Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospitals

In the First World War, over 1.3million British soldiers were injured during the war. If their injury was severe, they were shipped back to England on a ‘Blighty’ – a convalescent trip home. There they would be treated and given time to recover, before being returned to the front or signed off.

Hartlebury Castle was used as a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Hospital for such convalescence. These were more relaxed than military hospitals and considered safe havens for recovering soldiers. Those taken to the Castle to recover were offered a brief respite from the front lines. The First World War saw new roles for women, such as VAD nurses, helping to treat sick and injured soldiers.  A group of determined Worcestershire women nursed them back to health.

Included amongst these women were the Gibbons sisters, Margaret and Frances who organised, ran and nursed at the Hospital at Hartlebury Castle from 1915 until the end of the War. Frances was the Commandant of the hospital, who managed the facility and oversaw its day to day running and non-medical staff. Margaret volunteered as a VAD nurse in October 1914 and served in VAD hospitals in France and Belgium before returning to Hartlebury. In 1920, the Gibbons sisters went on to found Hartlebury WI.

VAD Scrapbooks

Also amongst the VAD nurses was Nurse Stocks. She collected notebooks with photographs, sketches and messages from the patients at Hartlebury Castle. These show much of went on at Hartlebury Castle alongside treatment including entertainment, comfort and kindness to help heal the physical and psychological damage the war had inflicted.

You can scroll one of the scrapbooks below. There are more on digital display at the Castle.

This digital copy was produced as part of the Worcestershire World War One Hundred project and with the assistance of the Worcestershire Archives Service.
The information was produced by Worcestershire County Museum for their exhibition ‘A Happy Convalescence’.