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Voluntary Aid Detachment

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British Red Cross WWI

Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was a voluntary unit of civilians providing nursing care for military personnel in the United Kingdom and various other countries in the British Empire. The most important periods of operation for these units were during World War I and World War II. Although VADs were intimately bound up in the war effort, they were not strictly speaking military nurses, as they were not under the control of the military, unlike the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, the Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service, and the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service. The VAD nurses worked in both field hospitals, i.e., close to the battlefield, and longer-term places of recuperation back in Britain.

Notable VAD nurses Memoirists Some women left written records of their time as a VAD:

  • Enid Bagnold, British author of the novel National Velvet, on which the 1944 film with Elizabeth Taylor was based. Her account of her experiences are related in her memoir A Diary Without Dates published in 1918.
  • Vera Brittain, British author of the best-selling 1933 memoir "Testament of Youth", recounting her experiences during World War I
  • Agatha Christie, British author who briefly details her VAD experiences in her posthumously published Autobiography
  • Lady Ursula d'Abo, English author who details her VAD experiences in her memoir titled "The Girl with the Widow's Peak: The Memoirs"
  • E. M. Delafield, British author of the "Diary of a Provincial Lady" series and some 30 other novels; her experiences working at the Exeter VAD Hospital provided her with material for one of her most popular novels, "The War Workers", published in 1918
  • Mollie Skinner (under the nom de plume R. E. Leake) wrote "Letters of a V.A.D." (London: Andrew Melrose, 1918)

Medical personnel Some women are notable for their contributions to nursing, health, or science, or for their VAD service itself:

  • Edith Cliff, commandant of Gledhow Hall Military Hospital, one of many such directors to be honoured for her nursing work
  • Violet Jessop, British ocean liner stewardess trained as a VAD nurse after the outbreak of World War I. She had been a stewardess aboard the RMS Titanic when it sank in 1912 and was also aboard the hospital ship HMHS Britannic (the Titanic's sister ship) as a Red Cross nurse when it sank in 1916.
  • Marjory Stephenson, biochemist, bacteriologist and one of the first two women elected to the Royal Society in 1945.

Other After the war, many women went on to have careers in other fields:

  • Kathleen M. Barrow, British novelist and journalist
  • Mary Borden, Anglo-American novelist
  • May Wedderburn Cannan, British poet
  • Lottie Dod, English sportswoman best known as a tennis player. She won the Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Championship five times in the late 19th century.
  • Amelia Earhart, American aviation pioneer, served in Toronto, Ontario in 1917.
  • Hilda May Gordon, British painter
  • Hattie Jacques, English comedy actress
  • Naomi Mitchison, Scottish writer
  • Olivia Robertson, British author and co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis
  • Freya Stark, explorer and travel writer
  • Jessie Traill, Australian painter
  • Anna Zinkeisen, Scottish painter and illustrator
  • Doris Zinkeisen, Scottish painter, commercial artist and theatrical designer

See also



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