During the middle of 1915, as more and more hospitals were needed to cope with an increasing number of casualties, VADs first started working overseas in hospitals under the control of the War Office to augment the numbers of trained nurses. Before they embarked they were given an inspirational message written for them by their Commandant-in-Chief, Katharine Furse, on the back of which was a prayer by Rachel Crowdy, Principal Commandant in France.  Copies of the original are held both at the Imperial War Museum and the British Red Cross Archives.


     This paper is to be considered by each V.A.D. member as confidential and to be kept in her Pocket Book.

     You are being sent to work for the Red Cross. You have to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, your patience, your humility, your determination to overcome all difficulties. Remember that the honour of the V.A.D. organisation depends on your individual conduct. It will be your duty not only to set an example of discipline and perfect steadiness of character, but also to maintain the most courteous relations with those whom you are helping in this great struggle.

     Be invariable courteous, unselfish and kind. Remember whatever duty you undertake, you must carry it out faithfully, loyally, and to the best of your ability.

     Rules and regulations are necessary in whatever formation you join. Comply with them without grumble or criticism and try to believe that there is reason at the back of them, though at the time you may not understand the necessity.

     Sacrifices may be asked of you. Give generously and wholeheartedly, grudging nothing, but remembering that you are giving because your Country needs your help. If you see others in better circumstances than yourself, be patient and think of the men who are fighting amid discomfort and who are often in great pain.

     Those of you who are paid can give to the Red Cross Society which is your Mother and which needs much more money to carry on its great work to their Mother Society and thus to the Sick and Wounded.

     Let our mottos be ‘Willing to do anything’ and ‘The People give gladly.’ If we live up to these, the V.A.D. members will come out of this world war triumphant.

Do your duty loyally
Fear God
Honour the King

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame.
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of working, and each in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are.


     Lord, who once bore your own Cross shoulder high to save mankind, help us to bear our Red Cross Banner high, with clean hands unafraid.

     To those who tend the wounded and sick give health and courage, that they of their store may give to those who lie awake in pain with strength and courage gone.

     Teach us no task can be too great, no work too small, for those who die or suffer pain for us and their Country. Give unto those who rule a gentle justice and a wisely guiding hand, remembering ‘Blessed are the Merciful.’ And when peace comes, grant neither deed nor word of ours has thrown a shadow on the Cross, nor stained the flag of England.



DON’T talk about anything you hear in Hospital.

DON’T criticise anybody, but do all you can to see that your own bit of work needs no criticism.

DON’T forget you are under Military discipline, - therefore under absolute obedience to all seniors.

DON’T forget to stand up when seniors come into the ward or room.

DON’T forget that when in uniform all members should be immaculately clean, trim and tidy.

DON’T forget that outside public often judge the Association by the individual members.

DON’T forget that duty comes before pleasure.

DON’T expect your own particular feelings or likes to be considered. You are but one of many.

DON’T think you can pick and choose your own work at first. Do all that comes your way with your whole heart, and others will soon see what you are best fitted for.

DON’T forget to ‘Bring your will to your work, and suit your mind to your circumstances – for that which is not for the interest of the whole swarm is not for the interest of the single bee! (Marcus Aurelius).



1. Only the B.R.C.S. Regulation Uniform, as detailed on Form D7, may be worn, except in the case of Scottish Members, who may wear their own uniform.

2. Uniform should be worn smartly and in a uniform way, and not to suit the taste of each individual. Scrupulous care should be taken to keep it clean and uncrumpled. Aprons must never be longer than overalls. No additions or alterations, such as veils, bow ties, or shirt collars worn over the coat, are permissible.

3. When travelling to a Hospital by train the following should be taken (if travelling in Regulation coat and skirt):-
1 Overall
1 Apron
1 Cap
1 Pair Sleeves
1 Pair Ward Shoes
1 Collar

4. Members living at any distance from the Hospital should not travel to and from their work in their clean aprons and sleeves. A spare apron should be kept for emergencies.

5. Shoes should always be changed before entering the ward. Comfortable, light-laced shoes with low rubber heels are the best.

