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Voluntary Aid Detachment

VADs Cleaning Potatoes at New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch. Image kindly provided by National Army Museum, \u003ca href=\"\" target=\"_blank\"\u003e1993.1214 \u003c/a\u003e

VADs Cleaning Potatoes at New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch. Image kindly provided by National Army Museum, 1993.1214


During the First World War many women provided nursing care of military personnel as Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADs). Established in 1909 by the British War Office and managed by the British Red Cross Society and the St John Ambulance Society, the Voluntary Aid Detachment provided volunteer nurses to hospitals (and other sites) during wartime. 

By 1914, there were 74,000 members of the VAD, two thirds were women.  Through the course of war, they were posted to Belgium, Egypt, Malta, Salonika, Russia, Serbia, Romania and Italy.  Though often untrained, VADs, provided essential help to hospitals short of staff.  

As war intensified, male orderlies were transferred to the front and more VADs were required for work in New Zealand Hospitals. Colin Gordon an orderly with the New Zealand Medical Forces, described the situation in Brockenhurst ‘the orderlies, the men, were almost removed, except for the fetch and carry jobs from the ward. We had more nurses and hosts of VADs – New Zealand and English – who did the actual nursing.’   

Often New Zealand VADs were New Zealanders who already lived overseas or travelled to offer their services, they were not a part of New Zealand’s official military structure.

Online Cenotaph has been able to identify approximately four hundred New Zealanders who served as VADs during the First World War. With special thanks to Glyn Harper, and Sherayl McNabb and their research in helping to idenify these VADs. 

Further Information 

You can read more about Margaret Swarbrick, an English VAD who served at New Zealand General Hospital, Brockenhust.

You can search for the records of VADs on the British Red Cross website. 

Harper, Glyn. For King and Other Countries: The New Zealanders who fought in other services in the First World War. (Massey University Press, 2019). 

McNabb, Sherayl. 100 years New Zealand Military Nursing. (Sherayl McNabb, 2015). 

Rogers, Anna. While You’re Away: New Zealand Nurses at War 1899 – 1948 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2003). 

Rogers, Anna. With them through hell: New Zealand Medical Services in the First World War. (Massey University Press, 2018). 

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 470 records
PhotoFamily nameFirst namesForceWarsService # 
176816CameronRuth CatherineCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
176817MacDonaldWilhelminaCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
176818MacDonaldElizabethCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
176819McLarenLenaCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
176820McDonnellMysieCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
179517DobieEllen LockerCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
179518DobieBeatrixCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
184684SaundersInaCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C132505TurtonGwenythCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C138928O'LearyNorahCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C133376PughVeronicaCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
198863SeddoonRuthCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C145245HareFlorence E.CivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C136839HodgeE. R.CivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C132351HowieDelicia M. World War II, 1939-1945  
C139261JamiesonLucy IsobelCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
C145297PageMinnie InglisCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
180768ChappleLouisaCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
180767ChappleElizabeth EwingCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  
180769ChappleNelca AllanCivilianWorld War I, 1914-1918  


The development of the Online Cenotaph is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.