Free records of WW1 Red Cross volunteers go online

By Jon Bauckham, 30 October 2014 - 5:07pm

The British Red Cross has started digitising index cards containing details of the men and women who signed up to help injured servicemen during First World War

Alamy nurses VAD WW1

The nursing volunteers, many of them women, undertook a variety of crucial duties both at home and abroad (Credit: Alamy)

Records of First World War medical volunteers have been made available online for the first time.

The British Red Cross has started uploading scans and transcriptions of over 236,000 paper index cards to its website, each providing details of Voluntary Aid Detachment personnel, known as ‘VADs’, who signed up to help sick and injured servicemen.

Created following an £80,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the free web resource can reveal an array of details about the volunteer including their name, address, dates of engagement and a description of their duties.

For example, the entry for Vera Brittain – who wrote about her First World War experiences in the memoir Testament of Youth – reveals that she began service in August 1915, before being posted out to work at auxiliary hospitals in Malta and on the Western Front.

Although the database currently only includes index cards for volunteers with surnames beginning with A or B, the rest of the collection will be released in several tranches over the course of the next 12 months.

Speaking earlier this year, Sue Bowers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said:

“The VAD indexes are a largely untapped source of information about the significant contribution made by women in particular to the Home Front.”

“It is quite incredible that these records have survived in their original form for a century but now the information they contain can be saved to the benefit of historians, academics and people tracing family histories.”
 

TAKE IT FURTHER

► Search the records for free at www.redcross.org.uk/ww1
 

 

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