6. Scissors, safety-pins, and a pencil or pen should always be carried.

1. Nails should be kept short and clean. Great care should be taken to have no hangnails or scratches on the hands. If the skin is broken, however slightly, it should be covered with gauze and collodion before assisting at an operation or doing a dressing. Carelessness in this respect may lead to blood-poisoning.

2. The hands should be thoroughly washed and a nail-brush used after any dressing, especially before meals. The hands should when possible be immersed in a solution of disinfectant and well greased at night. If at all roughened, gloves should be worn in bed.

3. All powder, paint, scent, earrings, or other jewellery, etc., should be avoided, as the using of such things invites criticism, and may bring discredit to the Organisation.

4. It is advisable to gargle morning and evening, but especially in the evening. Carbolic, 1 in 60; Listerine, 1 teaspoonful to 5 oz. water; Glyco-Thymoline and water, ½ and ½ to be used.

5. Members should remember that they cannot work well unless taking regular and adequate meals. They also need a long night’s rest, and fresh air, combined with moderate exercise.

6. It is advisable to comb the hair with a small tooth comb once a day.

1. Members should stand to attention when the Medical Officer, Matron, Sister, or anyone in authority enters the ward or speaks to them. Correct titles should always be given, such as: ‘Sir,’ ‘Matron,’ ‘Sister,’ ‘Nurse,’ ‘Commandant,’ ‘Quartermaster,’ as the case may be.

2. When Members meet Superior Officers of Detachments other than their own, they should treat them with equal respect when in uniform. It is due to the Organisation, and is not affected by the individual.

3. V.A.D. Members should be prepared to carry out anything they are asked to do willingly and promptly without question. If they want to help their country they should do so in a generous and unselfish spirit wherever they are most needed and in whatever way their help is most urgently required. They must remember that they are part of a very large Organisation, for which they should be careful to win a good name.

4. Members should show courtesy and consideration to one another and avoid all talk and gossip which might lead to unhappiness in another member of staff with whom they are working.

5. They should also adopt the habit of not discussing the work of their Hospital or Members of its Staff when off duty.

6. Any question as to payment of salary, expenses, or accommodation should be referred through the Sister to the Matron.

7. No Member must leave the Hospital to which she is posted without the permission of the Matron.

8. All Hospital rules must be conscientiously adhered to. We count upon our Members to prove that they have a real sense of discipline, and that they are able to withstand any temptations that may be put in their way. They will thus show that England can depend upon her women to help her generously and honourably in the hour of her need.



The majority of VADs who saw overseas service worked in military hospitals under the control of the War Office.  However, some remained in the service of the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John and staffed their hospitals, rest stations, hostels, recreation huts and
sick bays. Although posted overseas, these women, in keeping with others employed by the JWC in the United Kingdom, received no salary for their work.  Certain living allowances were paid, but they served throughout their time in a voluntary capacity and gave their services free. The following is a list of units in France staffed by JWC VAD members with the dates that the unit was active.

Boulogne (October 1914)
Abbeville (April 1915)
Buchy, Serqueux (May 1915)
Wimereux (August 1917)
Terlingthun (June 1918)

Forges-les-Eaux (February 1915)
Gournay-en-Bray (February 1915)

Le Touquet (October 1915)
Rouen (14 June 1916)
Wimereux (4 June 1917)
Le Treport (January 1918)
Boulogne (March 1918)
Hotel for travellers at Havre (December 1917)

Nurses at Etretat (December 1916)
Nurses at Le Touquet (22 March 1917)
QMAAC and General Service VADs at Etretat (2 October 1917)
QMAAC and General Service VADs at Le Touquet (10 December 1917)
QMAAC and General Service VADs at Hardelot (28 March 1918)
QMAAC and General Service VADs at Souvrain Moulin, Boulogne (20 July 1918)

