A Brief History of Red Cross Clubmobiles in W.W. II
by Elma Ernst Fay U.S.R.C. (ret.)

In World War II the American Red Cross was asked by the U.S. Armed Forces to provide recreational services to the servicemen in the various theatres of operation.

In Great Britain, the Red Cross began setting up service clubs in London and towns near army installations. Shortly thereafter, on air bases, aero clubs were set up. Because of the great difference in pay between American servicemen and their counterparts from other countries, as Great Britain, the army asked the Red Cross to make nominal charges for food and lodging.

The Red Cross clubmobile was conceived by the late prominent New York banker, Harvey D. Gibson, Red Cross Commissioner to Great Britain, who wanted to put a service club "on wheels" which would reach the serviceman at his camp or airfield. Also, by having a club on wheels, the Red Cross was able to get around the army's request that servicemen pay for food. Everything distributed on a clubmobile was free.
The clubmobile in Great Britain was a remodeled London Green Line bus that could be taken to the airfields and camps. Driven by an English driver, three American girls were assigned to each clubmobile.
The clubmobile consisted of a good-sized kitchen with a built-in doughnut machine. A primus stove was installed for heating water for coffee, which was prepared in 50-cup urns. On one side of the kitchen area, there was a counter and a large flap which opened out for serving coffee and doughnuts. In the back one-third of the clubmobile, was a lounge with a built-in bench on either side (which could be converted to sleeping bunks, if necessary), a victrola with loud speakers, a large selection of up-to-date music records, and paperback books.
The American girls who chose this service were taught to make the doughnuts and coffee in the clubmobile. They were sent to a town near American army installations, and followed a routine of going to a different base each day, hooking up at a mess kitchen, making hundreds of doughnuts and preparing coffee, and then driving around the base, serving the men at their work. They also distributed cigarettes, life savers and gum, and had the loud speakers tuned up for each stop.
Clubmobiles began operation in Great Britain in late 1942, eventually covering some thirty bases and docks at Liverpool, Greenoch, Scotland, and Belfast, Ireland.
In preparation for the invasion of Normandy, June, 1944, a smaller, 2-1/2-ton GMC truck was converted to a clubmobile, with the necessary kitchen containing doughnut machine, coffee urns and the like. Close to one hundred of them were made ready. Red Cross girls who had worked on the larger clubmobile in Great Britain, were given driving instruction in order to manage the truck clubmobile.
The route of Group K, one of ten Clubmobile Groups accompanying American troops in Europe

Beginning in July, 1944, as soon after the invasion that it was safe to send Red Cross personnel onto the Continent, ten groups of 32 Red Cross girls each, along with eight clubmobiles per group, a cinemobile, three supply trucks, trailers and three British Hillman trucks, were sent to France to be attached to various US Army Corps.

Each clubmobile group traveled with the rear echelon of the army Corps and got its assignments from the army for serving troops at rest from the front. The service continued through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, until V-E Day, May 7, 1945.
Group K Clubmobilers Charlotte Colburn, Marianne Shellabarger and Elma Ernst, Leicester England 1944

Former Group K Clubmobilers in January 2000:
Charlotte Colburn Gasperini, Marianne Shellabarger Jeppson, Elma Ernst Fay

A limited service continued during these months in Great Britain, and after the war, for a year in occupied Germany.

--Elma Ernst Fay ll/15/00