Civilian volunteers played vital roles, supporting the war effort abroad and on the Home Front
An army requires an awful lot of support to keep it in the field, and although much of this was provided from its own resources a large number of both men and women served abroad, frequently with organisations such as the Red Cross (often as Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses), the Young Men’s Christian Association or volunteer hospitals. Other civilians served abroad as clerks (including ladies from MI5), made official visits on behalf of government ministries or worked on the railways. Many became eligible for medals, and you can find a lot of records of awards online.
Medal Index Cards (MICs) for men who served abroad are available on Ancestry, and have been transcribed on Findmypast. MICs for women can only been found online on The National Archives’ website (there are more than 9,000 for members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, for example). A few cards detailing recommendations for gallantry awards are available on Ancestry and TheGenealogist. Some non- combatants were awarded the Military Medal
Red Cross Volunteers
The database of British Red Cross volunteers, available for free on vad.redcross.org.uk, provides information on 90,000 volunteers including those who knitted socks! The volunteers performed a wide range of duties, but most of them served on the Home Front. Findmypast has transcribed the records of 17,000 British
Red Cross volunteers who served overseas included in its military collection. If your relative is among them, visit the British Red
Cross website to see the actual record cards.
British Red Cross nurses in Antivari, Montenegro, c1915
The British Red Cross website has an excellent database