RECREATION HUTS attached to:
No.7 Convalescent Camp, Boulogne (December 1916)
No.6 Convalescent Camp, Etaples (February 1917)
No.2 Canadian General Hospital, Le Treport (April 1917)
No.3 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne (April 1917)
No.10 Convalescent Camp, Ecault (July 1917)
No.11 Convalescent Camp, Buchy (August 1917)
No.54 General Hospital, Wimereux (August 1917)
No.12 Convalescent Camp, Aubengue (November 1917)
E.F.C. No.7 Convalescent Camp (16 October 1916)

Etretat (25 April 1916)
Le Treport (6 July 1916)
Paris (October 1916)
Etaples (March 1917)
Trouville (30 June 1917)
St. Omer (14 January 1918)

No.1 Boulogne (June 1917)
No.2 Boulogne (26 July 1917)
No.3 Boulogne (February 1918)
No.1 Wimereux (May 1917)
No.2 Wimereux (16 February 1918)
No.3 Wimereux (3 March 1918)
Hardelot (December 1917)
No.1 Rouen (1 June 1917)
No.2 Rouen (6 September 1917)
No.3 Rouen (November 1917)
No.4 Rouen (26 November 1917)
Abbeville (23 November 1918)
Dieppe (8 November 1917)
Wailly (23 July 1918)
No.1 Calais (9 September 1917)
No.2 Calais (1 November 1917)
Peuplingues (27 December 1917)
Vendreux (3 April 1918)
Havre (30 March 1918)
Etaples (9 August 1917)

No.2 Red Cross Hospital, Rouen (6 June 1915)
No.8 Red Cross Hospital, Boulogne (9 September 1915)
No.9 Red Cross Hospital, St. Omer (18 January 1916)
No.10 Red Cross Hospital, Le Treport (22 July 1916)
Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, F.A.U., Dunkirk (13 October 1915)
No.1 Anglo-Belge Hospital, Rouen (28 April 1918)
No.2 Anglo-Belge Hospital, Calais (11 April 1916)

Etaples (June 1916)
Rouen (December 1916)
Calais (June 1917)
Wimereux (August 1917)
Le Treport (November 1917)
Boulogne (7 January 1918)
Trouville (9 June 1918)

Princess Victoria’s Rest Club for Nurses at:
St. Omer (19/8/17 to 15/4/18)
Paris (17/11/17 to 30/5/18)
Abbeville (10/6/17 to 4/4/18)
Rest Station at Hesdigneul (May to July 1915 and from September 1915 to May 1918)
Recreation Huts at:
No.2 Canadian Stationary Hospital (5/11/17 to May 1918)
No.7 Canadian General Hospital (23/6/17 to 4/6/18)
No.1 Canadian General Hospital (17/4/17 to 22/4/18)



My thanks to Tim Bradley-Williams for sending this account and accompanying photos of his great-great-aunt, Marguerite Katharine Disraeli.  Marguerite Disraeli was born in December 1868, the daughter of Ralph Disraeli and Katharine Trevor, and a niece of Benjamin Disraeli. She was Commandant of the Detention Hospital, Forges-les-Eaux throughout its period of operation.

March 1st 1915 to February 29th 1916

     When the Army Veterinary Hospitals Nos.7 and 8 were established at Forges-les-Eaux, and also an A.S.C. Remount Depot at Beaubec, 8 kilometers away, (the men in these camps numbering about 1200) it was found necessary to open a Hospital or Detention Station where the sick and injured from these camps could receive treatment and nursing. The Villa Louis XIII at Forges-les-Eaux was taken over by the Joint Committee of the Order of St. John and British Red Cross for this purpose at a monthly rent of 250 francs, and on March 1st 1915, the house was opened as a V.A.D. Hospital with a resident staff of six workers, consisting of a Lady Commandant, two trained Sisters, and three V.A.D. members, (all except the trained Sisters being Brigade or Association members of the Order of St. John).

     The Hospital started with six beds, which were increased to eight in May, and by August the number of beds had been further increased to thirteen. In November a fourteenth bed was added, and a fifteenth was put up in February 1916, though this was removed in the month following. Occasionally it has been found necessary to make up a temporary sixteenth bed. After May, only one trained Sister was retained, but in October a fourth V.A.D. member was added to the Staff. There is no male Orderly attached to the Hospital, which is entirely run by the Staff of six women.

