Isle of Wight British Red Cross Society Voluntary Aid Detachment - The Project

This project was inspired by my own ancestor's involvement with the Voluntary Aid Detachment during the First World War which I discovered from her obituary. Her efforts were not known to the surviving family members, although we knew plenty about her three sons who were in the army and navy at the time. How many more unsung heroes were there?

A record set from The British Red Cross website, and searchable also on FindMyPast, had been released showing the service cards for each individual who was a member of the Joint War Committee (an amalgamation on the British Red Cross and the Order of St John Ambulance Service) who served in WW1. Many events and memorials have been held all over the world in the centenary commemorations for the soldiers, and for the servicemen and women who lost their lives during the conflict, but little is mentioned about those who 'did their bit' in the lesser known roles such as the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Their work was no less important, and in some cases, just as dangerous as that of the soldiers.

Using the search facility on FindMyPast and the images of the original service cards on the Red Cross website we were able to extract over 650 named individuals who had a link to the Isle of Wight during the war. This included people giving an island residential address AND people who served at one of the Red Cross Hospitals here on the island. We chose to include the 'overners' as no matter how long they spent on the island, they would have formed friendships and possibly relationships with islanders, so their inclusion was just as valid as that of island residents. With that in mind, we have opened up the range of people that this collection of data will be relevant to, and hope that it reaches people around the world, not just our members.

We then set to 'remembering' each of the individuals found by writing a pen-portrait of their lives, a short biography if you will. Our conference in May 2019 featured a profile for every individual, that's over 650 biographical files researched in 8 months by a volunteer team of only 30 people! It was a tough task, but we did it! We also 'did our bit' ...

The difficulties we faced were pinpointing the correct individuals from the information provided on the service cards. This was, in most cases, just a name (rarely a full name) and an address. Most of the women were listed as either Miss/Mr/Mrs but this was sometimes left blank. In some cases, we had an age of the person when they enlisted. Addresses were often not full postal addresses, and in the case of several people, they were just temporary addresses or 'c/o' another person entirely.

We are fully aware that we may not have got all the details correct, and we welcome any corrections or additional information from anyone who uses this database. There were several individuals whom we were unable to positively identify and would welcome any information from possible relatives to add to their stories. We would love to have some more photographs to add to their profiles, adding faces to these names would be wonderful!

The first phase identified addresses which were obviously Isle of Wight, but we have found another 100+ cards with incomplete addresses or abbreviated addresses but which also relate to Islanders, so another batch of profiles will be added in due course.

One exception we made - for people working on the 'Isle of Wight Barge Hospital' in Belgium. Its name derived from the generous sponsorship of Islanders in creating it, but none of the VAD personnel who worked on the Barge were, as far as we know, from the Island other than its creator, Madame O'Gorman.

List of Volunteers: (in no significant order)

Project Lead: Sharon Beddard

Lynn Jarman
Helen Whapshott
Coreene Kennedy
Carol Smart
Carole Hardcastle
Sharon Butt
Steve Stotesbury
Steve Newberry
Terry Bridger
Sue Watson
Sallie Kneebone
Keith Goodchild
Claire Lintern
Hilary Lloyd
Peter Spencer
Wayne Bron
Ian Bullock
Pat Phillips
Cynthia Sirkett
Sue Johnstone
Mary Seymour
Jean Kennett
Fiona Ranger
Geoff Allan
Larraine Jaspers
Frances Canham
Hazel Pullen
Brandan Beddard
Derek Beddard

- many thanks to all these people for their time and dedication to this project

Sharon Beddard, July 2019