During the middle of 1915, as more and more hospitals were needed to cope with an increasing number of casualties, VADs first started working overseas in hospitals under the control of the War Office to augment the numbers of trained nurses. Before they embarked they were given an inspirational message written for them by their Commandant-in-Chief, Katharine Furse, on the back of which was a prayer by Rachel Crowdy, Principal Commandant in France. Copies of the original are held both at the Imperial War Museum and the British Red Cross Archives.
A MESSAGE FROM KATHARINE FURSE, COMMANDANT-IN-CHIEF, BRITISH RED CROSS SOCIETY WOMEN’S VOLUNTARY AID DETACHMENTS, TO VADs PROCEEDING ON ACTIVE SERVICE
This paper is to be considered by each V.A.D. member as confidential and to be kept in her Pocket Book.
You are being sent to work for the Red Cross. You have to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, your patience, your humility, your determination to overcome all difficulties. Remember that the honour of the V.A.D. organisation depends on your individual conduct. It will be your duty not only to set an example of discipline and perfect steadiness of character, but also to maintain the most courteous relations with those whom you are helping in this great struggle.
Be invariable courteous, unselfish and kind. Remember whatever duty you undertake, you must carry it out faithfully, loyally, and to the best of your ability.
Rules and regulations are necessary in whatever formation you join. Comply with them without grumble or criticism and try to believe that there is reason at the back of them, though at the time you may not understand the necessity.
Sacrifices may be asked of you. Give generously and wholeheartedly, grudging nothing, but remembering that you are giving because your Country needs your help. If you see others in better circumstances than yourself, be patient and think of the men who are fighting amid discomfort and who are often in great pain.
Those of you who are paid can give to the Red Cross Society which is your Mother and which needs much more money to carry on its great work to their Mother Society and thus to the Sick and Wounded.
Let our mottos be ‘Willing to do anything’ and ‘The People give gladly.’ If we live up to these, the V.A.D. members will come out of this world war triumphant.
Do your duty loyally
Honour the King
And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame.
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of working, and each in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are.
A PRAYER BY RACHEL CROWDY
Lord, who once bore your own Cross shoulder high to save mankind, help us to bear our Red Cross Banner high, with clean hands unafraid.
To those who tend the wounded and sick give health and courage, that they of their store may give to those who lie awake in pain with strength and courage gone.
Teach us no task can be too great, no work too small, for those who die or suffer pain for us and their Country. Give unto those who rule a gentle justice and a wisely guiding hand, remembering ‘Blessed are the Merciful.’ And when peace comes, grant neither deed nor word of ours has thrown a shadow on the Cross, nor stained the flag of England.
INSTRUCTIONS TO HOSPITAL V.A.D.s, JULY 1915
- Only the B.R.C.S. Regulation Uniform, as detailed on Form D7, may be worn, except in the case of Scottish Members, who may wear their own uniform.2. Uniform should be worn smartly and in a uniform way, and not to suit the taste of each individual. Scrupulous care should be taken to keep it clean and uncrumpled. Aprons must never be longer than overalls. No additions or alterations, such as veils, bow ties, or shirt collars worn over the coat, are permissible.
3. When travelling to a Hospital by train the following should be taken (if travelling in Regulation coat and skirt):-
1 Pair Sleeves
1 Pair Ward Shoes
- Members living at any distance from the Hospital should not travel to and from their work in their clean aprons and sleeves. A spare apron should be kept for emergencies.5. Shoes should always be changed before entering the ward. Comfortable, light-laced shoes with low rubber heels are the best.
6. Scissors, safety-pins, and a pencil or pen should always be carried.
1. Nails should be kept short and clean. Great care should be taken to have no hangnails or scratches on the hands. If the skin is broken, however slightly, it should be covered with gauze and collodion before assisting at an operation or doing a dressing. Carelessness in this respect may lead to blood-poisoning.
2. The hands should be thoroughly washed and a nail-brush used after any dressing, especially before meals. The hands should when possible be immersed in a solution of disinfectant and well greased at night. If at all roughened, gloves should be worn in bed.
3. All powder, paint, scent, earrings, or other jewellery, etc., should be avoided, as the using of such things invites criticism, and may bring discredit to the Organisation.
4. It is advisable to gargle morning and evening, but especially in the evening. Carbolic, 1 in 60; Listerine, 1 teaspoonful to 5 oz. water; Glyco-Thymoline and water, ½ and ½ to be used.
5. Members should remember that they cannot work well unless taking regular and adequate meals. They also need a long night’s rest, and fresh air, combined with moderate exercise.
6. It is advisable to comb the hair with a small tooth comb once a day.
- Members should stand to attention when the Medical Officer, Matron, Sister, or anyone in authority enters the ward or speaks to them. Correct titles should always be given, such as: ‘Sir,’ ‘Matron,’ ‘Sister,’ ‘Nurse,’ ‘Commandant,’ ‘Quartermaster,’ as the case may be.2. When Members meet Superior Officers of Detachments other than their own, they should treat them with equal respect when in uniform. It is due to the Organisation, and is not affected by the individual.
3. V.A.D. Members should be prepared to carry out anything they are asked to do willingly and promptly without question. If they want to help their country they should do so in a generous and unselfish spirit wherever they are most needed and in whatever way their help is most urgently required. They must remember that they are part of a very large Organisation, for which they should be careful to win a good name.
4. Members should show courtesy and consideration to one another and avoid all talk and gossip which might lead to unhappiness in another member of staff with whom they are working.
5. They should also adopt the habit of not discussing the work of their Hospital or Members of its Staff when off duty.
6. Any question as to payment of salary, expenses, or accommodation should be referred through the Sister to the Matron.
7. No Member must leave the Hospital to which she is posted without the permission of the Matron.
8. All Hospital rules must be conscientiously adhered to. We count upon our Members to prove that they have a real sense of discipline, and that they are able to withstand any temptations that may be put in their way. They will thus show that England can depend upon her women to help her generously and honourably in the hour of her need.
DON’TS FOR V.A.D.s
DON’T talk about anything you hear in Hospital.
DON’T criticise anybody, but do all you can to see that your own bit of work needs no criticism.
DON’T forget you are under Military discipline, – therefore under absolute obedience to all seniors.
DON’T forget to stand up when seniors come into the ward or room.
DON’T forget that when in uniform all members should be immaculately clean, trim and tidy.
DON’T forget that outside public often judge the Association by the individual members.
DON’T forget that duty comes before pleasure.
DON’T expect your own particular feelings or likes to be considered. You are but one of many.
DON’T think you can pick and choose your own work at first. Do all that comes your way with your whole heart, and others will soon see what you are best fitted for.
DON’T forget to ‘Bring your will to your work, and suit your mind to your circumstances – for that which is not for the interest of the whole swarm is not for the interest of the single bee! (Marcus Aurelius).