accessibility & help

War-time volunteers and personnel records

Our museum and archives hold personnel indexes from both world wars. 


In 1909 the War Office issued the Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid. Under this scheme, we were given the role supporting the Territorial Forces Medical Service in the event of war.

We did this by recruiting volunteers, called voluntary aid detachment members. They came to be known simply as 'VADs'. They were trained in first aid and nursing and proved invaluable during both world wars.

What records do we hold?

We have a series of indexes recording the service details of personnel working during both world wars. These indexes are very extensive but they are known to be incomplete – there is no guarantee that the person you are looking for will be in the indexes.

Record cards may include the dates of service, the nature of the duties performed, the detachment the individual belonged to, the institutions and places where the individual served, and any honours that may have been awarded. In addition, there are indexes for personnel who served in military hospitals, who were trained nurses, and who received the war medal.

We also have index cards for recipients of the voluntary medical service awards for the period between the 1930s and the 1960s.

We don't have records of VADs during the interwar years or the period before the First World War. 

We have a very limited record of VADs from after the Second World War. 

Regretfully, an individual's service record cannot be traced by a medal recipient number, as these records have not survived.

How can I search for someone from the First World War?

Search our records for First World War volunteers.

How can I search for VADs from the Second World War?

For conservation and security reasons, these records are not directly accessible to the public. However, our small team of three are willing to search these records on request. There is a fee of £5 per card. To request a search email

You can donate via PayPal or by a cheque made payable to the British Red Cross and sent to Museum and archives, 44 Moorfields, London, EC2Y 9AL.  

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Your family in WWI

Three First World War Red Cross nurses pose in uniform for a portrait photo

Search for your family's personnel cards and discover what 90,000 volunteers did during the war.

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