|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON
A brief history of healthcare provision in London
VOLUNTARY AID DETACHMENTS
The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, enabled a scheme for voluntary aid organisations to be established in England and Wales. These organisations were formed in August 1909 and became known as Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs). They were attached variously to the British Red Cross Society, the Order of St John or the Territorial Forces Association. As with the Territorial Force, the Detachments were intended to be used for home defence only, but in the event both served abroad in France, Belgium, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia.
VADs played a useful role. The majority of their members were women, most men having been called up for military service. The Detachments were numbered by the War Office; male companies were given odd numbers and female even numbers. Women's Detachments were smaller than the men's, with one Commandant (either male or female), a Lady Superintendent (preferably a trained nurse) and 20 women (four of whom had to be trained cooks). (Male Detachments comprised a Commandant, a medical officer, a quartermaster, a pharmacist, 4 section leaders and 48 men).
VADs worked alongside qualified nurses during WW1 (1914-1918) and WW2 (1939-1945). Trained by the British Red Cross in first aid, bed-making, feeding a patient, giving a patient a blanket bath, and keeping a ward clean, their role was mainly a supportive one as nursing assistants. However, the rules of their constitution were elastic and they undertook a great variety of work - as cleaners, cooks, ambulance drivers and administrators - according to the needs arising.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, some 46,000 women were serving in Voluntary Aid Detachments. By the end of it, over 90,000 had registered.
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