The British Empire Library

Forty Years of Service: The Women's Corona Society 1950-1990

by Cecillie Swaisland

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by I. Andrew
In her fascinating record of the evolution and growth of the Women's Corona Society, Cecillie Swaisland pays great tribute to the handful of women whose vision never failed and whose devotion to the aim of promoting service, friendship and successful understanding between various races never faltered. The Society has indeed been fortunate in the calibre of its Office-holders and its, mainly voluntary, helpers. The problems they encountered have been legion. Constant changes of all kinds, social, economic and political, ever-recurring uncertainties regarding office accommodation and frequent financial crises were all met, overcome or adjusted to with typical determination and resourcefulness. Members of the Society will read its history of service with feelings of nostalgia, pride and, in many cases, gratitude. Other readers who perhaps knew little or nothing about it will surely marvel and feel inspired.

In the very beginning, the author reminds us, was the Women's Corona Club, founded solely in order that the wives of serving officers on leave may also be able to meet and enjoy an Annual Dinner on the same evening as their husbands at the Corona Club. She goes on to describe how the Club was revived after the Second World War, going from strength to strength, providing much needed services for women venturing overseas to live for the first time. The devising and introduction of the Briefing Courses, the Escort Service for their children joining them for holidays, and the accumulation and checking of information about schools and holiday homes in the UK became very important parts of the Society's work, soon to be augmented by other services as each need arose. Nothing seemed to weaken the courage of its leaders, or dim their prescience. Membership was opened to women of all races, branches formed overseas and Corona Schools founded in various countries. We are reminded that the 1960s brought the Wind of Change, when the Colonies, one after the other, achieved independence, necessitating further membership changes. Commercial organisations began to send employees overseas and for them the Society became an invaluable source of advice and assistance.

At a slower rate than overseas, UK branches came into being and families returning home after a long period, as well as first-time visitors, were briefed about conditions here by means of Overseas Visitors' Programmes and given the opportunity to discuss individual problems at various social occasions.

By and by the Overseas Students' Housing Association Ltd. was formed, obtaining by good luck and skillful raising of funds suitable premises for conversion, decoration and furnishing, mostly by volunteers. The flats were then offered to overseas students and their families at reasonable rents.

The author has devoted a chapter to practically each one of the Society's services, giving all relevant dates and some quotations from Chairmen's speeches, members' letters and comments from newsletters. A Table of Contents is to be found at the front of the book and a useful alphabetical Index at the back. There are also appendices giving lists of Corona Office-holders from 1950 to 1991, Life Vice-Presidents in 1991 and also a list of the various Government and non-Government premises which housed the Society's headquarters in London during the period 1950 to 1992. A generous provision of photographs (also listed) of personalities and events gives added interest to the information- packed text. It is a pity that two minor printer's errors managed to creep in, but it seems ungracious to mention it about a well-presented publication, especially as in these days it is hardly possible to pick up one that is free of them.

In their forty years of service, not only did the Women's Corona Society survive the vicissitudes of diminishing office accommodation and financial stringencies, but it actually improved and expanded its services. Its work deserves a permanent record and readers have to congratulate Cecillie Swaisland for providing this excellent one. All will wish the Society continuing success in actively pursuing its now Charitable Status and, as promised by the retiring Chairman in 1991, ever seeking ways in which to help others, especially women and young people of the Commonwealth.

British Empire Book
Cecillie Swaisland
The Women's Corona Society


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe