Friday, 24 March 2017

“willingly, smilingly and as though theirs is the privilege”* ......... stories behind the book nu 12

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War.**

Now I was fully prepared and planned for a series of stories on the Red Cross during the writing of the book.

It after all along with St. John Ambulance provided the Voluntary Aid Detachments which ran the auxiliary hospitals catering for sick and wounded servicemen returning from the battle fronts.

The V.A. Detachments had been established in 1909 as part of the preparations for a major Continental war.

Here in Manchester it fell to the East Lancashire Branch of the Red Cross which along with St. John. Ambulance ran not only the auxiliary hospitals transported the sick and wounded from ambulance trains to hospitals in the City and the surrounding townships and organised “comforts.”

Early in September of 1914 the branch had described its role as “a voluntary organisation supported by public subscriptions ....... to supplement the medical services of the army and navy and to supply comforts to soldiers and sailors in addition to those provided by the authorities.”***

And pretty soon I came across the story of the Canadian V.A.D.

It didn’t strictly fit into the book but I became intrigued given that my own BHC great uncle had served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force from 1915 through to the duration.

It was established in the November of 1911 as an “organisation of Voluntary Aid in Canada.  

Committees were created in each district and they were charged with the responsibility of organising Voluntary Aid Detachments in connection with the Militia, [and] the duty of organising the V.A.Ds should be given over to the St. John Ambulance Association [with] the first being in Halifax.  

The second at Quebec, and Montreal and Ottawa quickly following.”****

Much of what I have discovered so far has come from a fascinating book written in 1917 by Miss Thekal Bowser who was a Red Cross nurse.

She was born in 1873 served in France and died aged 46 just one year after the end of the war from an illness she had contracted while at the Front.*****

There is not much on the Canadian V.A.D., in the book but it is a start and as these things work it has drawn me back in to looking at great uncle Roger’s war record.

So there you have it, no research is ever wasted and in the fullness of time he and Canadian V.A.D., will feature in a future research project.

Well we shall see.

Location; Canada

Picture; Willow Bank Red Cross Hospital, Moss Side, circa 1914 courtesy of David Harrop,

Bowser, Thekla, The Story of the British V.A.D Work in the Great War, 1917 pages 70-71

**Manchester and the Great War, Andrew Simpson, was published in February 2017,

*** The Red Cross in Lancashire, Manchester Guardian, September 12, 1914

****ibid Bowser, Thekla, page228

*****Ida Thekla Bowser

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