First World War Volunteers

Find out more about the our volunteers during World War One while our VAD database is down for maintenance.

Over 90,000 people volunteered for the British Red Cross during the First World War. From nursing in temporary hospitals in the UK to driving ambulances in France and helping refugees in Egypt, volunteers played a vital role. 

Records, details, photographs and stories of these volunteers, known as ‘voluntary aided detachments’ or VADS, are held in our VAD database. It is now down for essential maintenance until September 2022.

In the meantime, our online museum and archives holds a wealth of historical information, with over 29,000 objects and documents. 

For more information about Red Cross volunteers in WWI, please browse the stories and PDF information sheets below. You can also find out more about our history since we were founded in 1870.

True stories of our First World War volunteers

Head and shoulders photograph of First World War nurse, Peggy Arnold, in her uniform.

The heroic women of WW1: a nurse's diary

Peggy Arnold was a WW1 nurse serving on the frontline. Here we celebrate her bravery, and the bravery of volunteers like her.

4 minutes
A photograph of Dr John Alcindor.

The famous Black doctor of Paddington

A doctor who overcame prejudice to help others during the First World War finally won recognition a hundred years later.

3 minutes
A black and white photograph showing a British Red Cross nurse lights cigarette for seated patient, as they both smile

Valentine volunteers love stories from World War 1

Many of our volunteer nurses found love with the patients they treated during the First World War 1. Here are their stories.

5 minutes
A British Red Cross nurse from the first world war holds a letter and looks thoughtful in a garden.

Letters from a First World War nurse

These letters from our archive show the challenges of nursing during difficult times, as well as some of the lighter moments.

5 minutes
A black and white photograph showing two dogs wearing British Red Cross coats and carrying first aid kits

First aiders on four legs

Did you know that during WWI, the Red Cross used trained dogs to help stricken soldiers on the battlefield? True story.

4 minutes
Photograph of a gold coin depicting British Red Cross nurse Edith Cavell.

Remembering Edith Cavell: a brave British Red Cross nurse

We remember brave nurse Edith Cavell who was killed in 1915. Her crime? Moving Allied forces to safety.

5 minutes