2nd Row : Nos. 1 – 25 GENERAL SERVICE Voluntary Aid Detachment WOMEN
These women are a real mixture but it is believed that they are all one ‘type or another’ of General Service V.A.D.s. The General Service women took over the jobs of men in military hospitals from 1917 and did the same jobs as the ‘Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps’* – but within hospitals. (*WAAC 1917–1918: later ‘Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps’ 1918–1920).
It’s never possible to identify VADs solely on the point that they have a red cross on their aprons, as many did not. Detachments were first set up in 1909 and, for women who were pre-war Detachment members, red crosses were usually on their aprons. Pre-war VAD women had to gain certificates in Home Nursing & First Aid during their first year and some Detachments only sanctioned red crosses on aprons for those women who had already got their certificates. Others were simply all kitted out in identical aprons – complete with red cross, whatever their status.
But after the war started it was increasingly common for plain white aprons to be worn, as it was simpler, saved on red material, and also made laundry easier. By the end of the war, it was probably more common for VADs to be wearing plain white. Additionally, the VADs who were either part of St. John or under contract to the War Office (rather than to the British Red Cross) never wore red crosses in any circumstance.
There will, almost certainly, be a proportion of Special Military Probationers who served under exactly the same conditions as VADs but were appointed by the War Office – with no affiliation to the British Red Cross Society/St. John/Joint War Committee. They are dressed in exactly the same way as BRCS VADs, but with no red crosses on aprons. Considering many BRCS VADs weren’t wearing red crosses by 1918, it’s impossible to tell the difference
Some of the women in the photograph are wearing outdoor uniform and are wearing some indoor uniform. Some women are wearing chef-type hats … these could be General Service V.A.D. kitchen staff. However, those hats were worn by some nurses in civil hospitals so they could be civilian nurses … but, being at Colchester, it is more likely that these women are General Service V.A.D.’s .
All in all, this situation is a real mine-field and we can only conclude that we shall never know the exact circumstances under which any of these women were contracted to work at Colchester Military Hospital …. unless any woman can be positively identified and any of her significant paperwork has survived to determine more.
2nd Row No. 6 : A V.A.D. NURSE, with a dog
Seeing a dog within the photograph may appear strange but almost every hospital (both large and small) had dogs and/or cats.
Edith Holden, the Matron of the 3rd London General Hospital (at the Royal Victoria Patriotic School in Wandsworth) had a Pekingese dog – which became a symbol of the hospital. Even going back to the 1890’s in India, all photographs of military hospitals had dogs in – often, they were Jack Russells.
Both cats and Jack Russells would have been ideal for keeping down the rat population.
Pre-World War One, members of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service could take dogs with them, and there were special forms to be filled in so that they could be officially embarked.
One scarlet efficiency stripe is showing on this V.A.D. nurse’s sleeve – she may have a second that cannot be seen.
2nd Row Nos.26 & 27 : MEMBERS OF THE ALMERIC PAGET MASSAGE CORPS
‘The Almeric Paget Massage Corps’ was formed at the outbreak of WW1, by one Almeric H. Paget and his first wife (American socialite & heiress Pauline Payne Whitney). They offered the services of 50 trained masseuses to the British War Office. The offer was accepted and, in September 1914, masseuses began to be appointed to Hospitals. All had to have the qualification ‘Incorporated Society of Trained Masseuses’ (ISTM). By November 1914, 50 women were employed in military hospitals.
The War Office officially recognised the Corps in early 1915 and made it the official body to which all masseurs and masseuses engaged for service in military hospitals should belong. A total of 56 masseuses/masseurs served in France and Italy between January 1917 and May 1919.
By the time the Armistice was signed (on the 11th day of the 11th month 1918), there were over 2,000 masseuses and masseurs actually at work. In total, 3,388 men and women had been engaged by the Corps at some point or other during the war – with a peak of 2,000 in 1919.
The ‘Corps’ came to an end in January 1919, when a formal ‘Military Massage Service’ was formed under the auspices of the ‘Army and Pensions Massage Association’. All members of the Corps were given the option to join the new Service – which was controlled jointly by the War Office and the Ministry of Pensions.
Like all Almeric Paget Massage Corps members, the two ladies pictured above would have had to have possessed the qualification ‘Incorporated Society of Trained Masseuses’ (ISTM). The No. 27 lady (on right) wears the ISTM badge.
See also 2nd Row Nos. 44 & 45.
2nd Row No. 28 – 43 : Q.A.I.M.N.S. RESERVE STAFF NURSES
2nd Row Nos.44 & 45 : MEMBERS OF THE ALMERIC PAGET MASSAGE CORPS
The No. 45 lady (on right) wears a cloth APMC badge on her sleeve. As a ‘Section Masseuse’, she wears one (red) shoulder bar. A ‘Head Masseuse’ would wear two (red) shoulder bars.
