VOLUNTARY Aid Detachment hospitals, which (VAD) quickly opened up in Gloucestershire provided field nursing services, were a prominent feature in Gloucestershire during the First World War.

The organisation was originally 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 Detachment hospitals in Britain. Each individual Volunteers were called detachments, or simply VADs.

Of the 74,000 VADs in 1914, two thirds were women and girls.

At the outbreak of the First World War, VADs eagerly offered their service to the war effort, but the British Red Cross was reluctant to allow civilian women a role in overseas hospitals.

Most VADs were of the middle and upper classes and unaccustomed to hardship and traditional hospital discipline. Military authorities would not accept VADs at the front line.

VADs were an uneasy addition to military hospitals’ rank and order. They lacked the advanced skill and discipline of professional trained nurses and were often critical of the nursing profession.

Relations improved as the war stretched on and VADs increased their skill and efficiency, and trained nurses were more accepting of the VADs’ contributions.

During four years of war, 38,000 VADs worked in hospitals and served as ambulance drivers and cooks.

On the evening of Wednesday, April 21 about 20 wounded soldiers, British and Belgian, arrived in Stroud from Bristol Infirmary where they had been undergoing initial treatment.

There was the usual uncertainty as to which railway station they would arrive at and consequently the crowds were thickest at the top of Rowcroft, where the roads from the two stations meet.

People lined the streets six to eight deep, leaving only a narrow way for motors and carriages, which had been lent by residents, to convey the wounded to hospital.

Soldiers were taken to Holy Trinity Sunday School where 20 beds had been fitted for them.

On May 13, 1915, Standish House, Stonehouse, opened as a VAD hospital having been lent by Lord Sherborne.

Standish remained a hospital after the war and became an important local facility for the next 85 years, specialising first in tuberculosis and later orthopaedic and respiratory care. Photos courtesy of Howard Beard. It was also unusual in that most of the VAD nursing staff were able to live on site.