Our Historical Photography Project discovers VADs in Regent’s Park

22 February 2017 16:00

The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was founded in 1909. Its members (known as VADs) provided nursing and other ancillary services in support of the armed forces.

They came to prominence during the First World War when their roles included administration of auxiliary hospitals and nursing homes. Many served in military hospitals, became ambulance drivers, civil defence workers, welfare officers or made clothes for wounded servicemen.

Black and white photo of a group of 5 WRENS holding cleaning equipment unidentified
Blind Veterans UK (then known as St Dunstan’s) was fortunate to have many VADs with us in our early years in Regent’s Park. They carried out some general nursing duties in addition to working as cooks, cleaners and general carers. Ian Fraser (later Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, and our Chairman) who had been blinded at the Somme in 1916 and came to us later that year, wrote of them: ‘No single factor contributed more to our new view of life than the understanding and sometimes affection of these girls and young women….quietly they moved amongst us, tending our daily needs, keeping their heads when we were losing ours, acting as lightning-conductors for the flashes of anger and despair that from time to time seemed to overwhelm us, calming frayed nerves, teaching us to read and write, bringing us back to normality.’

Black and white photo of 9 nursing WRENS in uniform unidentified
We have many photographs featuring the VADs and will be telling the individual stories of some of them in future weeks, but here we feature two group photographs as a tribute to the wonderful help and support the VADs gave to our work.
Our research work on this topic is indebted to the database of First World War VADs recently made available by the British Red Cross. This and much background information is available on their website.

To see more stories from our Historical Photography Project click here or check our Facebook page weekly for our #ThrowbackThursdays.