Joan Holgate’s father tried to protect her from the war. When she joined the 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.
How did you become involved?
” My father thought that at all costs he had to keep us at home, where he could protect us if the worst came to the worst. I had promised my father that I would not enlist in the women’s branches of the armed forces. However, I fully intended to join the British Red Cross as a nursing member.
Soon afterwards I joined the Red Cross and was posted to the RAF [auxiliary] hospital at Longdon Hall. Initially I was disappointed. I had asked for a posting to a Royal Naval Hospital. The sea had always fascinated me; I wanted to be in it – or on it.”
What was your first job?
” Longdon Hall was situated far from the sea in the beautiful Staffordshire countryside. In 1940 it was the residence of a Mr. Burnett who had turned it over to the British Red Cross to be used as a hospital by the RAF.
Was it difficult for you to have free time and other luxuries?
” The nursing staff were closely supervised. No patient was allowed to date a nurse without first asking the Commandant for permission. Usually this was refused.
What happened next?
“Time passed and I was delighted to receive a letter and a travel warrant advising me that I had been posted to the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, Gosport, Portsmouth. My father raised no objection, having come to the conclusion that I would manage to get into danger in spite of all his efforts to keep me safe!
The Joint War Organisation had nearly 250 auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes with 13,384 beds. The government made a grant towards their upkeep, whilst the Joint War Organisation ran them. Find out more about auxillary hospitals and convalescent homes.
Many ex-patients of auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes wrote to say thank you. Here is one example from a soldier wounded at Dunkirk:
Mobile VADs had to go wherever they were sent, abroad or at home. They would be notified by a County Controller through a ‘Notice to Join’ and had to make sure arrangements were in place at home to allow them to leave with little notice. They had to be given travel warrants giving the restrictions on people moving around the country during the war, both for security reasons and fuel shortages. Because of the time put into training them, mobile VADs were expected to serve for at least three years.