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The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was a voluntary organisation providing auxiliary nursing services, mainly in hospitals, in the United Kingdom and various other countries in the British Empire. The organisation's most important period of operation was during World War I and World War II.

The organisation was founded in 1909 with the help of the Red Cross and Order of St. John. By the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain. Each individual volunteer was called a detachment, or simply a VAD. Of the 74,000 VADs in 1914, two-thirds were women and girls.

At the outbreak of the First World War, nurses were in short supply, and the VAD supplemented the work of registered nurses. Although generally looked down upon by more highly trained nursing staff , they nonetheless provided an invaluable source of aid as war nurses to the war effort.

Katharine Furse took two VADs to France soon after the outbreak of the First World War. She established a hospital at Boulogne and returned to London where she became Commander-in-Chief of the organisation. During the next four years 38,000 VADs worked as assistant nurses, ambulance drivers and cooks. VAD hospitals were also opened in most large towns in Britain.

Before 1915 the military authorities would not accept VADs at the front-line. This restriction was later removed and women volunteers over the age of twenty-three and with more than three months experience, were allowed to go to the Western Front, Mesopotamia and Gallipoli. Later VADs were also sent to the Eastern Front.

Some women acted as letter writers for soldiers who were either too ill or too illiterate to write their own letters.

In 1909 the Voluntary Aid Detachments were formed to provide nursing and medical assistance during wars. two Thirds of VAD's were women and girls.


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