secretary of the Prisoner of War Department, was a link between prisoners and those at home. Miss Chomley and her team kept detailed records of where the men were and what they needed. From 1916 till the end of the war, thousands of food parcels were packed and sent to the camps.
Mary Chomley, daughter of Judge Chomley of ‘Dromkeen’ at Riddell’s Creek, worked for the Red Cross Society and contributed to the struggle for the equality of women both in Victoria and in England. She was secretary of the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in 1907. She assumed the position of foundation state secretary of the Victoria League from 1909-1914, and maintained her membership until her death in July 1960. In London during, she worked at the Princess Christian’s Hospital for Officers from 1915-1916 and was secretary of the Prisoners of War branch of the Australian Red Cross, London, from 1916-1919. She was appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (Civil) on 15 March 1918 for her contribution to the Red Cross Society. Whilst in London after World War I, she was a member of the delegation appointed by the British Government to report on working conditions for women and the opportunities for female migrants to Australia in 1919-1920, and Australian representative on the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women. From 1925 until 1933 she was president of the women’s section of the British Legion, Virginia Water, Surrey, England. Violet Teague, one of Australia’s internationally recognised artists at the turn of the nineteenth century, painted Mary Chomley’s portrait in 1909.