Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS327
TitlePapers of Laurence Cadbury
Extent4 standard boxes, 2 large boxes, 1 outsize box, and 1 item in planchest
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)


DescriptionPapers of Laurence Cadbury relating to his service with the Friends Ambulance Unit during the First World War.

The collection includes letters, diaries, maps, magazines, photographs, drawings, books, and ephemera. Letters from Laurence Cadbury to his parents (MS 327/A/1), written between 1914 and 1919, describe in detail the work of the ambulance convoys, the progress of the War, and give vivid descriptions of the war torn landscape and ruined towns of the Western Front.

As well as the letters, papers collected by Laurence Cadbury during his service with the Unit include correspondence, copies of orders for equipment, papers relating to honours (including the Croix de Guerre and the O.B.E.), dinner menus and concert programmes, maps, diaries, newspapers and magazines. There is also a large number of photographs and postcards of people and places associated with the Unit, and drawings (copies and some originals) by Ernest Procter and Arthur Cotterell, both members of the Unit, and books and magazines, including the official history of the Unit and directories of its members.

The collection is a useful source for studying the history of the First World War, from the point of view of an officer of the Friends Ambulance Unit, and is also relevant to the history of pacifism and of the Society of Friends.
ArrangementArranged in six series: personal letters from Laurence Cadbury and others; papers collected by Laurence Cadbury during his service with the Friends Ambulance Unit; photographs and postcards; prints and drawings; books and magazines; and papers concerning research on the Friends Ambulance Unit.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered readers.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department
Access StatusOpen
Creator NameLaurence Cadbury
Administrative HistoryLaurence John Cadbury was born in 1889, the eldest of the six children of George Cadbury and his second wife, Elizabeth Taylor. He attended Leighton Park School, a Quaker school, and studied economics at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1911. In Spring 1913, he was given a year off to travel, which he spent in America, working for the National Cash Register Company and travelling in Alaska and the Yukon with his friend from Cambridge, Bob Vereker.

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Laurence Cadbury joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (F.A.U.), a voluntary ambulance service staffed mainly by men from Quaker families, which provided an ambulance service and ran ambulance trains, undertook civilian relief work, and set up several hospitals in Belgium and France. His discharge certificate records that he joined the Unit on 7 September 1914 and served in France from 3 November 1914 until his discharge on 2 March 1919. He was one of several founder members of the Unit, with Phil Noel-Baker, who had also studied at Cambridge. All members were unpaid, and it was managed by the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

After spending several weeks at a training camp in Jordans, Buckinghamshire, the first party of 43 F.A.U. men left for Dunkirk on 31 October 1914. Their first experience of war work came almost immediately, when they treated 3000 wounded soldiers who had been evacuated to sheds in Dunkirk Railway Station and left there without medical help. The Unit set up its headquarters in the Hotel du Kursaal, Malo-les-Bains, a seaside suburb of Dunkirk, about a mile from the town centre. In September 1916, Headquarters was moved to the Hotel Pyl, on the same street in Malo, which was wrecked by bombs in 1918.

The Unit then volunteered to help the medical staff of a Division of the French Army (the 87th Territorial) at Woesten, near Ypres. Several stations were established in the Ypres region, and the Unit also undertook civilian relief work, treating wounded and gassed civilians during fighting at Ypres and opening a hospital at Sacre Coeur, Ypres. Another hospital, the Queen Alexandra, was opened at Malo in November 1914, which was staffed by eight of the Unit's nurses; other hospitals included Chateau Elisabeth, Poperinghe, taken over by the F.A.U. on January 14th, which moved to Ferme de Rycke, known as 'The Farm', Watten, in July 1915. The Unit treated victims of a typhoid epidemic in the Ypres district and casualties from the Second Battle of Ypres and from the German advance towards Hazebrouck in April 1918.

At first, the Unit took whatever relief work it could find, but as it grew, it was joined to the French Army and a more formal structure developed. It was divided into civilian divisions, hospitals, ambulance trains, and ambulance convoys, in which Laurence Cadbury worked. The ambulance convoys, known as Sections Sanitaires Anglaises (S.S.A.s or Sections) were made up of twenty ambulances, with a further two in reserve. Each section was staffed by 56 men, led by an officer in charge or 'Chef-Adjoint', a Sous-Chef and an assistant responsible for the administration of the convoy. Although there were at first several numbered convoys, the ambulance convoys were eventually reduced to three, known as S.S.A. 13, 14, and 19. Laurence Cadbury was Chef-Adjoint of S.S.A 13 until September 1916, when he, with some reluctance, was sent to Headquarters at Malo to carry out administrative work as Officer in Charge of the Transport Section of the Unit. From then, he refers to his job as 'O.C. Cars'; this involved negotiating with officers in the French Army to find work for the Unit, attaching Sections to a new Division when its old Division moved, organizing the repair and maintenance of convoy cars, recruiting and training drivers, appointing heads of Sections, and driving to visit the Sections stationed in the field in his Vauxhall which he brought over from England, known as 'The Beetle'.

Laurence Cadbury's younger brother Bertie served in the Royal Navy on HMS Zarefah and HMS Sagitta, then joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a Flight Sub Lieutenant, based at the Great Yarmouth Air Station after training. His sister Mollie worked in the F.A.U. as a nurse, with her friend Olga Wilson. Mollie became engaged to Bill Greeves, also a member of the Unit, on 27 June 1917 and they were married on 14 February 1918. Bill Greeves left the F.A.U. in 1918 to become Managing Director of the Portadown Weaving Company, Ireland.

Laurence's brothers and sisters were George Norman 'Norman' (born 1890); Elsie Dorothea, called 'Dolly' (born 1892); Egbert, called 'Bertie' (born 1893); Marion Janet, called 'Molly' (born 1894) and Elizabeth Ursula called 'Ursula' (born 1906). His brothers and sisters from his father's first marriage were Edward (born 1873); George (born 1878); Henry Tylor (born 1882); Mary Isabel (born 1884) and Eleanor (born 1885).

Laurence Cadbury's name is spelled Laurence in many papers in the collection and he is also called 'Jack' and 'L.J.'

Information from 'The Friends Ambulance Unit 1914-1919', edited by Meaburn Tatham and James E. Miles (copy in this collection catalogued as MS327/E/6) and 'The Cadbury Family' by John F. Crosfield (available in Special Collections sq CS 439 C1 C).
Custodial HistoryThe papers were in the custody of the Cadbury family until they were deposited in Special Collections.
AcquisitionDeposited in the University of Birmingham's Department of Special Collections by Laurence Cadbury's son in 2007.
Archival NoteUsers of this collection should be aware that a few letters use racist terms. The actual words in the letters are not used, but their existence is noted on individual descriptions of the letters.

Catalogued by Anna Riggs, September 2007.
Related MaterialSpecial Collections holds papers relating to the Cadbury family's business interests in West Africa in the first half of the twentieth century [CADBURY]. A list of Special Collections material relating to the First World War is available on the web site of the Birmingham University Centre for First World War Studies ()
Associated MaterialsOther records of Cadbury Ltd and the Cadbury family are held at Birmingham City Archives (GB 0143 MS 446). Records of the Friends Ambulance Unit are available at the Religious Society of Friends Library, London (GB 0111).
Cadbury business are records held by Mondelez International, Bournville, Birmingham, (GB 2068), see:


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