World War One

The volunteers who played a crucial role in the Battle of the Somme

British Red Cross stretcher bearers

© IWM

During the Battle of the Somme, our volunteers were up to their knees in mud helping the wounded. From carrying casualties and searching for the missing to providing hot water bottles and cigarettes, our volunteers did everything they could to help.

Now you can walk in their memory – or remember your ancestors who served in the war.

As soon as fighting began in July 1916, the army’s first aid teams and stretcher bearers were overwhelmed. They turned to the British Red Cross’ trained volunteers for help.

Alf Collard, who was in charge of the Red Cross team, wrote:

‘On Sunday, July 2nd, when the wounded began to come in in large numbers, we were called upon to provide as many stretcher bearers as we could furnish. I am pleased to say that about 60 orderlies worked all through Sunday night and well into Monday without a stop …’  More

The heroic women of WW1: a nurse’s diary

Peggy Arnold in her First World War Red Cross nurse's uniformGroans and moans. Blood and pus. It must have been a shock swapping life in Surrey for a hospital tent in France. But that’s exactly what Peggy Arnold did during the First World War. Exactly 100 years after she died, we remember Peggy’s heroic work and the thousands of women like her who volunteered for the British Red Cross during the war.

Margaret Trevenen Arnold, known as Peggy, was the eldest of four daughters. Before the war she and her sister Ruth joined the Surrey branch of the British Red Cross. They attended lectures and practical classes in first aid and other useful skills.

In February 1915 Peggy went to Hilders House, a new Red Cross war hospital. Here she trained as a nurse.

Four months later, she was ready. More

Blood and traffic jams: remembering brave ambulance crews at the Battle of Verdun

A First World War British Red Cross ambulance

Blood, gunfire and traffic jams: driving ambulances during World War One took some guts. Yet plenty of brave British Red Cross volunteers were ready to risk their lives helping injured soldiers from all sides.

The Red Cross reported that at the Battle of Verdun “from February 20 to March 6 the work was carried out under conditions of great stress.

“The traffic was so heavy that evacuations could only be proceeded with very slowly.

“It sometimes took two hours to go a distance of one kilometre. A heavy fall of snow added to the confusion.” More

Valentine volunteers: love stories from World War I

A Red Cross VAD nurse marries a First World War soldier in 1918

From flirting soldiers to a tragic marriage, indulge in some love stories from the First World War.

Young Red Cross nurses spent hours on the wards tending to wounded soldiers. The men’s conversations, jokes and songs must have provided a welcome relief from all the cleaning, making beds and gangrenous limbs the nurses had to deal with.

Many patients took a shine to the women who cared for them. Soldiers gave photographs of themselves to the nurses they liked as a memento.

‘A nice young lady’

First World War Red Cross nurse lights a cigarette for a patient More

Agatha Christie: the mysterious case of the refugees and the volunteer who loved poison

Black and white photo of Agatha ChristieThis week marks the 125th anniversary of the queen of crime fiction: Dame Agatha Christie. But did you know her career and her encyclopaedic knowledge of poisons are both rooted in her time as a British Red Cross volunteer?

Born in Torquay, Devon, Agatha had a privileged Victorian upbringing. So joining the Red Cross as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) at the outbreak of the First World War was something of a shock to the system. More

Museum of the year finalist brings Red Cross history to life

Auxiliary hospital ward

For a limited time only, you can step back in time and experience what life in a Red Cross hospital would have been like during the First World War.

In 1917, the Georgian house at Dunham Massey was transformed into a fully functioning military hospital. The grand furniture and heirlooms were swapped for hospital beds and medical equipment and the family home became Stamford Military Hospital.

Stamford Military Hospital was, like thousands of auxiliary hospitals across the country, a temporary facility for wounded servicemen.

Here, British Red Cross volunteers provided vital care for hundreds of ill and injured soldiers seeking sanctuary after the horrors of the trenches.

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