Notts 94 Voluntary Aid Detachment

Radcliffe on Trent

The British Red Cross was created in 1870 to aid sick and wounded servicemen. Forty years later local branches had been established all over the country. Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) were formed in each county from 1909 onwards to provide aid to territorial medical forces during war. Detachments varied in size but typically consisted of a Commandant, Medical Officer, Quarter Master and twenty two female members. The group would meet at least once a month for training in first aid, nursing and hygiene. The above photograph shows the Notts 94 Detachment, which was based in Radcliffe on Trent, at the annual inspection of Notts Red Cross VADs on July 31st 1914. The inspection was held at Welbeck Abbey, home of the Duke of Portland, president of the Notts branch of the Red Cross. Notts 94 VAD sent sixteen members. A woman on the right hand side holds a ‘Radcliffe on Trent’ banner; the photograph comes from the collection of Grace Durant, a Notts. 94 VAD member.

The Notts 94 Detachment was set up in 1913 and run by Claire Birkin, the wife of Lt. Colonel Birkin (click on her name for a full account of her work in WWI). The group met in the village school for lectures. As in all Detachments, members had to pass exams and obtain certificates before they were allowed to practice. Eleven of the twenty-three members of the Notts. 94th Detachment came from Radcliffe on Trent and twelve came from neighbouring villages. The names of the Notts 94 VADs are as follows:

Susanna Addyman, Violet Bishop, Violet Birkin, Kathleen Boyle, Grace Durant, Olive Elnor, Mary Green, Norah Green, Aline Hales, Charlotte Haynes, Emma Haynes, Katherine Hickson, Marie Holmes,   Constance Howard, Joyce Howitt, Philippa Howitt, Helena Leman, Louisa Long, Muriel Middlemass, Daisy Sharp, Lucy Sharp, Louisa Sherlock, Annie Smith.

Biographies of all the Notts 94 members whose names above are highlighted in blue are available on the website. They include seven women who lived outside the village and took employment at Lamcote Auxiliary Hospital for Officers, Radcliffe on Trent. The biographies of five Notts 94 VAD women who lived in neighbouring villages (Kathleen Boyle, Mary Green, Norah Green, Louisa Sherlock, Annie Smith) have not been added because, although they were trained in Radcliffe on Trent, they have no other known connection and worked elsewhere as Red Cross volunteers. Click on the names above to read the women’s biographies.


Armbands belonging to nurse Grace Durant

The women under the command of Claire Birkin were predominantly middle class and did not need to earn a living. Two were daughters of clergymen, four were daughters of lace manufacturers and six were daughters of other successful business men. When the Notts 94 Detachment was set up there was anxiety about the threat of war. The training in first aid, hygiene and nursing that the women received was soon put into practice after war was declared in August 1914. Most women began working in the Trent Bridge Pavilion hospital in West Bridgford or in various Red Cross hospitals in Nottingham. After Lamcote Auxiliary Hospital for officers was set up in 1918 in Claire Birkin’s home, Lamcote House, thirteen women from Notts 94 VAD began working there on a voluntary basis. The remaining ten women from the Detachment carried on working elsewhere. Not all the women were nurses. Some were employed under the ‘general service’ category of the Red Cross and undertook clerical work at Notts. County War Hospital. Others worked as linen store keepers and pantry maids.

After the war ended, three Notts 94 VAD members continued nursing. Grace Durant, who was a nurse in Malta during the war, was employed in Lincolnshire hospitals up to and during the Second World War. Constance Howard worked in Manchester in WWI then returned to Radcliffe on Trent to work in nearby Notts. County Mental Hospital (Saxondale). Louisa Long, a pantry maid at Lamcote Auxillary Hospital, became institutional matron at the new Florence Boot Student’s Hall for Women at the University Park Nottingham.

Eight Red Cross VAD biographies have been added to the website recently. These women were not members of Notts 94 VAD but worked as volunteers in Radcliffe on Trent. Two were nurses. Mary Bethune, who came from a highly distinguished family and whose father was a Lieutenant General, worked at Lamcote Hospital for several months and Elizabeth Herald, a trained nurse from Scotland, also worked there. Although Elizabeth was only briefly at Lamcote her nursing career exemplifies how women could be deployed in hospitals around the country during the war. A further six women worked at Notts. County War Hospital under the ‘general service’ category of the Red Cross: Doris Bonner, May Clowes and Alice O’Reilly (clerks), Isabella Fegan and  Eileen Young (typists) and Florence Holmes (cook). Go to the index of Radcliffe on Trent Women to see where each of the Notts 94 VAD members worked. You can also access their biographies from this list.

The majority of the Notts 94 VAD biographies were researched and written by Pauline Woodhouse.