     Up to the beginning of August, 2173 Out-patients were treated at the Hospital; after that date the Out-patients Department was removed to the Inspection Room apart from the Hospital. During the year 400 In-patients have been admitted; of this number 104 were transferred to other hospitals at Rouen. One death occurred in April 1915, and 295 were discharged to duty.
The cases treated included: Fractured base of skull; Fractures and injuries from horse-kicks and bites; Ruptured kidney; Pneumonia; Pleurisy; Bronchitis; Quinsy; Pleurodynia; Influenza; Rheumatism; Sciatica; Lumbago; Malaria; Pyorrhoea; Conjunctivitis; Snake bites; Sprained ankles; Cancer; Valvular Disease of the heart; Hernia; Septic wounds; Skin diseases.

(signed) M. K. DISRAELI, Officer Commanding V.A.D. Unit, Forges-les-Eaux.


Marguerite Disraeli outside the Villa Louis XIII, 1915

February 28th 1915 to April 11th 1919

     On Feb. 28th 1915 the Joint Committee of the Order of St. John and British Red Cross Society opened a small hospital in the Villa Louis XIII at Forges-les-Eaux. Any cases of accidents or sickness occurring among the men belonging to the two Veterinary Hospital Camps and Remount Depot were treated there.

     The hospital started with six beds, increased to eight in May, and a room where the Medical Officer held his inspection of out-patients, but, in the following August, owing to the need of more beds, the out-patients’ inspection room was removed to a building outside the hospital, thus allowing for an additional six beds. Later on, as the Camps increased in size and the men of the various Units dependent on this hospital numbered about 2000, it was obvious that more accommodation was required; no other hospital was available nearer than Rouen (40 kilometers distant) to which serious cases needing operations were sent. In July 1918 the Joint Committee obtained possession of the whole Villa, and the number of beds was then increased to 22; a much needed Recreation Room for the use of convalescent patients was also added.

     The working staff of the Hospital, besides the Medical Officer, consisted of the Commandant, one fully trained Sister and three or four V.A.D. members, and an orderly lent by the O.C. of No.7 Veterinary Camp. The convalescent patients were always very willing workers and most anxious to help the sisters in their various duties. Entertainments for the men were given at the Hospital at Christmas and other times, at which many old patients with musical and other talents would assist. Among these was a professional conjuror and ventriloquist and two Music Hall celebrities, also several very good singers, who were always sure of a cordial welcome on visiting the Hospital in the evening after their Camp duties were over.
The Sunday evening services were usually well attended, an outstanding feature being the voluntary orchestra of stringed instruments supplementing the Commandant’s efforts at the piano. Many old patients were voluntary workers; one boy who, in civil life was a butcher, made himself responsible for cutting into joints the large portions of meat supplied by the Army Rations, thus greatly assisting the V.A.D. Cook.

     The Hospital was closed down on April 11th, 1919, after just over four years’ work. During this time 1701 patients were admitted and received treatment; of this number about 370 were transferred to Rouen for further treatment and three deaths occurred.

(signed) M. K. DISRAELI, late Officer Commanding V.A.D. Unit, Forges-les-Eaux.
May 7th, 1919.



February 28th 1915 – April 9th 1919
     On February 28th 1915, six V.A.D. Members were drafted from the Boulogne Rest Station to start a small hospital or ‘Detention Station’ in the Rouen area. A small house had been found in the village of Gournay-en-Bray some kilometres from Rouen, and it was arranged that men from No.1 Convalescent Horse Depot, No.1 Veterinary Hospital, No.5 Advance Remount Depot, and at first those also from No.6 Advance Remount Depot were to be drafted to this hospital if they were too ill to be kept in their Camps and yet were unlikely to require more than two or three weeks’ treatment. Those likely to be ill for many weeks or needing surgical operation were taken into Rouen. There were of course frequent injuries from kicks and bites amongst the Army Veterinary Corps and the Hospital proved invaluable in case of accidents.
The house itself was an old-fashioned place with a delightful staircase and a great charm of its own, but without any of the most ordinary hospital conveniences. The sanitary arrangements for both the staff and patients were in the garden and on the French ‘vidage’ system, and nowhere was there a drop of water. If fresh water was required it had to be brought from the village pump some two minutes walk from the house; if dirty water had to be emptied, it had to be emptied down the drain in the ‘calf market’ seen from the front windows.

