Bristol Post - - NEWS -

THIS Sun­day the peo­ple of the UK will com­mem­o­rate the cen­te­nary of the end of the First World War.

The Bri­tish Red Cross has a near 150-year his­tory of sup­port­ing peo­ple in the UK dur­ing times of cri­sis and, be­tween 1914 and 1918, more than 90,000 peo­ple vol­un­teered for the or­gan­i­sa­tion, work­ing as Vol­un­tary Aid De­tach­ments (VADs) in aux­il­iary hos­pi­tals at home and over­seas.

Most of th­ese vol­un­teers were women and in­cluded such no­table fig­ures as the au­thor Agatha Christie, cam­paigner Vera Brit­tain, Wim­ble­don cham­pion Lot­tie Dod and suf­frag­ist Sophia Duleep Singh.

How­ever, the vast ma­jor­ity of First World War vol­un­teers were or­di­nary women, and men, who cared for the wounded and sick, drove am­bu­lances and acted as clerks, cooks and store­keep­ers.

They gave ded­i­cated, com­pas­sion­ate and skilled hu­man­i­tar­ian ser­vice at a time of na­tional cri­sis and the role of women dur­ing the war, in par­tic­u­lar, led to sig­nif­i­cant so­cial change with women, driven by their war ex­pe­ri­ences, seek­ing greater op­por­tu­ni­ties in the work­place and se­cur­ing the same vot­ing rights as men in 1928.

Given the sheer num­ber of peo­ple who vol­un­teered as VADs dur­ing the First World War, it seems likely that many of your read­ers will have an­ces­tors who gave ser­vice dur­ing the con­flict. And, to­day, thanks to the pop­u­lar­ity of ge­nealog­i­cal web­sites and TV pro­grammes like Who Do You Think You Are? many are keen to trace their fam­ily trees and un­der­stand the lives and war-time roles of their an­ces­tors. Tra­di­tion­ally, much of that fo­cus has been on the men who served, and in hun­dreds of thou­sands of cases, lost their lives on the front line. Now, how­ever, Post read­ers can use our new on­line VAD database to find out if their an­ces­tors, es­pe­cially women rel­a­tives, per­formed a civil­ian role dur­ing the war. Search­able by name, lo­ca­tion and oc­cu­pa­tion, the database in­cludes ser­vice records and, in some cases, pho­to­graphs.

Any­one can ac­cess the web­site at www.vad.red­cross.org.uk and po­ten­tially dis­cover new and il­lu­mi­nat­ing facets to their fam­ily his­tory.

Dr Alas­dair Brooks

Bri­tish Red Cross Her­itage Man­ager

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