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Being a Nurse During WW1

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The typical uniform worn by the VADs

The nursing of sick and wounded soldiers during the war was carried out by about 90,000 of trained and voluntary nursing staff. In every large hospital there was a matron, sisters, nurses and Voluntary nurses – better known as Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs).

VADs were people who willingly gave their time to care for wounded patients. VAD members were not trusted to do a trained nurses’ work except in an emergency when there was no other option. At the start of the war, VADs were known to have an ‘enthusiastic desire’ to nurse wounded soldiers. Their initial purpose was to support military and marine medical services during times of war. However, it was soon realised that they could give lots of help during the First World War in caring for the large numbers of wounded soldiers.

Nurses in action on the battle field

Nurses in WW1 had a hard day, they worked from dawn to sun down, and barely got any sleep. It was often dangerous work and the women who volunteered experienced the horror of war first-hand, some paying the ultimate price. Nurses lived in conditions that were quite challenging; they had to clean up wounds, give treatments with limited supplies and perform minor surgeries. Such activities proved to be physically as well as emotionally draining and they still had to deal with disapproval from those who opposed women nursing in the World War.

VADs played an important part in the nursing history of WW1. Although they did not have important jobs, they made up the largest part of the nursing force. All nurses in WW1 had long days, risk of illness and death; but they pushed on through all of this to help us win the war and give us the life we have now.

Sophie, Yr 7

Boston High Newsroom

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