     At first there was very little accommodation for the patients and still less for the staff. Two patients were already installed when the Unit was first drafted and for the first month only six beds were in use. Meanwhile the staff (which consisted of a V.A.D. Quartermaster in charge, two trained nurses, pre-war members of V.A.D. Detachments, a cook and two members who took it in turn to do house and ward work) started on the task of repapering the rooms on the top floor. They had not, however, got far before a convalescent patient was found who could take on the job, while an outside pantry, bedside lockers and other useful objects were made by a very talented patient.

     The Medical Officer’s District covered a large area and the combined strengths of the various Camps came to about 1,100. There was not much furniture in the house at the beginning but what there was, was stored at the end of a large granier over various offices in the garden, and the Hospital was well equipped from the Rouen Joint Commission Stores. The Sub-Commissioner of that Area and his wife both took a tremendous interest in the Hospital and helped in many ways. An orderly was lent to the Hospital by the O.C. of No.1 Convalescent Horse Depot and on July 3rd an ambulance was obtained from the Scottish branch of the British Red Cross Society. The latter was badly needed to bring patients in from their quarters often in outlying farms and also to take the more serious and lengthy cases to Rouen.

     The Hospital gradually increased in size and various improvements were made. After a time the furniture belonging to the landlord and housed in the granier was returned to the owner, and that end of the granary, with the help of a wall of packing cases was made into a beautiful store-room. The pack-store was enlarged and moved to part of the stables at the bottom of the garden. An outhouse originally used for cleaning boots, lamps etc., was turned into a pantry for the patients. A fireplace was put in and connected to a chimney and a tiled washing bench was made, part of a tumble-down wall within the grounds furnishing the bricks, while a patient who was a mason in private life, put it up.

     In June 1917 there was a large increase in the number of troops in the district and the strength of the various camps being over 2,000, it soon became evident that the Hospital had become too small for the needs of the Units it served and application was made to the D.D.M.S. of the Area and to the Joint Commission for the extension of the Hospital. This of course, meant taking another house, as everything possible had already been done to utilise ever inch of the old premises, in spite of which men were sleeping on palliasses on the floor in both the ward and day room. The number of ‘outpatients’ had also increased, and men who, had the accommodation allowed it, would have been admitted to hospital, were merely having septic wounds on their hands etc. dressed at the hospital by day while they returned to their Camps for the night. Only six stretcher cases could ever be accommodated properly, owing to the fact that a stretcher could not be taken up the staircase. Any such case, therefore, had to be kept in the ward on the ground floor. If a stretcher case was admitted during the night and the downstairs ward was full, the occupant of one of the beds had to be roused, moved upstairs, the bed prepared and the new case put into the downstairs ward.

     Within a short distance of the little hospital was a beautiful Louis Seize house with a terrace, a lovely garden and a fountain turned on at will. An atmosphere of powder and patches pervaded the whole place (once the French Troops, Moroccans and later refugees housed there from Northern France had left, and all trace of their presence had been removed by soap, water and whitewash). The representatives of the ‘Societe de Bienfaisantes’ who owned the house, were approached and consented to let it to the Joint Committee at a small rent. It was necessary to do a great deal in the way of repairs but the Sub-Committee of the British Red Cross Society made arrangements with the Royal Engineers to carry out the work on repayment of the material used and all the districts lent any skilled carpenters etc. they could to help in any way.
In December 1917 the little hospital transferred to the larger building. Wagons were lent by the different Units and practically the whole of the move was completed in a morning. The increase of beds to 32 beds (including an officers’ ward) necessitated an increase of staff and the V.A.D. staff was raised to seven, exclusive of the Matron and Sister, i.e. 4 Nursing Members, a cook, a house member and a driver. Three Army Veterinary Corps men, unfit for Camp duty were lent and the Medical Officer still had a Royal Army Medical Corps Orderly who accompanied on his rounds.

