Category: World War One

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.


How a Nottinghamshire stately home became a First World War hospital


Red Cross nurses and patients at Burgage Manor Red Cross auxiliary hospitalHow would you feel about a hospital stay if your ward was in a luxurious stately home? During the First World War the British Red Cross transformed private manors, estates, town halls and even schools into hospitals and convalescent homes for wounded servicemen. Here we explore Burgage Manor in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, to see what life was like for the staff, patients and local residents.

When the war broke out, the Red Cross was inundated with 5,000 offers of buildings they could use to treat the wounded.

William Hicking, chairman of the Nottingham & Notts banking company, offered the empty Burgage Manor to the British Red Cross in 1914. The large house had already made history as home to the poet Lord Byron between 1803-08. More

Nurse’s First World War diary: treating Gallipoli’s wounded men


Recruitment poster for volunteers from the First World War“When one takes a walk one always meets with the same thing: yells, smells, bells.”

Louisa Higginson kept a diary of her work as a British Red Cross nurse in the First World War. Louisa left her family in New Zealand to volunteer at hospitals in Malta and Egypt. On the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli, her diary reveals the sights, sounds and smells of hospital life as she treated wounded soldiers from the battle. More

Testament of Youth: a volunteer’s WWI memoir of a lost generation


Man and woman embrace in the main publicity shot for the film Testament of YouthDid you see the film about Red Cross VAD Vera Brittain on the BBC this week? Rebecca McIlhone delves into her memoir, Testament of Youth, to read about love, loss and humanity in desperate times.

Life as a First World War volunteer (or VAD) was tough. Volunteers fulfilled a range of roles from ambulance drivers to cooks but most of the 90,000 were women who signed up as novice nurses.

Early starts, long hours and poor living conditions were just the tip of the iceberg for these raw recruits. Their on-the-job training Vera Brittain describes, in Testament of Youth, as “a baptism of blood and pus”. More

Family fortunes: The WWI granny who inspired four generations of fundraisers


Recruitment poster for volunteers from the First World WarWho inspires you in life? A celebrity, a scientist or perhaps a politician? Maybe it’s not someone well-known at all, but an ordinary person who has touched your life in some way, helping you to find your path. For Annie Burton it was her grandmother, Annie Crichton, whose humanitarian values led her to volunteer and work for the British Red Cross, writes Rebecca McIlhone.

Granny Annie – the First World War VAD

Granny Annie was one of 90,000 civilians who served as voluntary aid detachments (VADs) during the First World War. Her role was to nurse injured soldiers, who had returned from the front to be cared for at a hospital in Scotland. More

Christmas during the First World War: in pictures


WW1-xmas-hospital-wardBritish Red Cross nurses had to celebrate the festive season hungry and over-worked, yet they were still determined to be cheerful. See the First World War through the eyes of the women who were actually there.

1. The busy life of a nurse

This witty cartoon triptych depicts the typical life of a Red Cross nurse (they were known as Voluntary Aid Detachments) serving abroad during the war. The sketches show how her life officially should be, how she dreams it might be, and how it actually is. Poor woman…

WW1-xmas-triptych More