How VAD units operated in the Great War

The mission of VAD units was to provide aid the the armed forces in providing care for sick and wounded soldiers and sailors.

To provide this care they recruited volunteers with a variety of skills need including  nurses, drivers, clerks, gardeners etc etc.

They operated ambulances, manned auxiliary hospitals, provided rest stations and temporary facilities in the UK and France.

Detachment Registration
Each detachment had to be approved by the Essex County Committee.
Detachments were single sex which was indicated in the numbering system when an odd number was given to a male detachment and an even one for a female detachment.
While the number was used for official business most of the VAD units were referred to locally by the place with which they were based or associated.

Recruitment was open to all fit men and women subject to interview and passing of a first aid or home nursing exam.

Work was voluntary although payment of 20 pounds a year was possible to nursing staff.

An annual inspection was carried out by an officer from the Royal Army Medical Corps on VAD's to ensure that the training and proficiency was up to standard.

Individual training related to their role so it may be in operating a portable x ray machine, stretcher bearing or even invalid cookery.
There was a progressive system of awards and certificates allowing continuing study and gathering of knowledge to match the growing practical skills of the VAD members

Full membership of a VAD was only conferred once the candidate has passed examinations set by the St John Ambulance, University of London Kings College , Church Lads Brigade or Red Cross.

VAD, Auxilliary or Red Cross Hospitals
VAD units provided support and manpower for the Red Cross Hospitals in their area.
In practice the local VAD and the local Red Cross hospital were often very closely linked with the VAD playing the key role in identyfying, equipping and staffing the hospitals.

Rest Stations
The VAD manned rest stations at places on regular routes that wounded men would travel such as dockyards and railway stations so that medical care, food and personal welfare needs could be provided to wounded men en transit from the channel ports to the hospitals.

Service abroad
Female VAD
Although at first  female VAD's were not accepted for service in France as there were sufficient trained nurses although many chose to serve with allied forces such as the French.
This rule was relaxed by the British as the casualty numbers grew and so the demand for nurses to treat British wounded in France grew .
VAD nurses were at first accepted for the basic work in hospitals well away from the line but as the needs grew along with the respect for the new untrained nurses they were given more responsibility and towards the end of the war appeared in front line hospitals.

Male VAD
Male VAD were always in demand to use their VAD skills as ambulance drivers, stretchers bearers both in support roles and on the front line.


While female detachments tended to have the monopoly on nursing the male detachments held a similar position with transport, ambulance and stretcher work.

There was a need to collect wounded soldiers from the train or ship and convey them to the hospitals and to move wounded within and between hospitals or to convalescent homes.

Although some horse drawn transport was still used, the new motor ambulances were often used by the VAD detachments.

As the war drew on many of the men went to the front and women were then used to drive the ambulances.