Monday, 16 April 2012

For VADs proceeding on active service

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. I was in Oxford over the weekend at the AGM of the Western Front Association and while I was there someone asked me if this prayer was on my website (which it wasn't) so I've added both message and prayer and repeated them here. 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.

Katharine Furse in the uniform of the Women's Royal Naval Service, 1920

Rachel Crowdy in her office in Boulogne

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