“The work was hard, starting at 9am with a 30 minute lunch break and a 10 minute tea break at 2.15. Each masseuse would see 30-40 patients per day and provide treat-ments that included massage, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy” and, as one Miss Sarah Chuck (Matron-in-Charge at Alderhey Hospital) wrote “… stimulating muscles with the ‘Bristow coil’ or subjecting a limb to interrupted galvanism, ironization or a Schee bath, diathermy or radiant heat”. The http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/womeninuniform/almeric_paget_intro.htm enlightens further.
N.B. ‘Bristow Coil’ = device for pain-free electrical nerve stimulation; ‘Interrupted galvanism’ = used in regeneration of the deltoid muscle (shoulder/upper arm); ‘Diathermy or Radiant heat’ = heat lamp treatment.
See previously shown 2nd Row Nos. 26 and 27, with accompanying text.
2nd Row : Nos. 46 – 77 GENERAL SERVICE Voluntary Aid Detachment WOMEN
These women are a real mixture but it is believed that they are all one ‘type or another’ of General Service V.A.D.s. The General Service women took over the jobs of men in military hospitals from 1917 and did the same jobs as the ‘Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps’* – but within hospitals.
(*WAAC 1917–1918: later ‘Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps’ 1918–1920).
See previous shown ‘2nd Row : Nos. 1 – 25 Voluntary Aid Detachment WOMEN’ for more description.
2nd Row: V.A.D. MEMBERS, with Bars/Stripes
War Service Bars/Stripes were marks of distinction for nurses and they came in three colour types – white, scarlet and blue. White bars/stripes were the most common of the three. Blue efficiency stripes were awarded for naval service.
The first awards were made in October/November 1916 by the Joint War Committee (British Red Cross Society & St. John) – to women who had, at that time, at least thirteen months unbroken service in home hospitals. A second stripe was awarded after a further twelve months, and a third a year after that. They were awarded retrospectively.
At that time, the issue of stripes was unfamiliar to the War Office and when VADs started reporting for duty in France (with this mark of distinction) there was some dissatisfaction that VADs working in military hospitals were unrecognised in this respect. Over the next year, War Office initiatives led to a scheme for the issue of scarlet efficiency stripes to VADs employed solely in military hospitals both in the United Kingdom and abroad.
Dates and timings meant that no woman could receive more than 3 stripes (of any colour) even though she might have served throughout the war, and afterwards. Two women with white bars or stripes have been discovered within the Colchester Military Hospital photograph of July 1918 and twelve with scarlet – but numerous sleeves are hidden so there could be many more unseen. The stripes were worn 4 inches below the shoulder and, if 2 bars were worn, the second one was placed a width below the first.
White ‘Long Service’ bars/stripes signified a period of continuous service but not necessarily efficiency, capability or competence – purely length of service, worn on both arms officially. White stripes, almost always, denoted women who had worked solely in hospitals under the control of the British Red Cross/St. John. Some women, who already had white stripes, went on to work in War Office military hospitals
Scarlet ‘Efficiency’ bar/stripes were awarded to VADs in hospitals under War Office control. ‘The Efficiency Stripe’ was worn on the right arm, below the shoulder and on the indoor uniform only.
Members who were in possession of these stripes were, as far as possible, given the duties of junior nurses, but they had to be prepared at any time to continue the ordinary duties of probationers (in military hospitals). Assistant Nurses and Special War Probationers employed in these hospitals were also eligible to receive these bars/stripes. (N.B .there is evidence within newspaper ‘mentions’ of Special Probationers & Assistant Nurses at Colchester Military Hospital).
Trained nurses were also rewarded with bars or stripes to display on their uniforms. However (within the Colchester Military Hospital 1918 photograph), none of the sleeve tops of the Q.A.I.M.N.S. Staff Nurses and Sisters (Reserves + 1 Regular Sister) are visible because of the capes being worn.
One year’s war service was signified with one bar, 2 ½ inches long, of scarlet quarter-inch universal lace. (This was worn horizontally on left forearm of a jacket only, 3 inches from bottom of cuff.)
Two or three years’ war service – for each successive year’s war service a further bar was worn, ¼ inch below the last one.
Four years’ war service – a bar, 4 inches long, of blue and white half-inch herring-bone pattern braid, was worn horizontally on left forearm of jacket – 3 inches from bottom of the cuff. It replaced the war service bars previously awarded.
Courtesy of Sue Light (www.scarletfinders.co.uk)
White bars/stripes visible in Colchester Military Hospital photograph. July 1918:-
Scarlet bars visible in Colchester Military Hospital photograph. July 1918:-
2nd Row Nos. 78 to 82 : Royal Army Medical Corps PRIVATES
The rank of ‘Private’ is the most junior in the Army.