     On April 3rd 1918, all the female staff were evacuated by order of the D.D.M.S. Rouen, owing to the rapid advance of the Germans, but on May 4th they were allowed to return and continue to carry on their work peacefully (with the exception of an occasional air-raid, where patients and staff descended into a very comfortable cellar) until the Unit was finally demobilised on April 8th 1919. The Red Cross equipment was handed over to the ‘Societe des Bienfaisantes’ which was much gratified by this act. All the French Authorities with whom those in charge of the hospital had come in contact were almost invariably most courteous and pleasant to deal with and one of the inhabitants of Gournay helped in the most steady, unselfish manner from within a few days of starting the original hospital in 1915 until it finally closed.
     The influence of this hospital for good on the men who came in from the surrounding camps was extraordinarily striking and has been commented on more than once by the Officers-in-charge of the Army Veterinary Corps and other Units.



Romaine Monson, Principal Commandant, V.A.D.s in Italy
IWM Women’s Work Collection, BRCS 13/2

     Although I was not officially appointed Principal Commandant of V.A.D.s in Italy till January 1918, my connection with them began in October 1915 when Lord Monson, the Commissioner, turned over to me the department of women’s work in the B.R.C. Commission in Italy.

     The first demand for V.A.D.s was created by the establishment of a B.R.C. Hospital at Villa Trento, near Udine, for Italian sick and wounded. Here about 12 V.A.D.s were required for the Staff, and as it was not always easy to bring them out from England we decided to organise some First Aid and Home Nursing classes with the hope of securing some V.A.D. members locally. Early in 1916 First Aid lectures were given in Rome by Professor Bastianelli, the eminent Italian surgeon, who very kindly gave his services; and Home Nursing lectures were conducted by Sister Mary Sales. The examinations held by Dr. Brock, the C.O. of the Villa Trento Hospital, were very successfully passed and those of the candidates who were British subjects became members of Detachment Lincoln 64, of which I am Commandant, as it was found impossible to create a new Detachment outside of England. Being residents in Italy, these V.A.D.s, speaking Italian and understanding the ways of the people, were able to render excellent service when required.

     Since then the example of Rome has been followed in Milan, Genoa and San Remo, where classes have been held, and many useful workers produced. Among the members of the Rome branch of Lincoln 64, three, Miss Alex Lenox Simpson, now Mrs. Grey, Miss Gladys Whitaker, and Miss Helen Stewart have been made Hon. Serving Sisters of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem; while two other members at Villa Trento have been awarded the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class – Miss Bartholomew and Miss Jameson.

     After the retreat on the Italian Front this Hospital was disbanded and the Staff returned to England or to their homes in Italy. In May 1917, the B.R.C. Auxiliary Military Hospital at Turin for British Troops was established, and V.A.D. nursing members were required for this, some of them being supplied locally, but this hospital has now for various reasons been handed over to the British Military Authorities and the V.A.D.s there are, like all others in the British Hospitals in Italy, under the R.A.M.C.

INVALID KITCHENS. There are however a certain number of V.A.D. members doing excellent work in Italy under the J.W.C. and among them are the cooks in the B.R.C. Invalid Kitchens which the Commissioner has established in the various British Military Hospitals at Genoa, Bordighera, Cremona, Arquata Serivia and Taranto. Besides the trained V.A.D. cooks, Miss Smith the Commandant has been able to utilise in these kitchens the services of several local ones, as well as several Italian ladies. These kitchens are doing excellent work and are greatly appreciated by the Military Authorities and patients. The dishes are very numerous and of a varied character, including jellies, broths, soufflés of chicken, custards, etc., and one can easily imagine how very acceptable are the dainty dishes they send up to the officers and men whose digestions are too delicate for the ordinary hospital fare.
     As illustrating the amount of work done in these kitchens I may say that the number of portions or ‘diets’ served in the various hospitals has to date averaged 40,000 per month. I am inclined to think that this form of V.A.D. work in hospitals is of the greatest value and should receive every encouragement.

