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First World War: VAD Hospitals in Cheltenham

In 1909 the War Office introduced a scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid. This provided the Territorial Forces Medical Service additional aid in times of war. Volunteers were assigned to county units and were provided with first aid training from professional nurses. These units were called Voluntary Aid Detachments or ‘VADs’. Just one year after its launch over 6,000 people had signed up to the scheme, by the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 units with 74,000 volunteers, of which two thirds where female.

This pre-prepared plan was put into action with the outbreak of the First World War and hospitals sprang up throughout the country in order to cope with the amount of casualties coming to Britain from Europe. With a mass evacuation of Antwerp, private houses and schools were turned into hospitals to cope with the numbers of wounded. Eight VAD hospitals opened in Cheltenham alone during the course of the war. The Wilson holds a number of items in its collection relating to these hospitals, from postcards and detachment badges, to albums owned by some of the nurses with entries of soldiers who were treated there.

In total 15,852 soldiers were treated in the VAD hospitals in Cheltenham by the end of the war. There were only 99 deaths.

Find out more about Leckhampton Court Hospital and New Court Hospital.


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