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Caring on the Home Front - Volunteer memories from World War Two


Stories » Voluntary Aid Detachments

Voluntary Aid Detachments


Voluntary Aid Detachments, VADs  were made up of British Red Cross and St John Ambulance members. They provided trained people to act as reserves to the medical services of the armed forces, doing valuable work abroad and at home.

As well as VADs, many St John Ambulance and British Red Cross members joined the Civil Nursing Reserve, where they served in hospitals at home, nursing civilian victims of air raids and wounded service men and women returning from fighting the German army in France or Belgium.

Annie Gadd

Birmingham , St John, VAD
Grace under pressure
Annie Gadd of Birmingham saw it all: her father’s reaction to the Coventry bombing, shell-shocked soldiers at the nerve hospital, and early blood transfusions. As a VAD in a city at risk, Annie not only had to learn how to nurse, but to do it gracefully under pressure. Read Annie’s story

52Joan Holgate

Staffordshire, Red Cross, VAD
Family ties bind
Joan Holgate’s father tried to protect her from the War. When she joined the British Red Cross and was posted to Staffordshire, they had to say goodbye. Transferred to Portsmouth, she moved farther away from home. But family ties bind, and in tragedy Joan and her father found solace in each other. Read Joan’s story

62Judy Stokes

Hampshire, Red Cross, VAD
Pioneering plastic surgery
Judy Stokes found herself scrubbing up alongside the pioneers of plastic surgery. Hampshire received thousands of soldiers burned by the fires of war. VAD nurses treated skin grafts and healed broken hearts. Nurses like Judy reassured the country that loyal compassion could heal the scars of war. Read Judy’s story

22Kathleen Howard

Nottingham , Red Cross, VAD
Routine but vital
Kathleen Howard was in a reserved occupation in Nottingham. She worked full-time at Boots but managed to volunteer as an immobile VAD at the local hospital. Kathleen’s duties uncluded polishing floors, giving blanket baths, and emptying bedpans. It was routine work perhaps, but vital to the war effort. Read Kathleen’s story

32Mildred Brett

Oxfordshire/Southampton, St John, VAD
A born nurse finds her way
Mildred Brett grew up hungry. But at 17 her luck changed. She joined St John Ambulance, excelled in the hospital operating theatres, and nursed soldiers back to health. After the war Mildred went on to become a State Registered Nurse and received an MBE; she’d found her way. Read Mildred’s story

42Norma Hanson

Huddersfield, Red Cross, VAD
A young nurse finds adventure
Norma Hanson wanted to help out and go places. As a young naval VAD, she boarded a train bound for Plymouth. From there she transferred on to Portsmouth, Liverpool, and then overseas. Throughout Norma nursed patients, made friends, met her husband, and found adventure far from home. Read Norma’s story

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