DETENTION HOSPITALS. A new departure in V.A.D. work in Italy is the staffing of small Rest Station Hospitals on the Lines of Communication. The first unit for this purpose is to arrive shortly.
     Other V.A.D. Units of Motor Drivers and Hospital Orderlies have also been requisitioned at the request of the A.M.S. and by the end of September the number of V.A.D. members serving in Italy will be largely increased. It is impossible at this date to estimate the exact strength, but if we count those serving in Military Hospitals as well, it will probably exceed three hundred.
As I look back over the three years I have spent in Italy, one of the pleasantest memories in connection with my work is that of the very kindly relations established between the ladies of the British and of the Italian Red Cross. In many cases close ties of friendship have been formed, created through their common interest and sympathies, and it is to be hoped that no effort will be spared in the future to draw these ties closer. There is a growing feeling in Italy amongst women that the time is ripe for a large extension of all kinds of women’s work in their country, and they all look to England for guidance and help.



IWM Women’s Work Collection, BRCS 12.10/11

     At the beginning of 1916 there were two members and an orderly changed periodically from the Boulogne Rest Station. The work was exceedingly varied but consisted principally of feeding convalescent soldiers passing through from the dental hospital at Arques to their base to be re-drafted. They had a wait of two hours at Hesdigneul and were given cocoa, biscuits and magazines and most of them very much appreciated a good wash. In the fine weather they had the gramophone outside and often many of them had a bathe in the river close by. The remounts from the Cavalry Division in rest in the neighbourhood were unloaded in the siding and the men fed. Twice a week a train came down from Steenwoorde and Hazebrouck bringing the sick and wounded horses from that part of the line, and staying the night in the siding. The men in charge always brought their rations to be cooked at the Rest Station and were frequent patients in the Dispensary.

     A good deal of R.T.O. work was done, every train was met and the men fed and directed to the correct train for their destination. At the end of 1916 two splendid orderlies were sent out who proved most useful and remained till the autumn of 1917. There was also a certain amount of work from the regiments billeted in the village and from the French people. Before the first Battle of the Somme, temporary Ambulance Trains were expected and the Staff was raised to five V.A.D.s and a trained Sister, and night duty organised, but no temporary Ambulance Trains stopped and there was only one false alarm from Headquarters, and the Staff reduced again to two. The Staff had a most excellent billet about five minutes walk from the station and were exceedingly happy there the whole time the Rest Station was open. In the summer permission was given to have a tent in the field opposite. They had all their meals at the Rest Station doing most of the cooking in a field over outside.

     During 1917 the work continued very much the same. Temporary Ambulance Trains were expected during the Vimy Ridge Battle in April but did not eventuate. The work for the French increased considerably, and there were often calls to go and see people in the village, and once to set a sheep’s let and another time to find stabling for British horses. Two or three very serious train accidents were effectually dealt with, one a man with a compound fracture of the forearm caused by a coach passing over it, and there were exciting moments with a mental deserter, who with the help of the French was caught about two miles away and sent into hospital at Boulogne. The Medical Officer attached to the Rest Station from No.3 Veterinary Hospital was most kind and helpful throughout. He started a sick bay at Pont-de-Briques for the French civilians and one member went over two afternoons a week to help.

     In November 1917 the first Australian Divisions came straight down from Passchendaele to rest in the area, many of them suffering from the effects of gas, and five were given permission to occupy a disused tent belonging to the Rest Station. The French were anxious to occupy the dispensary part of the shed at this time, so it was vacated and a small dispensary built by the orderlies out of odd packing cases and whitewashed and painted. It was decided by the D.D.M.S. that the Rest Station would be no longer needed in the spring of 1918, and it was closed down on the 1st of May.