The Migration and Travel Service was established as the Emigration and Vagrancy Department by Colonel David Lamb in July 1903; it was also known as the Office for Emigration-Colonisation Work. Lamb personally supervised The Salvation Army's migration-colonisation work for over 25 years; during this time he travelled extensively in order to research and publicly advocate the benefits of land settlement and migration schemes.
The Salvation Army envisaged that the process of migration-colonisation would benefit both migrants and the British Empire. An organised policy of emigration became an integral part of The Salvation Army's Darkest England Scheme to raise 'the submerged tenth' of society. Emigration was seen to provide opportunities for 'ambitious, hard-working, and enterprising citizens of the Old Country'. It also chimed with Lamb's belief that nothing could be of greater importance to the British Empire than the 'steady influx of selected British folk' which would help meet the Dominions' demands for workers on the land and 'suitable' women settlers.
The first emigrant ship to sail with Salvation Army flag was S.S. Vancouver to Canada, April 1905. By 1930 The Salvation Army had assisted over 200,000 emigrants to settle in British colonies overseas, notably Canada, Australia and New Zealand. At this time branch offices operated in Liverpool, Southampton, Dundee, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Bedford, Plymouth and Belfast. Salvation Army officers worked as migration agents. They recruited and selected migrants, supervised them on the sea voyage and provided them with assistance in finding work and accommodation.
The Salvation Army specialised in providing assisted passage (to be repaid) to: 'Wives and children going out to settlers; widows willing to adapt themselves to domestic work; young agricultural labourers; boys in danger of drifting into blind-alley occupations; and young children for whom there is little prospect in Great Britain'.
Following the second world war The Salvation Army continued to co-operate with Commonwealth governments to meet their immigrant 'requirements'. During the 1950s The Salvation Army worked with the Australian and Canadian governments to sponsor selected 'boy' migrants for training and employment upon the land. The Department also initiated a Travel Service to assist its own officers and the public with 'full travel agency facilities'.