Nottingham Hospitals History

Voluntary Aid Detachment


The organisation was founded in 1909 with help of the Red Cross and the Order of St. John. By the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain,. Each individual volunteer was called a detachment, or simply a VAD. Of the 74,000 VADs in 1914, two thirds were made up of a women and girls.

At the outbreak of the Great War, VADs offered to help the war effort, but the British Red Cross  was reluctant to allow civilian women a role in overseas hospitals and the military authorities would not accept VADs at the front line. However, they gradually earned the right to play a direct role through their enthusiasm and courage and as a result of the shortage of trained nurses.

During the four years of war, 38,000 VADs served in hospitals and as ambulance drivers and cooks. Many were decorated for the distinguished service, and famous VADs included British author and playwright Enid Bagnold, Anglo-American novelist and poet Mary Borden, writer, feminist, and pacifist, Vera Britten, crime novelist Agatha Christie and Violet Jessop the ocean liner stewardess and nurse who is known for surviving the disastrous sinkings of both RMS Titanic and her sister ship, HMHS Britannic, in 1912 and 1916, respectively.

Stewart Binns,  The Darkness and the Thunder, page 610 Penguin Books, 2015